[To receive an update on the progress of the Corporate Parenting Strategy and priorities for the next year]
The Corporate Parenting Officer presented a report on the developments over the past year of the Corporate Parenting Strategy and Action Plan.
Cllr Mrs Christine Mills enquired as to the work undertaken to increase aspirations of Looked After Children to attend university. The Corporate Parenting Officer reported on the work with the Black Country Authorities, Wolverhampton University and a local charity, “Creative Chances” where at Year 6, those Looked After Children who had attained level 4 or above were encouraged to aspire to attend university. The programme provided a mentor who was attending university to support the aspiration. Additional homework was set and social activities arranged.
Cllr Peter O’Neill referred to the proposal to produce a guide for foster carers such as at what age to have a mobile phone and expressed concern that this could cause an issue with foster carers if the guidance was at odds with their views. The Head of Looked After Children advised that the guide would be produced in consultation with foster carers and would only be a guide where exceptions were acceptable. The intention was to address safeguarding issues. Cllr Peter O’Neill acknowledged the response and explained that he was keen to ensure that Looked After Children were not stigmatised by having or not having a mobile phone at the same age as their peers. The Corporate Parenting Officer commented that it was hoped to provide re-assurance to foster carers and to identify a suitably balanced position. In response to a further question from Cllr Peter O’Neill she reported that the guide would be developed in consultation with all relevant partner agencies including schools.
Cllr Peter O’Neill questioned whether the views of the Transport Authority or Bus Operators would be sought in relation to the age at which a child could catch a bus by themselves. The Corporate Parenting Officer advised that a number of courses were available which provided information on such issues including acceptable behaviour, courtesy, safe places to sit etc. She reported that the guide would be produced during 2016/17.
The Chair suggested that the guide be produced in chapters rather than as a single document thus enabling some information to be readily available sooner than other parts. Cllr Hazel Malcolm suggested that the guide be made available on the website as well as in hard copy format. The Corporate Parenting Officer advised that it would be included in the Foster Carers’ Handbook.
Cllr Hazel Malcolm offered to work with the Corporate Parenting Officer on guidance on finance matters in light of her work with a Credit Union.
The Chair questioned the appropriateness of “drop in” sessions being held on Friday afternoons given that the Looked After Children should be at school or college or work at that time. The Corporate Parenting Officer undertook to consider this issue further but explained that this was a popular time for Looked After Children to collect money etc.
The Chair referred to a number of errors and omissions in Section 3.5 of the report and suggested that the following amendments be made (amendments in italics): “11 Councillors attended a special Total Respect training session. It is now part of the induction for new Councillors joining the Council” and
“An E-Learning module on the roles and responsibilities of Corporate Parenting for all Councillors and colleagues has been designed with the young people and will be ready to launch early May. The young people on the CiCC have completed exercises and video content for this.”
The Chair enquired if there were now two representatives from the CiCC serving on the Youth Council. The Corporate Parenting Officer confirmed this to be the case and reported on a planned joint event with the “Be Safe Team”. She also informed the Board that two representatives from the Looked After Children population attended meetings of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel as representatives of the Youth Council.
Cllr Peter O’Neill commented that during their year of service on the Scrutiny Panel their confidence had grown and had been involved actively in consultations which had been undertaken. This news was welcomed by Cllr Zee Russell. The Corporate Parenting Officer commented on the involvement of the Looked After Children population in the Participation Strategy. Cllr Zee Russell enquired if any of this work was accredited. The Corporate Parenting Officer advised that it was and cited the example of the iAwards.
1. That the developments of the Corporate Parenting Strategy since April 2015 and the progress of the Action Plan be noted;
2. That the thanks of the Board be extended to the Corporate Parenting Officer, the Participation Officers and all Officers involved in the development of the Strategy and Action Plan.