Report of Strategic Director, Care Wellbeing and Learning
Committee received a report and presentation on performance in relation to looked after children up until the end of January 2018.
It was reported that at the end of January there were 388 looked after children (LAC). This was made up of 263 individual families, therefore there are a number of sibling groups within the overall number. In terms of statistical and regional figures Gateshead is slightly higher and is also above the national average. It was noted that the LAC population is not static and that 148 children entered care and 130 left care over the last year. On average 16 children per month enter the care system and 13 leave care.
Committee was advised that the main reason for children entering care was due to abuse or neglect. The definition for this category is “children in need as a result of, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; also includes children at risk of domestic violence”. The largest proportion of children leaving care return home when it is deemed safe to do so. The next largest group of young people leaving care was because of a move to independent living.
It was noted that the majority of young people in care are in mainstream fostering. There are currently 18 LAC in independent fostering places, it was acknowledged that this figure is small in terms of neighbouring authorities. There has been an increase since last year in family and friend placements.
It was reported that targets are being met in relation to timeliness of LAC reviews and placement stability. During April – January 2018, 20 adoptions took place, of which 13 were within the best interest date timescale. However, targets around the use of adoptions, SGO’s and timeliness of children being placed for adoption have not been met. There have been improvements in the number of care leavers in education, employment or training and also the number of care leavers in suitable accommodation. In terms of placement stability there has only been 25 children out of 389 who have experienced three or more placements moves in the last 12 months, this is 6.4%. This figure compares favourably to the national picture which is around 10% of children experiencing three or more moves on average.
It was noted that adoption figures across the country have reduced, with a general reduction in the number of adopters nationally and regionally.
It was questioned whether the increasing number of LAC is due to the impact of Universal Credit. It was confirmed that there is not enough data to know that yet, however, neglect and abuse are the highest factor as to why children come into care which could be some indication of a link to poverty.
It was queried whether support is offered once a child returns home. It was confirmed that all risk factors are tested before a child or young person returns to the family home, work would be ongoing to look at risk and manage any pinch points by working with parents to help and upskill parents. The support length to these children would depend on the individual circumstances.
It was questioned how Gateshead’s out of borough placements compare to other authorities and how can the number be reduced. It was confirmed that a lot of the out of borough provision actually belongs to Gateshead, and a lot of carers living outside the area are still registered with Gateshead, for example there are a lot of friends and extended family placements through regulation 24 assessments. It was noted that LAC will always try to be kept within the Gateshead boundary area but there will still be assessments and support to carers outside of the area. There is also a small number of residential places outside of Gateshead. It was also confirmed that there are 18 independent fostering agency places in Gateshead, this is one of the lowest in the region. It was also acknowledged that there is a promising picture in relation to adoption targets, currently there have been 19 this year, although this is slightly lower than last year.
RESOLVED - That the Committee noted the content of the report.