Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes.

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Jasmine Kassim  Email: jasmine.kassim@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5146

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

 

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

 

Apologies for leaving the meeting early were received from Pauline Sheath. Apologies for lateness were received from Councillor Fahy.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 39 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies be noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Members are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 2nd July 2015.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Children and Young Peoples Scrutiny Panel held on 2nd July 2015 be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record, subject to a change on page 4, paragraph 6, where the wording should be changed from ‘track’ to ‘tract’.

5.

Independent Reviewing Officer's Annual Report pdf icon PDF 51 KB

The Panel is asked to note the annual report from the designated officer responsible for the independent reviewing officer function which covers the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 (appended to the report).

The Panel is also asked to note the actions being taken to address the areas for improvement outlined in Section 7 of the designated officer’s report (appended to the report).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by Group Leader Quality Improvement Service who in response to questions stated that there had been improvements in the four areas of concern raised last year.  The trend in caseloads was down and was being carefully monitored.

 

Members questioned the Group Leader over the 21 reviews which had failed to meet statutory timescales. The Group Leader said that any reviews that fell outside of the legal limit were looked at by the Group Leader so that learning and improvement actions could be identified and taken. There were individual issues why reviews did not take place as planned. The key learning point was that meetings needed to be scheduled within the statutory timescale in a way that made sure that any rescheduled meeting would also be in timescale.

 

In response to a Member’s question about the review process the Group Leader said that a task and finish group had looked at the process and simplified the process including the paperwork which would reduce time spent by social workers recording information and also make it easier for children and young people to participate in the process.  The new system was more focused and included the independent reviewing officer’s comments rather than having them submitted through a separate report.

 

The Panel recognised that there was a particular skill in interviewing children and asked what monitoring was undertaken of practice.  The Group leader stated that each social work team leader met with social workers at least once a month to talk about work with children and give feedback that was informed by observation of practice and feedback.  This included Independent Review Officers giving feedback on the views of the child.  If the child did not participate in the review process then the reason for this was investigated.  If this was linked to practice the team leader would address this with the social worker. 

 

The Group Leader responded to questions about sibling groups by saying that the default position was to keep siblings together unless there were good reasons not to. Contact between siblings was encouraged and supported where they were not living together.

 

The Group Leader stated that for children aged 16 and older the Pathway Plan replaced the Care Plan.  Work on assessing and planning preparation for adult life started early, particularly where children had complex or special educational needs or disabilities when it started at 14 needs.  In response to a question the Group Leader said that for young people entering higher education there was a range of funding and support available.

 

In response to questions, the Independent Reviewing Officer stated that her role was a statutory one which promoted independence of mind and the ability to challenge.  Members complimented officers on their work and for an informative report.

 

 

Resolved –

 

That the content of the report be noted.

6.

Royal Borough of Greenwich Adoption Agency: Annual Report 2014 to 2015 pdf icon PDF 38 KB

The Panel is asked to note the annual report from the Royal Borough of Greenwich Adoption Agency which covers the period 1 April 2014to 31 March 2015 (appended to this report) and the actions being taken to improve, outlined in Section 6 of the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Team Leader, Adoption Team. The Panel noted that there were a significant number of vacancies and were informed that these posts had now been filled.

 

The average time from when children become looked after children to when they are adopted has reduced and further reductions were anticipated.  This includes reducing the time spent on matching children with approved adopters.  Generally it took longer to match older children with prospective adopters. The Team Leader confirmed that the Adoption Agency Decision Maker and Adoption Panel were flexible enough to meet when required as opposed to only meeting on prescheduled dates. Members questioned if criteria for matching included ethnicity and were informed that the key issue was whether children’s needs could be met. For most children there was an ethic match though not necessarily with the same cultural and linguistic background.

 

Members discussed the impetus to change foster carers into adopters where suitable and were told that during the past year two foster parent families had adopted.  The Panel enquired about joint working with Lewisham and were informed that six training workshops for adopters were arranged each year with the workshops alternating between the two boroughs.

 

Members discussed the film commissioned by the agency where Royal Greenwich adopters talked about their experience of being assessed and parenting children adopted children.  The Team Leader stated that a copy could be supplied to Members for their viewing.

 

The Senior Assistant Director explained the difference between special guardianship orders and adoption orders.  He clarified that decisions on adoption were now taken by the Senior Assistant Director in his role as the Adoption Agency Decision Maker. The Adoption Panel concentrated on making recommendations about recommending the approval of people as prospective adopters and matching the child with prospective adopter. The Adoption Panel provided useful advice to the Adoption Agency Decision Maker and feedback on the quality of work undertaken by social workers.

 

The Panel enquired about the recruitment of potential adopters and were informed that information was promoted on the Council Website, through voluntary agencies, along with advertising in the form of bus and radio ads. 

 

Resolved -

 

That the content of the report be noted.

 

Having given apologies Pauline Sheath left at 8 pm.

7.

Looked After Children & Care Leavers : 2015/16 Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 62 KB

The Panel is asked to note the performance of our services for looked after children and care leavers, set out in the report and the appendix and the actions being taken to continue to improve outcomes for children.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The item was introduced by the Permanence Service Leader. In response to questions about children who run away from care, the Panel were informed that there were different ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors operating for each child. The link between teenage boys going missing who came into the care system because of criminality and continuing gang activity was understood as was the link between teenage girls going missing and sexual exploitation. Some children wanted to be with someone or to be somewhere else and that was why they went missing. Where there was a risk of a child going missing when they were placed the risk management actions were included in the child’s

placement plan and the adults caring for the child in the placement would work closely with social worker to engage the child in making positive use of the placement and opportunities they had and not go missing. Unauthorised absence as opposed to running away and going missing was an issue – often this was teenagers returning late from somewhere or when they were known to be somewhere else but no agreement had been given.

 

Social work teams worked with the police to find children and to have a plan of what would happen when the child is found. Each returning child was offered the opportunity to speak to somebody they did not know to discuss any problems.  However, experience showed that they generally preferred to speak to people they knew. 

 

In response to a Member’s questions the Service Leader said that where children were placed out of borough they were still our responsibility. If they were some distance from home this was usually because it was in their best interest. Many children placed outside the borough were close enough to stay at the same school in Royal Greenwich and use local services and retain links with people who are important to them.

 

In response to a Member question the Permanence Service Leader explained the Mockingbird family model was an innovative way of supporting foster carers and preventing placement breakdowns.  The Mockingbird family model consisted of a hub of foster carers which led to better placements for children and gave flexible respite care at times of crisis.  The child would still have a main placement but could also make use of the hub. This could include the child staying with the hub carer. In some ways it was about creating something akin to an extended family around the child’s placement that the child knew and who could support the foster carer doing the parenting.

 

In response to a Member question the Service Leader said that children are placed for adoption with prospective adopters approved by other adoption agencies. These included voluntary and independent agencies that were inspected by Ofsted.  The Council had good working relationships with other adoption agencies and all worked in the best interests of the child. Our adoption service is part of a consortium of adoption agencies who work together to provide some adoption services. 

 

The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Update on Members' visit to Broadwalk Children's Home pdf icon PDF 38 KB

The Panel is asked to note a verbal update on Members’ visit to Broadwalk Children’s Home.

Minutes:

The Chair stated that a visit to Broadwalk Children’s Home had been undertaken by Councillors Bird and Elliott.  The two Councillors stated that they found staff open and transparent, that the atmosphere within the home was good and that the children considered it to be their home.  They agreed that the home had a sense of character and warmth about it.  Both Councillors felt that issues with repairs and maintenance ought to be resolved as they owed it to the staff to ensure that improvements took place. They also referred to a request from the House Management that a credit card facility be made available to them. 

 

In response to questions, the Permanence Service Leader stated that the house had a capacity of five and there was a good relationship with neighbours. 

 

Resolved –

 

That the content of the report be noted.

 

9.

Royal Borough of Greenwich Health and Well Being Bursary Scheme for Children in Care and Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 32 KB

The Panel is asked to note the activity of the new Health and Well Being Bursary Scheme for Children in Care and Care Leavers.

Minutes:

The Permanence Service Leader stated that the new scheme could be accessed by all children and young people to whom the Council was Corporate Parent. 

 

Councillor Barwick stated that as a member of Starting Blocks she would investigate whether there might be some support from them for the home.

 

Resolved –

 

That the content of the report be noted.

 

 

The Chair announced that the Permanence Service Leader was leaving the Council. The Scrutiny Panel thanked him for his contributions and asked that their thanks be noted and wished him all the best in the future.