Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directionsItems No. Item
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Health and Well Being
What measures are in place to maintain the health of our children in care?
The Head of Children, Young Peoples and Maternity Services from NHS Gloucestershire will be joining the committee to engage with this subject.
Ian Godfrey, Children in Care Service Manager, will update the committee on the work to develop the use of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
Indicative timing 4.30pm to 5.00pm
11.1 The committee received a presentation from Pauline Edwards, Specialist Nurse for Children in Care at NHS Gloucestershire. The presentation slides were included within the minute book for information.
11.2 The committee heard that other areas in the country were ahead of Gloucestershire in terms of the health support given to children in care. The Specialist Nurse post, in Gloucestershire, was not a full time equivalent (was only 30hrs). The post was responsible not only for those children and young people in Gloucestershire that were in care (currently 490), but also for out of county children in care (currently 200). It was explained that this was an NHS Gloucestershire post. The NHS has a duty to cooperate with the council. The committee questioned how we compared with other authorities. Members heard that Cornwall currently has 4 specialist nurses for children in care and that other some other areas have more provision than Gloucestershire but with less looked after children.
11.3 In response to a question it was explained that the impetus for creating this position had come from central government through the guidance ‘Promoting the health and well being of looked after children’ (available at http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_108501). This guidance was initially published in 2002, but had been revised in 2009. It was now statutory.
11.4 The committee was informed that the delay in getting this post in place was most likely due to the previous position in the county whereby there were three primary care trusts (PCTs). Once they come together to form one PCT a bid had been put together for funding this post.
11.5 The committee agreed that the situation where we had only one looked after children nurse in Gloucestershire was untenable. Particularly where it seemed that the numbers of looked after children in Gloucestershire was higher than in other areas. It was agreed that some benchmarking/comparison work must be undertaken to get a true picture of the position in Gloucestershire compared to other local authorities. Whether or not this demonstrated that we lagged behind other areas in the number of specialist nurses available to support our children in care, the committee agreed that the current resource level was untenable. It was agreed that a report be prepared for submission to the Chief Executive of NHS Gloucestershire. The report should also be sent to the lead member and lead officer for children’s services, at the county council,for their action and support. The report should emphasise the need for additional resources to better support our children.
ACTION: Maurice Emberson
11.6 Ms Edwards informed the committee that in her opinion it was not just about looking at the number of specialist positions. It would also be helpful to look at how universal services, such as school nurses, could support children in care. She suggested that it was not always about having specialist positions but how public health nursing in general could play a part. Members were aware that children in care did not like to be ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
The committee to comment/offer advice on the draft strategy.
Indicative timing 5.00pm to 5.30pm
12.1 The Interim Head of Children in Care asked that members of the committee forward any comments in the draft strategy to her by the end of May 2010.
12.2 She informed the committee that this draft strategy was really a position statement of where we were currently as regards support for our children in care, and gave a baseline for planning. Further work was needed to improve accuracy as regards our performance reporting. Members were pleased to note that an appointment had recently been made to the (permanent position) of Head of Children in Care.
12.3 A mock inspection of our safeguarding service was currently underway to help us to prepare for the ‘real thing’. The Chairman and other members of the committee had been interviewed. The Chairman indicated that he had been asked about the complaints process for our looked after children and had had to admit that he was unaware of the process. He felt that this was an area that the committee should look at.
12.4 The committee was informed that young people did have access to an advocacy service and it was often through this service that complaints arose. The formal complaint process would be through the Children and Young People Directorate Complaints Manager.
12.5 The committee was informed that the growing number of young people in care, often with a complexity of needs (and associated costs) presented a real challenge for this authority. The draft strategy aimed to set out how this cohort of young people could best be supported. This strategy sat alongside the Corporate Parenting Strategy. We needed to strengthen processes around transitions and leaving care.
12.6 The draft strategy discussed the fact that many of our unaccompanied asylum seekers were practising Muslims but few were placed in family homes where they shared the same identity, religion or heritage as their carers. Members asked whether this was because foster carers from this group did not come forward. The committee was informed that our foster carers were predominantly white British, which did reflect the demography of the county. We did need to think about whether we need to look at different ways of meeting the needs of these young people, and ensuring that we embraced diversity. If we could not draw directly from the relevant group then perhaps we should be looking at carers who have an understanding of the culture and heritage of these young people.
12.7 It was agreed that the strategy needed to be clearer on how we would maintain stability and expertise of the workforce, and that the role of elected members should be mentioned strongly within the report.
12.8 It was agreed that members would email any additional comments to the Interim head of Corporate Parenting, and that the Chairman would sign off the final version.
12.9 The final version would be brought to the July meeting of the committee. It was agreed that the final strategy would be better presented in a pack containing the Corporate Parenting ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Ofsted Inspection of Looked After Children
The committee to receive a presentation on the inspection process.
Indicative timing 5.30pm to 6.00pm
13.1 The mock inspection was underway and it was anticipated that this would help us identify areas that needed strengthening. Officers had also visited Swindon Council to learn from the outcome of their inspection.
13.2 Members of the committee agreed that they needed to be up to speed on the content and objectives of the key strategies, and also of how we were performing and any issues arising from performance data. It would be important to impress that we were starting to embed, across the council, that corporate parenting was a key issue for this council. It was also felt that this committee should monitor any complaints made by our looked after children. Members should also be aware of the direction of travel for the service.
13.3 Members were reminded that there were still issues around data collection which meant that reports were not always accurate. It was felt that it might be worthwhile to get an independent analysis of the information that the committee received. It was suggested that the Centre for Excellence for Outcomes could be approached to help members in this regard.
Children in Care Council
The committee to be informed as to where we are with setting up the council, and its aims and objectives. Committee members may wish to consider how they can engage with the council to inform and support its work.
Indicative timing 6.00pm to 6.30pm
14.1 The committee were joined by two members of the Children in Care Council for this item.
14.2 The young people informed the committee that the CiC Council had had its first meeting in April 2010. The main points arising from that meeting were: -
Þ There was agreement to rename the CiC council,
Þ Lots of ideas were needed to take the council forward,
Þ The council would meet once a month and a young person would take the Chair,
Þ The intention was to film their ideas,
Þ They wanted to develop a website to host and signpost all their information,
Þ The council would apply to the Youth Opportunity Fund in order to help it take forward its ideas,
Þ Young people had put together two designs for the children in care pledge – one for the over 12s, and one for the under 12s (this would look like a comic strip), there would also be pledge posters,
Þ When the pledge was launched carers would be invited
Þ The next meet of the council was the following Monday at the Horizons youth club in Churchdown. The council aimed to meet at different locations so that all children in care had the opportunity to attend a meeting.
14.3 In response to a question it was clarified that the council covered the 12 to 16 age group. Every two months young people from the council would meet with the 7 to 12 year olds to discuss their ideas and issues.
14.4 It was agreed that an information exchange between the CiC council and this committee needed to be developed, particularly to enable the CiC council to bring forward any concerns or issues that it may have. As a first stage the minutes from both bodies would be shared.
14.5 The members of the committee emphasised that they were here to help and support the CiC council, and that members of the council should feel free to bring forward anything that was of concern to them, and encouraged the young people to be as frank as possible. The committee agreed that it was important for the CiC council to hold it to account and make sure that it was looking at the issues that were of concern to our young people.
14.6 Asked what bothered them most, one of the young people responded that moving was difficult. It could be very frustrating, and shared their experience of ending up in temporary accommodation despite there being ample notice that a new placement was needed. Members were concerned that this could happen even when ample notice was given, and reiterated to the young people that they must let the committee know about this sort of issue.
14.7 Members also asked the young people whether there was anyone that they could talk to about things that bothered them. One replied that there had been but the county council had made them redundant. (It was explained that there had been funding for ... view the full minutes text for item 14.