[Emma Bennett, Service Director - Children and Young People, to present report]
Cllr Val Gibson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People introduced the report. The Cabinet Member advised that all local authorities are inspected by Ofsted within a three year period. The inspection will cover issues such as governance, leadership and management. Wolverhampton was last inspected in June 2011. The Cabinet Member gave a summary of the Children’s Services Improvement Plan and ‘Our Story’ which has been updated to reflect the current performance of the service. The Cabinet Member gave a summary of progress against key judgements, but accepted that there more needs to be done. Emma Bennett, Service Director Children and Young People, explained that the report is a self-assessment of the service and analysis against a performance scorecard of work done during the year.
The Service Director explained that the remit of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) has been extended to include adults. The Service Director offered to present a progress report to a future meeting of the panel for consideration. The Service Director highlighted the progress in reducing the number of looked after children and improved educational results – 19% of looked after children achieved five GSCEs at Key Stage Four in 2015.The result is well above the national average.
The Service Director commented that work is continuing to prepare a business case to exempt all care leaves from paying council tax. The policy was agreed at Council meeting.
The Service Director updated the panel on progress on the development of the regional adoption agency. Wolverhampton is part of the early adopter project which will provide an opportunity to share best practice. The Service Director agreed to share a briefing paper on the progress of establishing a regional adoption agency that was presented to Corporate Parenting Board with members of the panel.
The CSE Director updated the panel on the range of other initiatives to improve outcomes for children and young people in Wolverhampton, for example, work done to review the CSE strategy and welcomed the recent appointment of child sexual exploitation risk co-ordinator. The positive contribution by members of the Children in Care Council in the process was noted.
The panel discussed the Council’s role in monitoring the care of children who are privately fostered by a family relative. The Service Director explained that the number of children in this situation is low. The Council is responsible to assess and review the welfare of the child in this arrangement.
The panel queried the reasons that details not provided about the human resources and equalities implications in the report. The Service Director accepted the point and agreed that a summary will be provided in future reports to the panel.
The panel suggested that it would be useful to have a public friendly version of the main report.
The Service Director accepted the point and agreed to look at the possibility of preparing a summary of the main report that could be shared with the public.
The panel discussed the policy towards the adoption of black and minority ethnic children and importance of considering cultural needs. In addition, the DFE has issued national guidance on the issue adoption of children.
The Service Director explained the criteria used when making a decision and reassured the panel that cultural needs of the child are considered. The Service Director also confirmed that regular checks are done to monitor how well the service is meeting the needs of black and minority ethnic children and the process is robust. For example, the adoption panel will ask prospective fosters about their understanding of the cultural needs of a child, where appropiate. The Service Director explained that where a child is being privately fostered or being home educated it is more difficult to monitor how their cultural and social needs are being met.
The panel discussed the lower adoption rate for black and minority ethnic children.
The panel welcomed the report and the progress made
1. The Service Director to share a briefing paper on progress in establishing the Regional Adoption Agency with the panel.
2. The Service Director to present a progress report on the performance of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to a future meeting of the panel.