The Head of Children’s Social Care presented a report informing the Cabinet Committee of the self-assessment that all authorities were being asked to undertake in relation to looked after children and the care leavers profile, placement sufficiency and stability and the impact of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 and regulatory requirements on out of authority placements. The completed assessment had to be returned to the Care Inspectorate Wales by 26th January 2018.
The Head of Children’s Social Care outlined the data/key findings contained in the assessment. She explained that they had been unable to work on the assessment before 1st January 2018 because figures as at 1st January 2018 had been requested. The assessment was not yet complete but she had captured some of the headlines and her observations on the findings. She explained that the aims of the self-assessment were to capture the complexity of the profile of looked after children and care leavers across Wales and to encourage authorities to evaluate the effectiveness of its arrangements and to identify any issues impacting on looked after children and care leavers.
The Head of Children’s Social Care outlined the seven themes of the self- assessment which were profile, placement stability and sufficiency, care and support, placement panels and notification arrangements, early intervention, safeguarding and the workforce.
With regards to the profile, the Head of Children’s Social Care reported that BCBC had the fourth highest number of looked after children at the end of March 2017. All authorities had seen an increase in the number of looked after children and this appeared to be a theme across Wales.
The Head of Children’s Social Care explained that there had been a reduction in the number of children placed with independent foster carers from 22% at the end of last year to 18.3% in January 2018. She added that 69.7% of children had been placed inside the local authority, an improvement of previous years although the number of children who had 3 or more moves in the last 12 months remained a challenge.
The Head of Children’s Social Care reported that following preventative work with partner agencies and in particular the police, there appeared to be a downward trend reducing risks to looked after children. Also 20% of looked after children were receiving therapeutic services.
The Head of Children’s Social Care explained that the next steps included a qualitative analysis of the data, and incorporating that information in the self-assessment to be submitted to CIW by 26th January 2018. There would then be a performance challenge meeting with CIW possibly in March when the information provided would be interrogated. Field work inspections would then be undertaken in six authorities but BCBC had not received notification that it was one of the six. The findings and analysis would then be used to inform a national overview report, a CIW annual analysis of local authority social services performance and CIW inspections of Local Authority Social Services and regulated services.
A Member asked for clarification regarding the 5% of looked after children with disabilities. She asked how many of the 5% were included in the 2.1% in supported living or residential schools. The Head of Children’s Services did not have the information to hand but agreed to find the details and send to the Member.
A Member asked what steps were being taken to improve staff morale. He was advised that this issue would be addressed in the next item.
A Member asked why only a relatively low number of children (54%) remained with the same social worker after six months even though this would be a very traumatic experience for them. The Head of Children’s Social Care explained that the other 46% could be for various reasons such as a child being assessed and moved to a different team for longer term care possibly in a hub where close contact could be made with the family. As children became older they were transferred to the care leaver team and in some cases the social worker left the authority or moved to another area so the case would have to be transferred. Every effort was made to provide stability for the child.
The Leader welcomed the positive results and in particular, the reduction in the number of children being placed out of county and the reduction in the number of placements in the independent sector. He noted that the complexity of cases appeared to be increasing and asked if this was happening in Bridgend and if there was any way of measuring this. The Head of Children’s Services explained that there had been a lot of interest nationally in some of the challenges with looked after children and finding suitable placements for them. It continued to be a challenge in Bridgend and was one of the reasons why children had to be placed out of county because of the lack of specialist provision in house to meet those children’s needs. There was a small cohort of children with complex issues and finding suitable placements continued to be an issue.
A Member asked what trends and data would be pursued going forward. The Head of Children’s Services explained that there were a number of sections under each theme that they would be required to look at. Staff would flag themes and hotspots and look at comparatives from previous years and report their findings to a future meeting.
A Member asked if there was an underlying trend to the 11.5% of children with 3 or more moves in the last 12 months and if best practice guidance had been sought. The Head of Children’s Services explained that this figure was closely monitored. There appeared to be two types of children affected, very young children removed at birth possibly going to a placement that doesn’t work and then on to a more suitable placement and teenagers with more complex issues. Data was interrogated every quarter and there appeared to be an improvement in figures. A Member suggested that it would be useful to have a separate set of statistics for teenagers.
A Member asked in how many cases there had been early intervention and how many were related to child sex exploitation and trafficking. This information was not available at the meeting but would be brought to a future meeting.
A Member noted that 96% of children had a care plan prior to becoming looked after and asked why they became looked after children. The Head of Children’s Services explained that they had asked the same question and IPC had been instructed to undertake a review in Bridgend to see what did and didn’t work and the findings would be reported to a future meeting
A Member asked for the contact rates for personal advisors with care leavers. She was advised that it varied depending on age and that some of the older care leavers were particularly difficult to engage with.
The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing added that the exercise had been very demanding and it wasn’t always clear what information was being requested resulting in conversations back and forth to get clarity. There was more information not yet available. A report had been presented to scrutiny the previous week which covered the strategy around fostering and some of the issues raised today.
RESOLVED: That the Cabinet Committee noted the information provided in the report.