Sharon Shaw informed the group that there were now 819 children in care and central government recently told local authorities that everyone had to increase the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people. Therefore, WCC had to take on an extra 30 unaccompanied asylum seekers, so Warwickshire now has 110. They were coping with this increase by bringing in more staff, especially with the new supported accommodation in Leamington.
Not including the number of asylum-seeking young people, WCC had the lowest number of children in care since November 2021. This was because of the early interventions in place and the wrap around support to get children back home was working well. All the data was on Power BI and it showed there was a drop in young people entering care but there were a few teenagers entering it. One on the reasons for this was children being placed on SGOs (special guardianship order) instead of going into care. Refugee families waiting in hotels was a strain on the health and education services. The number of young males in care in Warwickshire was likely to rise because of the increase of unaccompanied asylum seekers. 26.4% of children in care are in minority ethnic groups, this was also increasing because of the asylum seekers. Most young people in care were aged between 10-15 followed by 17-16 year olds. They were working on short-term placement stability after five teenagers had to keep being moved because they did not have any placements; this was a national issue. Cambian informed WCC that they will be closing a lot of their residential units because they were not financially viable.
In response to Councillor Caroline Philipps, Sharon Shaw said that the unaccompanied asylum seekers were coming from Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Albania. All of them are placed in hotels because there is no other accommodation available. It was believed that there was an increase from children from Albania because they were being trafficked because they disappear from the hotels they are in.
Deena Moorey noted that the virtual school was taking in more unaccompanied asylum seekers because finding school places was difficult; some were having to travel out of their borough to go to school. There was a long waiting list for these young people to enrol onto courses that taught English as a second language.
In response to the Chair, Sharon Shaw said that short-term placements was a problem in Warwickshire because there were a shortage of placements and children would need one as soon as they were put into care. If one young person was being challenging in a placement, then they could be made the leave by the place holder and another child would move in immediately. This was a problem in Warwickshire because they did not have their own children’s homes before, so they were always relying on commissioned services. Some carers struggled to meet the young people’s needs due to criminal exploitation.
Following another question from the Chair, Sharon Shaw said that 30% of Warwickshire’s care leavers were not in education, employment, or training (EET) compared to the 42% national average. She agreed to double check this figure as it did not match the report’s number.
Following a supplementary from Councillor Phillips, Sharon Shaw said that ideally all care leavers should be in EET however, some of them would be disabled, sick or pregnant etc. so it would be more difficult for them to be in EET. They had drop-in groups every week in Birmingham, Coventry, Nuneaton, and South Warwickshire for these young people to support them to get back into EET.
In response to the Chair, Sharon Shaw said that Warwickshire was inline with its regional neighbours in regard to missing episodes of children in care. A missing episode would be counted even if a child was missing for a couple of hours. 19/32 children had multiple missing episodes, they are normally young males who were or had been involved in criminal activity. Others were unaccompanied asylum seekers, but WCC would try and find them if they were paced in Warwickshire. They improved the system that was in place for these, and this reduced the length of periods of time children would go missing for.
Following a supplementary from Councillor Phillips, Sharon Shaw said that if a child purposely went missing in Warwickshire and then something happened then this would need a case review. All protocols would be followed with CSE and the other teams, but teenagers who wanted to leave a care placement could not be physically restrained to stop them leaving. They would need to be placed somewhere where trust could be built, and they would want to stay. Last choice scenario would be secure placements but there were no available placements in the country.