[To consider the Performance Monitoring Data for April 2016]
The Head of Looked After Children presented the Performance report for April 2016 (data as at March 2016) and responded to questions.
With reference to the section on “Demographics” Cllr Julie Hodgkiss requested that a report be submitted to a future meeting on the breakdown of the Looked After Children population, why the children were taken into care and when they were first known to the Authority. Cllr Julie Hodgkiss also questioned whether the information pertaining to Social Worker caseload included Specialist Social Workers. The Head of Looked After Children explained that the information was influenced by changes in Social Workers but that the average caseload was 21 with no other social work cases undertaken.
Cllr Julie Hodgkiss referred to the recent Queen’s speech at the state opening of Parliament insofar as it referred to proposed changes in legislation on adoption and enquired if the timetable for the proposed changes were yet known. The Head of Looked After Children advised that details were still awaited but assured the Board that the Regional Adoption Agency would be involved in lobbying in respect of any changes. The Chair reminded the Board that it had always taken the view that obtaining the most appropriate placement was paramount rather than the speed of placement and that this stance was accepted by the Department for Education. The Head of Looked After Children commented that Wolverhampton had a very positive approach to adoption and had a good record in placing family groups and hard to place children.
The Chair referred to the Regional Adoption Agency which was comprised of the four Black Country Authorities together with Telford and Wrekin Council and Shropshire County Council which enabled best practice to be shared. A report on this matter was to be presented to Cabinet in September 2016 and that she would be attending a meeting of fellow Cabinet Members for Children and Young People with Directors of Children’s Services on 22 June 2016. She suggested that a report or Briefing Note be presented to the next meeting on the work of the Regional Adoption Agency.
Cllr Lynne Moran commented that she was particularly interested in children who had left care and commented that changes in Social Workers should be avoided wherever possible. She enquired as to the current retention rates of Social Work staff. She also questioned the literacy and numeracy levels of the Looked After Children population given that they were often under achievers despite the support provided. The Head of Looked After Children confirmed the importance of recruitment and retention and advised that a major recruitment campaign had been completed recently. With regard to literacy and numeracy she reported that the current levels of educational attainment of 20% obtaining 5+ GCSE A* - C including English and Maths was well above the national average.
Cllr Peter O’Neill expressed concern that some 118 children had not communicated their views in relation to their reviews. The Head of Looked After Children reported that work was underway in order to understand the reason for the drop in participation. The Chair reminded the Board that 118 was the number of reviews and not the number of children. Cllr Peter O’Neill enquired as to how the reviews were organised. The Head of Looked After Children explained the reviews were not held in school time (at the request of the CiCC) and were normally held in the foster home or residential home with the dates being set in advance. She advised that the Council did attempt to communicate in other ways and did not just rely on verbal communication. Furthermore, children were encouraged to chair their own reviews.
Cllr Peter O’Neill asked if alternative venues were ever considered. The Head of Looked After Children confirmed that on some occasions neutral venues were used especially if one or both birth parents were intending to be present.
Cllr Peter enquired as to the reasons why children would not wish to express their views. The Corporate Parenting Officer suggested that this could be because they did not feel listened to and outlined proposals to introduce an app to assist participation. Cllr Peter O’Neill commented that the CiCC now had a stronger profile and enquired whether it could be requested to promote the use of the app. The Head of Looked After Children confirmed that this could be pursued. She also undertook to provide members of the Board with a link to the LAC Newsletter.
Cllr Hazel Malcolm requested that a report of the breakdown of the Looked After Children population including details of the number of migrants etc. be submitted to a future meeting together with data on waiting times for appointments with the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). The Head of Looked After Children explained that the latter data was included in the Annual Report to the Board from the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Cllr Zee Russell enquired whether the Council employed trainee Social Workers recruited from the Looked After Children population. The Head of Looked After Children reported that the development of Social Work programmes was being investigated.
1. That the report be received and noted;
2. That a report be submitted to a future meeting on the breakdown of the Looked After Children population, why they were taken into care and when they became known to the Authority;
3. That a report or Briefing Note be submitted to the next meeting on the work of the Regional Adoption Agency;
4. That the Children in Care Council be requested to promote the use of the app (if developed) with a view to encouraging Looked After Children to make their views known on their reviews;
5. That a link to the LAC Newsletter be provided to all Members of the Board;
6. That a report be submitted to a future meeting on the breakdown of the Looked After Children population including the number of migrants etc.