To receive a report from the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Corporate Parenting Board considered a report by the Executive Director of People – Children on the IRO Annual Report 2018/19.
Officers informed the Board the report was slightly out of date as it had been prepared in July 2019. The data related to the last financial year but focussed on changes going forward.
At present there were 462 Looked After Children, IRO’s regularly checked on the children to ensure they were the right children to be placed in care. It was hoped the Blue Print for Change would impact on the number of Looked After Children. 96% of children had up to date care plans and the visits by social workers was now at 86% which was an improvement, the target was mid-90%. Part of the IRO’s responsibility was to look at the quality of plans particularly for a child that had several plans missing but currently there were 37% that were good and 2.97% were outstanding. During the last 6/7 months there had been measurable improvements. Blue Print for Change would influence the IRO Service it was hoped the LAC reviews would be more child centred with the child and foster carers in attendance a discussion was had about teachers attending and whether it was necessary. A personal letter was now written to each child rather than a report. Permanency had improved in Dorset ensuring children were placed in long-term placements or adoption. Officers were looking at providing midway reviews in addition and prior to the 6 monthly review to ensure actions had taken place and officers were aware of what progress had been made regarding the children.
One member felt it was a good idea to send letters but asked whether they were written letters or in the form of an email and whether these could be sent by both email and letter. Officers confirmed they wrote letters to the children as some children were not always very good at managing their email, so a letter was written within a form and was in paper format. It was confirmed they could be sent both ways.
One member thought that by reducing the number of professionals that attended meetings officers should check with the child to ascertain whether they wanted a teacher to be present. Officers confirmed the child could choose an advocate, eg someone from Action for Children and a teacher could attend as well.
The Chairman informed the Board that schools rated Ofsted Outstanding were not required to have inspections and over time standards could slip and asked what checks were in place to ensure a child was still receiving a report.
Officers confirmed the child would still have a social work report but would not have a meeting in the foster placement unless one was required. If information showed things were going off course, then a meeting would be arranged.
One member asked about the large rise in the number of children coming into care and asked whether this was voluntary and why it was happening.
Officers explained it was a complicated situation you had to think about why the child/children needed to come into care. Social Workers would recommend a child needed to be removed for their own safety. Parents were also asking Dorset Council to look after their 13/14 year olds. This was not only happening in Dorset, nationally the number of LAC had increased. County lines and sexual exploitation came into play with children being on the edge of care. Youth centres have closed, and there is nowhere for young people to go. Multi-agency working was crucial to keep children in school and looking at the services for children at home to ensure early help was available to enable them to stay at home.
One member asked if a child was looked after by the extended family would the Authority pay them. Officers confirmed they would be treated the same as foster parents.
The Chairman was pleased to see that very few of the number of complaints and escalations mentioned in the report had not risen to level 3 or 4 and asked if there was anything the Board could do to help.
Officers felt this was very challenging as it was not acceptable to have children in unregistered accommodation and hoped inhouse residential care would help to reduce the complaints. It was reassuring that the majority were resolved at the lowest level, complaints received at a higher level had very complex issues and were resolved as soon as possible.
The Chairman asked Board members if this was something Corporate Parents would want to know about. Members responded they would not want to know immediately but if something could not be resolved they would, or if it was a matter of policy they would want to know.
The Chairman asked Board members as this was an annual report would it be helpful to have a progress report later in the year. Officers thought a progress report back to the Board in 6 months’ time would be of benefit.
The Chairman of Dorset Parent Carer Council asked how confident officers were that information was getting to the small number of children that had a disability as it was important their views were heard and considered. Officers informed the Board they were dependent upon parents and carers to ensure information was received by the children in the best possible way.
The Chairman drew attention to Section 11 of the report relating to entitlements for care leavers and asked whether the new council tax exemption information would be included. Officers confirmed that would be included in the next report to the Board.
1. That unresolved level 4 escalations should be notified to the Chairman.
2. That the Corporate Parenting Board receive an update report in 6 months’ time to the meeting on the 9 June 2020.