Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directionsItems No. Item
These were approved and signed by the Chairman.
The Chairman informed the committee that Cllr Phil Awford was now a member of the committee, replacing Cllr McKenzie.
6.1 Incentive/reward scheme - The Interim Director Operations reported that the foster carers group had felt that this was not a good use of council money, and could encourage people into fostering for the ‘wrong’ reasons.
6.2 Co-optees – The foster carers group would be putting forward two nominees. A Children in Care Council was being established and it would be important for the committee to ensure that it engaged with this body. It was hoped that two young people from this council would elect to join the committee to ensure that the voice of our children in care was heard.
6.3 In response to a question regarding the information on recent cases that had been shared with members, the committee was assured that where the service was in the process of identifying a placement option, our children were safe and secure. This was usually about allocating a more suitable placement to better match the child’s individual needs.
Education - The role of the virtual school
The committee to receive a presentation from the Head Teacher of the Virtual School as to what we do to support our children in care through their education experience.
7.1 Jane Featherstone, Head Teacher of the Virtual School, gave a presentation to the committee on the role of the virtual school in supporting our children in care. The presentation slides were included in the minute book for information. The committee were also shown the online educational resources available to our looked after children and young people. The web based provision meant that the virtual school’s pupils could access their learning anytime and anywhere as long as they have access to the internet.
7.2 It was explained that in Gloucestershire we provide the Personal Education Allowance (PEA) for those LAC who were eligible to receive it. The PEA was intended to provide additional, personalised support to LAC who were at risk of not reaching the expected national standards of educational attainment. An application for a PEA would come out of the discussion of the individual’s personal education plan (PEP) with the schools designated teacher (for LAC), the social worker and the young person. It was important to note that the PEA must be used on additional resources such as additional one to one tuition.
7.3 The PEA was worth up to £500, but support could also come through other sources, for example extended services. The virtual school team would not leave a need unaddressed. In the previous financial year £80k had been spent on approximately 350 LAC. It was noted that schools could use their own teachers to provide this extra support. It was important that this extra support makes a difference.
7.4 These children and young people were vulnerable and could have complex needs. There were many reasons why they could underachieve, such as poor social skills (anger management issues) and gaps in learning from having to move placement/school. The Virtual Head Teacher shared with the committee that one of her concerns was that people tended to feel ‘sorry’ for these children and young people. It was entirely appropriate to feel empathy but important that they were still challenged academically. It was emphasised that councillors, as Corporate Parents, have a role to play here in encouraging these children and young people just as they would their own children.
7.5 The committee was informed that the virtual school has undertaken a lot of work with unaccompanied asylum seekers this year.
7.6 It was explained that a lot of the issues that some of these children and young people have are around emotional needs. It was important that they were encouraged to aspire, to take risks and to become independent.
7.7 The virtual school uses provision maps to track everything around the individual child such that issues/need could be identified and the appropriate provision put in place, in a timely manner, to better support the child/young person. This was helping to slow down movements in schools, which was important as our LAC need stability.
7.8 The virtual school was also part of the Achievement for All (AFA) project, which was about improving outcomes for children and young people with ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The committee to note areas of good performance, and agree whether there are areas of underperformance that the committee should look at in more detail.
8.1 The Interim Director Operations presented the report. He highlighted that the stability of placements was now up to 18% which was worse than this time last year. One of the factors was to do with the ongoing work to reduce the cost of agency placements which in some instances resulted in the outcome that the LAC had to move to a new (equally effective) placement.
8.2 It was further explained that working practices had needed robust challenging as, previously, placements had been allocated to existing providers without asking why, or whether they offered value to both the LAC and the council, but simply because they had been used in the past. Members of the committee were assured that at no point in this process were our LAC in an unsafe placement.
8.3 With regard to teenage pregnancy members asked whether our LAC were over represented in this group. The committee was informed that LAC were highly represented in these figures. More information would be included within the next performance report.
ACTION: Maurice Emberson/Lydia Whelan
8.4 Members were concerned as to how we had arrived at the situation where our participation with young people was so poor. It was acknowledged that we needed to do a lot of work in this area.
8.5 Members commented that the manner in which the timeliness of reviews was measured was not helpful, and somewhat frustrating. However the committee was informed that the guidance was clear on how this was to be measured.
Annual Report to Council - May 2010
The Committee needs to submit a report to the annual meeting of council in May 2010. This report should outline work undertaken so far, and planned future work; and include information on how the committee is, and intends, to work with our children in care, foster carers, frontline officers, partners etc.
The committee may find it helpful to agree to delegate this task to the Chairman.
The committee agreed to delegate this task to the Chairman.