Report of Service Manager Quality Assurance
The Board received the performance report for the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.
It was reported that at the end of March 2022 there were 485 LAC, a 10.2% increase from the same point last year. Research undertaken showed a national increase in demand on social care services, which was further complicated by the pandemic. It was confirmed that services are still seeing the impact of Covid 19 with significant pressures emerging as a result.
Although there has been a slight decrease (1.6%) in the overall number of contacts received there has still been an increase of 21% in the number of those contacts progressing to a Social Care referral.
There has been a 14.2% increase in the number of children open across the service and an 11.6% increase in the number of Child Protection Plans. There has also been a 14.8% increase in the number of children becoming looked after for the first time.
There has been a 2.4% decrease in the number of children on Interim Care Orders but a 4.9% increase in children on Full Care Orders.
It was noted that the number of children becoming looked after for the first time has increased, however overall has remained fairly static over the last five years. Of this cohort 72.5% were previously subject to a CPP which indicates that most children do not enter care without having had support provided to try and avoid entry to care.
In terms of children becoming looked after for a second or subsequent time has decreased slightly from the previous year.
As at December 2021 47.4% of placements were outside of Gateshead, this is a slight increase on the previous year end figure. The number of LAC in non-Gateshead provision is static at 19.5%.
In terms of legal status it was reported that there has been an increase in the number of full care orders, a significant increase in Section 20 voluntary agreements and a slight decrease in the number of children on Interim Care Orders.
It was noted that the age profile of LAC shows similar proportions across most age groups, however there has been a large increase in the 0-4 years age group, a 40% increase on last year’s figures.
The number of LAC in three or more placements continues on a downward trend and is below local and national averages. Long term placement stability, which measures LAC for 2.5 years or more in the same placement for at least two years, has increased very slightly by 0.8% to 71.9%. This is above the national and regional averages.
The number of children who have ceased to be looked after has increased slightly on last year. 33.5% of these children returned home, 21.7% as a result of turning 18, 27.3% had Special Guardianship Orders and 9.3% had Adoption Orders. Child Arrangement Orders accounted for 4.3% of children ceasing to be looked after.
It was concluded that demand has increased across the service but that stability continues to be a strength. It was confirmed that a deeper dive will be taken into this going forward in order to better focus resources.
It was questioned as to whether there would have been increased pressures on the service without Covid. It was confirmed that over the last two years there has been an increase in children requiring care and support in their home, there has been increased numbers of referrals linked to Covid due to isolation and impact of that on mental health, financial crisis leading to deprivation and poverty. It was confirmed that this is also the national picture. It was also noted that there are higher proportion of children living with extended families who the service also supports. It was acknowledged that the last two years have been extremely challenging in terms of resources.
It was questioned how Gateshead’s figures compare to other local authorities in relation to the number of children in care outside of the area. It was noted that these figures would be brought back once the new system was fully embedded and regional benchmarking has taken place.
It was questioned as to whether the increase in 0-4 age group coming into care was consistent with other areas. It was confirmed that this position is not unique to Gateshead, a pre-birth service has been developed with is led by Victoria McKay, as other authorities have teams working intensely with pregnant women to break the cycle. Further information will be brought back to the Board as this develops.
RESOLVED - To note the contents of the report and receive further
information on the areas requested.