Ian Donnachie told members the Warwickshire Youth Conference was held on 21 April, with many workshops and activities taking place. It was noted there was a lower number of attendees from Nuneaton and Bedworth. Shinderpaul Bhangal said 26 young people had already registered to attend before the information on attendees was collected in greater detail. There had been a focus on promoting the event in North Warwickshire, and there were eight young people from this region who had planned to attend but had to drop out late on.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse said he had
attended a meeting recently where the Youth Conference had been
mentioned, but people were unaware of the feedback from the event.
Shinderpaul Bhangal said a report was being drafted and would be
circulated in due course. It contained a number of recommendations
that had been proposed by the young people who had attended. John
Coleman the team who had arranged the Youth Conference deserved
praise and congratulations for the amount of work that had taken
place to organise such a successful event. He said it had been led
by young people for other young people. It had been the first
in-person conference to have taken place for a few years.
Alisha Howe provided an update on the young inspectors. She reminded the Panel that in September the team had viewed 12 accommodations around the county and a report on their findings was created. One of the properties was not up to standard, and since the report was completed the kitchen had been refurbished and improved. A new inspection of the 12 accommodations that had been looked at was planned to take place 18 months after the first one. Sharon Shaw added that properties were inspected by the quality assurance team on a regular basis, and the young inspectors carried out additional checks on top of these.
Liss Phillips told the Panel about the brothers and sisters event that took place at the Myton Park offices on 12 April. This had been arranged after feedback from the Children in Care Council meetings, where siblings who were not in the same placement had asked why they had not been placed together. The event was arranged so the siblings could see each other. Around 50 young people with foster carers attended for a range of activities and games, and also a barbecue. Barnardo’s had attended and officers promoted the work of the charity. A survey was sent out to those who attended who had a sibling they had been separated from, and the feedback would be reviewed and discussed at the August Senior Leadership Team meeting. Initial feedback said the young people would like this to become an annual event.
Responding to a question from the Chair, Liss Phillips said the team was trying to find out from the feedback how many young people were in a sibling group that had been split up. It was agreed this information would be circulated to members once known.
Councillor Caroline Phillips asked if,
historically, the Council had tried to keep sibling groups
together. She said she was aware of a situation where five children
had been taken into care, but the children had not been allowed to
return home after the mother had rehabilitated herself. Sharon Shaw
said there was a commitment to keeping children within their family
and as many options as possible would be explored, such as care
being provided by a member of their extended family. Social workers
had to have regard for the children’s circumstances and needs
changing over the years. In cases where siblings were separated, an
assessment would be undertaken to make sure it was the right thing
to do. With larger sibling groups it was difficult to find a
placement for them all together; however Sharon Shaw said a
placement had recently been found for a group of five siblings.
When it came to returning home from care, the child’s wishes
needed to be taken into consideration. Sharon Shaw said there were
instances of children saying they did not wish to return to their
family home, and if there were clear reasons then this viewpoint
needed to be respected. Councillor Marian Humphreys said she was
aware of a case where a successful adopter had also adopted a
younger sibling who had been born during the adoption process. She
mentioned this to highlight there was a desire to keep siblings
together as much as possible.
Liss Phillips provided an update on
‘Watch Your Words’, which was a booklet that promoted
more positive language relating to children in care, explained
acronyms and jargon, and contained a section on victim blaming. It
was to help children in care understand the language used in their
files, and to help them understand what was happening in their care
meetings so they could ask the right questions. The booklet had now
been completed after six months of work and would be launched on 27
June. It would be shared with schools, police and other
stakeholders. John Coleman said the contents had been reviewed by
him and members of the Senior Leadership Team, and it was intended
for a copy to be available to every member of staff. There was a
communications plan regarding sharing it amongst the police, NHS
and partner agencies.
Marie Dionisi said the barbecue evenings had
been relaunched at Myton to coincide with the monthly Youth Forum
and Children in Care Council meetings. They took place on the
second Thursday of each month. Allotments had been created at Myton
and young people attending the meetings were being encouraged to
use them and do some gardening. The possibility of further
allotments being developed at the Old Mayor’s House, with a
view to them being used by young people at the weekend, was being
Liss Phillips said Easter egg hampers and meals were distributed to children in care during April, following help from Stacey Bains from the Churches Across Warwickshire group and donations from businesses.
Liss Phillips said she and Umar Teerab had
been invited to a police scrutiny panel meeting at the headquarters
at Leek Wootton. They had viewed bodycam footage of police
interactions with people. Liss Phillips explained she was given
options of which footage she would like to view and she generally
chose interactions involving people under the age of 25, and those
taking place in North Warwickshire and Rugby. Feedback would be
provided on how the situations were handled and this would be fed
into the training for the individual officer involved and the
police force generally. Opportunities were available for people to
go on patrols with officers. Liss Phillips said the intention was
to involve young people who did not have a good experience with the
police, in the hope it would provide them with a better
relationship. Responding to a question from Councillor Humphreys,
Liss Phillips said the intention was to try and set up a scrutiny
panel for each district of Warwickshire. Councillor Humphreys said
she would like to attend the scrutiny panel meetings.
Regarding apprenticeships, Shinderpaul Bhangal reminded the Panel that Warwickshire was represented in a regional participation network. The network had agreed to create a guide for care experience apprentices for those aged 16 and over. The Warwickshire representatives had taken the lead in a subgroup that was created to prepare the guidebook. A 16-page document outlining good practice for creating apprenticeships had been produced and endorsed by the network, and was now being shared across the 14 local authorities involved with a view to being used as a way of benchmarking good practice in promoting opportunities for care leavers.
Marie Dionisi said the Connect and Go team had successfully applied for a grant through the Department of Transport. The grant would be used to supply an electric-powered nine-seater minibus to be used across Coventry and Warwickshire, and a small vehicle to be used in the Nuneaton area, as part of a pilot scheme aimed at tackling a vulnerability and loneliness. It would help young people attend events they might not otherwise be able to get to. It was explained the minibus would be used in Coventry as some of Warwickshire’s children in care lived there.
Liss Phillips said the April meeting of the Children in Care Council and Care Leavers Forum had been attended by Kim Evans from Barnardo’s and a representative of the Children's Commissioner, to highlight the work they did. Feedback from the meeting suggesting transport and connectivity for young people was an issue, and improvements could be made to the drop-in sessions. Recent meetings had also explained about what life would be like for care leavers after the age of 25. Feedback on this had been sought and the findings would be presented to the Senior Leadership Team in due course. Liss Phillips said consideration was being given to separating the Children in Care Council and Care Leavers Forum to make it easier to do age appropriate activities, with a view to increasing participation.
Umar Teerab said workshops had taken place for
foster carers, who were shown videos taken by young people
outlining what they considered a good foster carer to be and what
Sharon Shaw said there was a refugee celebration event on 22 June at the Heart of England. A series of films that had been made by children in care would be shown on 22 and 23 June at Northgate House. These had been funded through the West Midlands Migration money. Trips to Bournemouth and Blackpool and taken place, and future visits to Wembley and Snowdon were planned.
The Chair thanked officers for everything that had been happening, saying they should be proud of the work they were doing for Warwickshire.