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									                        Southend-on-Sea Borough Council                                         Agenda
                                                                                                Item No.
                                 Report of Department of Children and Learning
                                   To Cabinet and all Members of Council
                                                  27 June 2006

                                  Report prepared by: Karen Reeve & Michael Stephenson

                          Corporate Parenting Group –Looked After Children
      Children & Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee – Executive Councillor: Councillor Carr
                                               A Part I Public Agenda Item

1.           Purpose of Report

              The purposes of this report are:

1.1           To inform Cabinet of the key comparator outcomes for looked after children in the
              past year.

1.2           To inform cabinet about key developments in relation to services for looked after
              children in the year 2005/6 and;

1.3           To seek authorisation for the proposal to increase member involvement in
              „corporate parenting‟ activities.

2.           Recommendation

              It is recommended that the Looked After Children Strategic Group be reformed as
              the Southend Corporate Parenting Group that membership is expanded to include
              three elected members that the terms of reference be extended to incorporate the
              governance and oversight function of elected members in their corporate parenting
              role. That the PCT is invited to include a Non Executive Director in the membership
              of the group.

3.           Background

3.1           Children become looked after when they are either accommodated by the local
              authority (under a voluntary agreement or because there is no one else to look after
              them) or they are subject to a Care Order (the child is placed in the care of the local
              authority by the Family Proceedings Courts because they are satisfied that the child
              is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm).

              Throughout the UK the outcomes for looked after children have historically been
              very poor, whether these outcomes have been measured in educational attainment,
              unemployment, risk of imprisonment and homelessness, or becoming a parent at an
              early age.

     Corporate Parenting Group                            Page 1 of 5           Report DCL041
3.2           What is ‘corporate parenting’?

              For children who are looked after, the council has a legal and moral duty to try to
              provide the kind of loyal support that any good parent would give to their children.
              Elected members, the Cabinet and its officers are collectively responsible for:

                  asking: what is happening to our looked after children – quantity and quality
                  considering: would it be good enough for my child?
                  acting: how can the lives and outcomes for our looked after children be
              Effective corporate parenting is important because it Improves outcomes for „our‟
              children, offers better value for money, better enables good care at an early stage
              which leads to stable placements/ less disruption, fewer complex needs requiring
              expensive specialist resources and better performance ratings.

              Southend currently has 300 children looked after in a range of placements.

4.            Outcomes for ‘looked after’ children in Southend:

4.1           The outcomes for looked after children in Southend are comparatively good in the
              following areas:

               The percentage of 19-year-olds in education, employment or training:
              0.76 in 2005/6 compared to 0.52 in 2004/5 when the national average was 0.7 and
              comparator group average was 0.8 (comparison not yet available for 2005/6).

                  the number of looked after children in foster care or placed for adoption rather
                   than being in more institutional care and:
                   85.1% in 2005/6 compared to 83.97% in 2004/5 when the national average was
                   81% and the comparator group average was 83.8% (comparison not yet
                   available for 2005/6).

                  the number of final warnings and convictions:
                   2.51 per 10000 population compared to the national average of 3.4 and
                   comparator group average of 2.8 (all 2005/6 figures).

4.2           However, improvement is required in relation to children not attending or out of
              school, being involved in their reviews and reviews being held within timescales,
              children receiving annual health checks and immunisations, and children achieving

4.3           Data in relation to the performance indicators for looked after children is now
              produced on a regular basis so that a comparison with our comparator authorities
              can be made and areas of low performance can be targeted. This data shows
              some improvement overall but as noted above there are a number of vital areas that
              any good parent would wish to do better.

5.            Service Developments

5.1           There have been a number of developments in the past year targeted at improving
              the Council‟s understanding of the issues, focusing on raising outcomes, developing

     Corporate Parenting Group                    Page 2 of 5         Report DCL041
           a shared knowledge and cross agency responsibility for looked after children. In
           particular developments have taken place in the following areas:

5.2        Looked After Children Strategic Group

           The Looked After Children‟s Strategic Group was formed and held its first meeting
           on the 24th October 2005. This group brings senior managers from all relevant
           agencies together to ensure that there is a common understanding of the needs of
           looked after children in Southend and that work with them is co-ordinated.

5.3        Looked After Children Specialist Group

           The group of staff who work specifically with only looked after children have been
           brought together to form a specialist group under the chair of the Service Manager
           for fieldwork services. The specialist teacher, an education welfare officer, looked
           after children‟s nurse and the child & adolescent mental health worker posts form
           this specialist group. Three of the posts are sited together with the Specialist
           Services Children & Families Teams. This has had the effect of raising their profile,
           helping better understanding and improving communication between staff and
           making a difference for individual children.

5.4        Reduction in numbers of looked after children

           The attention to performance information in the past year has shown that Southend
           has a higher number of looked after children. In relation to its population, than its
           comparator authorities. Numbers of „looked after‟ children have risen over the past
           three years and reached a peak in May 2005 of 324.

           A critical priority was set to reduce the numbers of children we look after through
           various means but included for example: increasing the number of children adopted,
           performance improved threefold in the past year; a „return to borough‟ group has
           been convened which has successfully returned 13 children to local placements; a
           „creative solutions‟ panel aimed at engaging cross service staff to prevent
           accommodations; a „placement evaluation‟ group which checks the value for money
           and effectiveness of placements and no placements have made without the
           authority of the Director of Children & Learning.

           There have been two major drivers to this policy. One is the decision to reconfigure
           services for children and families in order to support children in their families
           whenever possible as this is better for both children and families because
           accommodating children fractures family life and should only be done when
           necessary. The second is financial, because as well as resulting in poor outcomes
           for children, out of borough placements are also more expensive resulting in high
           unit costs.

           The numbers of looked after children were on a rising trend up to May 2005, when
           they peaked at 324. At the end of April 2006 this figure was down to 300. We now
           aim to reduce numbers to 295 by March 2007 and 270 by March 08.

5.5        Fostering Recruitment

           Performance information showed Southend to have a higher number of children
           living at a distance from the borough than comparator authorities. A decision was
           made to place fewer children away from Southend and to bring children back to the
  Corporate Parenting Group                   Page 3 of 5          Report DCL041
              borough wherever this was compatible with their needs in order to achieve these
              aims. A fostering recruitment strategy has been put into place to recruit more carers
              to our own service; a tendering process is taking place to ensure that foster
              placements provided by other agencies are best value and meet the needs of young

5.6           Proposals to improve corporate parenting.

              The National Children‟s Bureau (NCB) was commissioned, on behalf of the DFES,
              and at no cost to the Council, to provide a workshop for councillors on the 10th
              November 2005 to discuss their role and how this could be discharged. The major
              message to emerge was that elected members wished to have a mechanism to
              undertake their corporate parenting responsibilities in a more meaningful way.

              On the 24th March 2006, the NCB held a workshop for a multi-agency group who
              held responsibility at operational and managerial level for looked after children. This
              workshop produced a “checklist for corporate parents” which has identified areas for
              future development in relation to looked after children.

              The NCB workshop identified elected members wish to ensure that Southend meets
              more robustly its „legal and moral‟ duty to its looked after children. It is proposed
              therefore that a number of activities occur to involve and inform elected members in
              the future developments for looked after children. The first recommendation being
              that a Southend Corporate Parenting Group is created that includes three elected
              members and that the remit and terms of reference of the LAC Strategic Group be
              extended to incorporate this additional governance and oversight function and also
              that the PCT is invited to include a Non Executive Director in the membership of the
              group for the same purposes.

              One of the purposes of having elected members on the group is so that the group is
              well placed to build further opportunities for members to increase their work with
              looked after children, e.g. meeting young people looked after, hearing for
              themselves the issues they face, perhaps becoming mentors for children. It is
              suggested that these developments would be developed and co-ordinated by the
              Corporate Parenting Group. See Appendix 1 for proposed terms of reference.

              The proposals outlined in this report do not lead to any additional financial costs.

6.           Consultation and Involvement for this group of young people

6.1          This proposal will have a significant impact on children and young people. Nationally
             and locally children and young people have told us that they want the time they are
             looked after to be as safe, secure and as positive as it can be in the circumstances.
             All the actions proposed in this report will go towards meeting this aim. Young people
             looked after are able to express their views through their social workers, carers, their
             own Reviews, through advocacy services provided by the Council and through the
             complaints procedures. Other activities are planned to further strengthen the
             opportunities for looked after children to „have their say‟.

7.           Appendices

7.1           Corporate Parenting Group: Proposed terms of reference.
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                                                                                 Appendix 1.

                  Proposed Terms of Reference Corporate Parenting Group

     Purpose - To coordinate the work of the management groups within the Children &
      Learning Directorate and with other partners to ensure continuous improvement in the
      5 ECM outcomes for looked after children (pre-school, school and post 16).
     Key Links - The group operates as a sub group of the Children and Young Persons
      Strategic Partnership Board and links to the Departmental Management Team within
      the Department of Children and Learning.
     Reporting to - Children and Young Person Strategic Partnership Board and Director
      of Children‟s Services.
     Chair of group –Assistant Director Specialist Services.
     Focus – the group will work within the context of the standards, judgements and
      performance indicators set out in the government guidance on Annual Performance
      Assessment (APA) and Joint Area Review (JAR) and any other relevant government
      guidance or regulation.

     The remit of the group is to:

      –     to support elected members in fulfilling their role as corporate parents.
      –     ensure that up to date local and comparative data are available to inform
            performance improvement and service developments;
      –     consult with and draw on the experiences of others on a regular and planned
            basis (this will include looked after children, carers, social workers, designated
            teachers and professionals, head teachers and independent reviewing officers);
      –     make judgments about the improvements that are needed and how these can be
            made. Linking to the Children & Young People‟s Plan (CYPP) through the
            Children & Young People's Strategic Partnership (CYPSP);
      –     set targets for improvements. develop, communicate, implement, monitor an
            annual work plan designed to ensure annual improvement in the outcomes for
            looked after children;
      –     coordinate the drafting of regular reports as required by regulations and as good
            practice including to the Children and Young Persons Strategic Partnership
            Board, elected members and others with a legitimate concern about looked after
      –     take the lead in coordinating the preparation for and responding to external
            inspection/assessments (including the JAR and the APA) and relevant
            government guidance as and when issued

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