The Committee received a report which provided an update on the Youth Council and Children in Care Council for the period July 2021 to September 2022.
Shinderpaul Bhangal, (Delivery Lead, Voice Influence & Change) introduced the report and highlighted the work undertaken with the Care Leavers Forum, Children in Care Council, SEND and Parent / Carer Voice. He also updated Members on the new way of working that had come into force in April 2022 and advised that newly recruited staff members were settling in well and beginning to understand their roles and responsibilities.
Shinderpaul Bhangal explained the key areas of interest including a recent Cross Ministerial Board Meeting that took place in July 2021, the Ofsted Inspection of Local Area Children’s Service in November 2021 and the positive feedback received from both. Further highlights included:
· Brothers and Sisters Event in April 2022
· Children & Families Conference & Watch Your Words – Improving Language in Care July 2022
· Apprenticeship Guide for Care Experienced Apprentices 16+ August 2022
· Refugee Celebration Week June 2022
· 3 Short Films June 2022
· Warwickshire Youth Conference April 2022
· A recently developed Social Inclusion Charter
Shinderpaul Bhangal explained that without young people’s involvement, this work would not be shaped the way it was.
The Chair welcomed a number of representatives from the Youth Council and Children in Care Council who were attending the meeting virtually.
Tom Barker on behalf of the Care Leavers Forum;
Ollie Tessler, Children in Care Council;
Ian Donnachie, IMPACT forum for young people with SEND;
Alice Battersby and Ruth Morley Brown (also known as Wren), Youth Council.
Members noted that the representative from Unaccompanied Young People, Eliza Deng, had been unable to attend and Umar Teerab (Family Support Worker) would update the meeting on her behalf.
Tom Barker addressed the meeting on behalf of the Care Leavers Forum and described his involvement helping to organise a recent trip to Wembley. Other activities he had been involved in included Care Experience Week, which had involved a Surf Challenge, interviewing the next generation of staff and attending a recent Police Panel. Areas that he felt needed improving were consistent mental health support which should be regular and include daily check-ins, help regarding isolation and how young people could be helped to be set up for life with support regarding rights and entitlements.
Ollie Tessler, 12, spoke on behalf of the Children in Care Council. He described a recent trip to the Harry Potter Studios and explained that his favourite part had been the coach trip. Ollie stated that he had enjoyed meeting other young people and making friends, some of whom he was still in contact with and had met up with again. Ollie had also attended the relaunch of the Children in Care Council which had circus themed activities as well as an exercise to write down the things that were important to him. He was looking forward to the Christmas party when he could meet up with the friends he had made previously. In April, Ollie went to the Brothers and Sisters Event which had enabled him to spend time with his two brothers that he did not live with and he was hoping to see them again next year. Ollie felt that areas of improvement could include support with self-harm, more family time, LGBT opportunities and understanding the transition to college.
Ian Donnachie addressed the meeting on behalf of Impact and began by describing the recent work on redesigning the logo. Representatives from Impact had attended a face to face event in August and had been involved in interviewing the second generation of workers. A new project he was involved in was the School Inclusion Charter which would enable individual needs to be looked at, bring SEND issues to the attention of others and support young people more with SEND friendly settings. He was hoping that pushing forward with this work would help to get the message out and described how they were using different social media tools to communicate to young people. He described his experiences at school and felt that more training was needed around SEND needs in schools especially with trauma and mental health.
Umar Terrab read out the presentation put together by Eliza Deng of Unaccompanied Young People. She felt that the support she had received was good and her mentor had helped her a lot especially during lockdown. She was very pleased with the events that enabled young people to come together and celebrate with lots of people in attendance and awards for any achievement. Eliza had taken part in interview panels, which had helped her confidence and her English to improve. She explained that she had been involved in the ‘UASC’ film, covering three things – her arrival in the country, the support she received from WCC and how she had integrated into the UK. The film was going to be used in foster care training and even had interest from the Home Office. Eliza felt that more opportunities were needed for young people to learn the English language, learn about the different cultures in the UK and to get an understanding of the laws.
Umar Terrab went on to describe the impact of trauma on unaccompanied young people, many of whom had risked their lives to get to the UK. He felt that more training was needed to understand that the trauma never went away. Many children had family back home who they wanted to support or make contact with and the Home Office process was difficult and lengthy, often taking four to five years to get a response. He reminded Members that until these young people had the correct documents, they had no life and too many were still waiting to hear.
Alice Battersby spoke on behalf of the Youth Council and provided an overview of the conference held in April 2022. 76 participants had attended, splitting into discussion groups with varying issues discussed. She had also attended a Climate Conference in March at Warwick University allowing the Youth Council to express why the issue mattered to them and why it wanted adults to care. The representatives had also met with the Leader of the Council, Councillor Isobel Seccombe, in June to discuss Levelling Up and how it would apply to young people, with their views being fed back to Council. Further work included an intel video on mental health, how to get support for children and families, a politics interview with Councillor Barker and a future interview scheduled with Councillor Rolfe. Wren went on to outline the five main recommendations from the Youth Conference including Climate Change, Homelessness, jobs and career advice and support, along with accessible mental health and wellbeing assistance. Wren Morley Brown explained that young people did not want to be patronised and how further work could include understanding respectful relationships with practical advice on contraception.
The Chair thanked all of the young people for taking the time to attend and for talking about their experiences. He felt that their presentations had helped to add flesh to the bones of the report and had breathed life into the issues being discussed.
Councillor Gilbert asked Alice Battersby whether Councillors were able to attend the Youth Council and the timing and location of the meetings. He also asked how the subject matter to be discussed was agreed. In response, Alice Battersby advised that the group only had a small number of members and were trying to encourage recruitment of more representatives, especially from the north of the County. Youth Council meetings were held on the first Tuesday of each month and Councillors could be invited to future meetings. She assured the meeting that the Youth Council had full control over the agenda.
Councillor Roodhouse thanked the young representatives for their presentation and recognised the good work being done. With regard to the recommendations, he queried if there was any work that could be done with the Borough and District Councils, especially in relation to their sports and recreational departments. In relation to recommendation 1.3, Councillor Roodhouse queried if a task and finish group was the appropriate wording and went on to ask if Members could do anything to assist young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers by lobbying government or the Home Office.
In response, the Committee agreed that an additional recommendation could be added.
Councillor Brown agreed that recommendation 1.3 should be amended as the work relating to mental health support would not stop but would continue for as long as it was needed.
Councillor Kaur noted the complex issue of mental health and how it linked to numerous workstreams across the Council. She queried how this work could be reported back in a collective manner and advised that she would raise this at Corporate Board, with a view to it being looked at holistically.
Councillor Kerridge addressed Ian Donnachie and Alice Battersby following their updates regarding social media communications and asked whether a list of the relevant links could be sent to him. In response, Shinderpaul Bhangal advised that these could be available via a central webpage and Alice Battersby explained that the Youth Council was in the process of improving its social media communications.
Councillor Simpson-Vince asked two questions. The first relating to Impact and where Ian Donnachie saw it progressing and the second related to Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers and the impact of their resettlement on their mental health.
In response to the first question, Ian Donachie outlined his aspirations for Impact and how to get young people with SEND needs involved more and getting schools to spread the message regarding the support required.
Sharon Shaw (Service Manager, Corporate Parenting) responded to the second question and agreed that dealing with mental health issues amongst young asylum seekers was challenging as it was not always discussed in their culture and the language barrier often proved to be a problem. However, a one and a half year course was being progressed by staff members and a nurse had been recruited specifically to help support UASCs. Raising the profile of problems such as poor sleep quality and the importance of relaxation was key to enable this to become a more integrated part of life. In addition, the issue had been raised at the Fostering Conference with mental health and past trauma being spoken about. Sharon assured Members that this was an issue that all staff were keenly aware of.
The Chair queried if mental health difficulties were being experienced across the board and officers confirmed this was a national problem and Warwickshire was not alone. Multi-disciplinary teams were aiming to appoint mental health workers but the county still had ten young people struggling to find somewhere to live.
In response to a question from Councillor Humphreys, it was confirmed that Impact was looking to recruit from the northern part of the County. Sam Craven (SEND Development Officer) reported that the Care Experience Celebration had been very positive with many young people attaining a good education and having felt they had received a good service from WCC.
Councillor Gilbert felt that whilst social media was a positive communication tool it could also have a negative impact. He wanted the young representatives in attendance to have the confidence to communicate if they did not agree with decisions being made and assured them that multiple members could be approached if necessary. He felt that their experience in education should be shared along with more ideas as to how to improve processes in the future.
The Chair thanked everyone for attending and proposed that the recommendations be agreed, subject to an amendment to the wording of 1.3 and an additional recommendation ensuring continuing work with the District and Borough Councils.
The Committee resolved that:
1) the positive contributions that children and young people (C&YP) have made to support improvements to WCC services be noted;
2) the changes to the Participation Team and expansion of responsibilities be noted;
3) a Working Group on Mental Health & Wellbeing be established so members of the Youth Council, Forum for C&YP with SEND, Children in Care Council and Care Leaver Forum can meet on a quarterly basis with 2-3 members of the C&YP OSC Subcommittee;
4) a rota is agreed where elected members attend bimonthly the Youth Council, Forum for C&YP with SEND, Children in Care Council and Care Leaver Forum; and
5) the Youth Council, Forum for C&YP with SEND, Children in Care Council and Care Leaver Forum will be invited to attend the C&YP OSC Subcommittee on an annual basis to present their annual report on the actions/achievements and key messages to Members