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Agenda item

Improvement Partner Peer Review of the Looked After Children Service (November 2018)

Minutes:

Consideration was given to  the report which detailed the findings of the Council’s  Improvement Partner, Lincolnshire Children’s Services, Peer Review of the Looked After Children (LAC) Service in November, 2018. This was almost two years after the previous Peer Review in December, 2016 and twelve months after the Ofsted Inspection in November, 2017.

 

The rationale for this further Review was to gauge the ongoing improvements within the service given that the LAC Service was the only part of Children and Young People’s Services to be graded as “Requires Improvement” by Ofsted. Whilst the Inspection identified that, “The local authority has improved the services it provides for children looked after since the last inspection” it also concluded that many of the changes were too new and insufficiently embedded for any other conclusion to be reached.

 

The remit of the Review was to undertake an assessment was determined and a number of Focus Groups were arranged to meet with the Peer Review Team (PRT) and looked particularly at:-

 

·             Scope.

·             Evidence.

·             What was working well.

·             What we were still worried about.

·             What we were doing about it.

 

A discussion and answer session ensued and the following questions were raised and clarified:-

 

·             Good practice recommended pre-birth assessments should start at 28 weeks and finish at 36 weeks.  Was Rotherham on track to comply with this?

 

This was not been on target.  Capacity was being addressed and the backlog being worked through. The service were now confident it could now meet those timescales. 

 

·              What was the level of confidence that that the decision to move to care proceedings was the right one?

 

In 94% of the cases the Local Authority was successful in getting the care order it requested, but the 6% were where the court may not have felt confident about making a decision and often defer for further work.  94% was strong performance. 

 

·             Were there any barriers to developing foster carers in Muslim communities?.

 

There was a need to actively engage to become a community strength based model and for members of the Muslim community to understand the requirements for foster carers. 

 

Attempts were being made to engage with the local Mosque Community Forum and to recognise some of the needs of young people .  This was an exciting prospect and could change the experiences of looked after children.

 

·             Were there any worries about Regulation 24?

 

Regulation 24 was kinship care provided on an emergency basis whilst viability assessments were undertaken. These placements  lasted up to sixteen  weeks with an expectation that kinship carers would become foster carers with a named individual in their care.  An extension could be requested.

 

Most of the Regulation 24 placements progressed to permanence in the form of Special Guardianship Orders. There is a specialist worker in place to provide guidance to the relevant teams on the status of kinship placements

 

·             Was there a timeframe for the achievements of developments identified in the review to be undertaken?

 

There were many innovations and developments in the service.  Mockingbird had commenced and the service were aiming for a fifth hub   by end of year. 

 

The latest innovation had successfully gained a place of the second wave of lifelong links  for long term looked after young people.    Lifelong links identified young people aged 13-16 where there was little prospect of returning home or adoption in care long term. This would facilitate a family group conference co-ordinator “eco mapping” the life of the young person.  All those people involved in their life would be invited to contribute and have some commitment to continued involvement.  The first strategic meeting would take place on Friday, 8th March where the first cohort of twelve would be identified.

 

·             Was there an action plan timeframe that could be measured?

 

Each case would have an action plan and tracker where any slippage would be monitored.  The Right Child, Right Care 1 was complete and Right Child, Right Care 2 was being driven forward.  All projects were tracked and project managed, with performance meetings arranged to monitor and overcome barriers and blockages.

 

·             Was there a separate action plan in the peer review report.

 

Some detail could be provided on the actions as not all were projects and some were one-off processes.

 

·             Was this being monitored through Corporate Parenting Panel.

 

Some of the performance was monitored through the Corporate Parenting Panel and some through the Performance Board.

 

·             There was a 12 week window from the start of a PLO (Public Law Outline) meeting, to a children being taken into care..  Were there any external factors which were having an impact on timescales and outcomes?

 

The time was set by the Local Authority to a final decision in 26 weeks.  Court timetabling across South Yorkshire and its capacity impacted on timescales andthe ability to discharge care orders.  An issues resolution hearing had been negotiated and this dealt with some of the discharge hearings dealt rather than a full hearing as long as CAFASS were satisfied. 

 

·             The service endeavoured to do work within 12 week window were it was safe and proportionate and safe to do so.  Sometimes it was done in less time and in complex cases it took longer. 

 

Perhaps it would be helpful to the Select Commission to understand the legal aspects around children’s social care in the form of a presentation at a later date.  This would provide greater understanding of the process and challenges, areas of good performance and areas that needed to improve.

 

Resolved:-  (1)  That officers be thanked for their informative presentation.

 

(2)  That the report and presentation be received and the contents noted.

 

(3)  That arrangements be made in the future for a presentation on the legal aspects of children’s social care.

Supporting documents: