- Meeting of Education and Children's Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday 7 July 2021 3.57 pm (Item 47.)
Jean Kelly provided a verbal update for the Children, Young People and Families service for this item:
There had been an increase in demand on the service for the last 15 months but this had not reduced nor stagnated. There had been an additional demand of 25% on the Childrens Social Work service over 15 months.
There had been a regular increase in the number of children in care during the pandemic, however this had stabilised since March 2021. Figures from 31st May advised the committee that there had been 488 children in Care with an increase in older adolescents coming into the Care of the Local Authority. This had presented a challenge for the service and due to the complexity of need placements in house and in the independent sector were not available which subsequently had led to an increase in residential placements. These residential placements had been monitored closely and a Service Manager had been reviewing the Care plans of those children in Residential Care. This increase had presented a challenge for the service in terms of capacity to respond, the service had been successful in recruiting Newly Qualified Social Workers however had faced difficulty in recruiting experienced social workers which is reflected regionally and nationally.
Plymouth City Councils Children’s Service had recently restructured its fostering service and targets had been set to recruit in house foster carers. In the last financial year Plymouth City Council had recruited 14 households representing 18 placements for children requiring care. Currently in this financial year, Plymouth City Council had approved one household with two placements, there had been 9 applicants in the process of assessments which would represent 14 new placements if recruited. The service would be targeting 36 new placements for this financial year. There had been a challenge nationally to successfully recruit foster carers which had been reported within the independent review of Childrens services ‘The Case for Change’ by Josh McAlister. Plymouth have a marketing strategy and had been working hard to identify families interested in becoming a foster carer.
The pandemic and lockdown had an effect on the amount of children coming into care which had been similar with other local authorities in the region. Childrens services are a demand led service and would be legally obliged to respond when a child meets the threshold. Plymouth had been working hard with partners some of whom have had to furlough staff which had then impacted interventions for families in the community and had led to children remaining within the service for longer. Lockdown and the pandemic had exacerbated concerns and risks within families homes which had led to children coming into the care of the Local Authority.
Targeted Support are facing a challenge, there had been a significant number of children requiring interventions from this service, however due to the pandemic and reduction in service from other services they had not been outward facing as they had been previously. The management team had been working closely with the Targeted Support service to increase capacity to ensure families receive the right support at the right time.
Children’s Mental Health services had been under significant pressure in terms of both preventative work and referrals submitted by the Local Authority for the children we work with. The waiting times for referrals would be provided as a written response to Councillor David James.
The Adolescent Support Team had been working with children, young people and families where they are either on the edge of Care or in Local Authority Care to re-unify them back into the family home or with extended family members. Since June 2020 to March 2021 the team had reunified 12 young people and this year to date had reunified 5. The committee were advised that more than 20 young people had been prevented from coming into the Local Authority’s care through the Adolescent teams work. The service had been looking to expand that service as they operate with trauma informed interventions with wrap around support in order to prevent children and young people coming into care or to reunify the family.
Ming Zhang provided a verbal update for the Education service:
The Service had been working hard during the pandemic to support schools to achieve maximum participation in education. There had been a focus on creating provision for keyworker’s children to come to school and also to provide placements for vulnerable children. The Service had been successful in delivering on this and the attendance figures are 95%, nationally this figure had been 87.5%. The attendance of vulnerable children had been above the national average.
The Inclusion service had worked closely with the Children, Young People and Families service to help vulnerable learners who may need support to access school based learning. Schools were supported to provide good health and safety risk assessments in place and ensure facilities were ready for vulnerable learners to access on site provisions.
The Education service had an increased pressure on their service. The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities service (SEND) had seen a 19% increase in demand for specialist places. The team had not been designed toc after for such a high number. The service had realigned to prevent tribunal cases.
Many schools have advised that they would keep the arrangements of their bubbles at least until the end of the school term.
Work is on-going to ensure schools, staff and pupils feel supported and to enure that their wellbeing had been supported when returning to school.
9 schools had confirmed local outbreaks of COVID-19, 10 early years settings and there had been 39 single cases reported. Councillor Laing requested data in terms of how many children and young people had been isolating. From the 28th June – 2nd July, 1500 children, young people and early years had been isolating. The current figure had been 1103 school aged and 389 early years. These figures had shown a rise in the last two weeks but the figure had not been as high during periods of ‘full lockdown’.
During the pandemic Specialist Edcuation staff realigned to ensure staff are available to schools and families. Virtual online meetings had been made available to SEND children and families. A helpline had been setup by the Plymouth Information Support and Advice for SEND (PIAS), this service had allowed direct phone calls from the parent to alleviate high demand.