Shinderpaul Bhangal, Team Leader – Participation, introduced the report with details participation from March 2019 to September 2020 with focus on the Engagement Strategy and highlights of the engagement undertaken by the Council with Young People.
Five priority areas for Children and Young People were identified as follows –
In addition, three emerging priorities have been identified –
The Covid-19 crisis impacted the services provided to children and young people. The Committee noted that the roll out of new technology across Warwickshire County Council has allowed for new ways of working such as virtual meetings. These were not always popular with children and young people who prefer face-to-face meetings. The Committee considered that this was due to isolation being a concern for many children and young people.
The Committee noted the other examples of working during the Covid-19 crisis including –
health/wellbeing by young people for young people
The Committee was introduced to five young people from the Children in Care Council (CiCC) and the Warwickshire Youth Council (WYC) who had been invited to the meeting to give their views on engagement and participation and to answer questions from the Committee.
Beth Nelson (CiCC) stated that while virtual meetings are better suited to her lifestyle, face-to-face meetings are preferred. They are less formal and allow her to meet up with friends and staff to have proper conversations, hot drinks and a chat. Virtual meetings have tended to be much more formal.
Tarwender Atkinson (CiCC) stated that she liked both virtual and face-to-face meetings; although there can be more issue with virtual meetings such as technical issues. Online meetings can be more restrictive; genuine conversations are easier face-to-face.
Adam Ratcliffe (WYC) told the Committee that has a Young Carer with a parent who is shielding, it was very hard not to get the time away from home to speak to friends and staff about issues or concerns. It is much harder to have a private conversation on-line.
Following a question from Councillor Jonathon Chilvers in relation to the leaving care transition, Beth Nelson replied that her experience had not been a positive one and that she had no preparation for what would happen once she turned 18 years old. Tarwender Atkinson agreed that support for leaving care should be started earlier that 16 or 17 years old to give young people a chance to properly plan for their future. The Committee noted the comments in relation to mental health and the impact poor preparation can have; as well as the additional impact of Covid-19 on those going through the leaving care process. Beth Nelson confirmed that she was very well looked after and cared for while she was in foster care and then suddenly found herself on her own with no support and no one to relate to.
Sharon Shaw, Service Manager - Corporate Parenting confirmed that a lot of work is based on the views of young people and thanked the young people for their comments. It was noted that there has been a significant increase in young people “staying put” in foster care after they turn 18 years old in order to provide more support. A new project is due to start where the leaving care transition is started with young people at 14 years old. Sharon Shaw confirmed that officers are aware there is a lot of work to do in this area but that many improvements have already been made.
Following a question from Councillor Corinne Davies, Beth Nelson told the Committee that while she felt that the mental health services provided by the Council are good, the waiting times are terrible and that it took a long time for her to get the help she needed, during which time, her mental health got worse. The Committee noted Beth’s suggestion that it could be beneficial for young people to be able to share their experiences, to get more involved and share ideas between themselves.
Following a question from Councillor Pam Williams about young carers, Adam Ratcliffe stated that group sessions for young carers would be beneficial, especially if the sessions could be held face-to-face with social distancing; even if they were small groups it would allow young carers to get out of the house and learn life skills.
Shinderpaul Bhangal acknowledged that change does take time to filter through the system but that the service was in a much more positive place that 18 months ago. The service can learn a lot from the children and young people who can help shape the service moving forward.
Sharon Shaw asked that it be put on record how proud officers were on the young people who attended today’s meeting; they were confident and articulate in sharing their views and experiences as well as being very open to being involved in discussions in the future. Councillor Dan Gissane added his thanks acknowledging that it had been valuable for the members to hear their views. Councillor Dominic Skinner also agreed that listening to the views of all the young people was exactly what members needed to hear. He thanked them for being
It was agreed that an update on the points discussed would be presented at a meeting in twelve months’ time. The Committee thanked all the young people for their attendance and look forward to welcoming them back to meetings in the future.
The Committee note the positive contributions that children and young people (C&YP) have made towards the progress of the Participation and
Engagement Strategy 2019-2023.
The Committee consider a cross party group to include children and young people with relevant experience to give impetus to specific priorities raised by children and young people from the Children in Care Council and the Warwickshire Youth Council that require more traction.