The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ed Davie, introduced the report and outlined how Lambeth would meet its responsibilities to commission and provide secure, safe and high-quality placements for children who were looked after and care leavers. Cabinet was asked to note the following points:
- The Sufficiency Strategy was a core strategy required by Ofsted as part of the Inspecting Local Authorities Children’s Services framework.
- It was predicted that between 360 and 400 children would become looked after at any point over the next 3 years.
- The Council was supporting 312 young people through Special Guardianship Orders.
- The Council looked after 97 children who were unaccompanied. This number had risen over the past 4 years.
- The ages of children coming into care was changing, with more older children coming into care.
- The number of children coming into care was rising, after years of it declining. During 2020, the Council had supported more care leavers than at any point since 2015.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People went on to explain that Children’s Social Care, working with Commissioners, had identified five priorities. These objectives, set out in the report, would ensure Lambeth had the types of placements, residential provision, and infrastructure required to meet the varying needs of children who came into care.
A representative from Lambeth’s Children in Care Council and a Foster Carer both made representations on this item which focused on:
- The need for regular unannounced inspections, including the use of mystery shoppers, for all services commissioned.
- Concerns about children in care being placed in homes outside of the borough.
- The importance of maintaining good relationships with the borough’s that children looked after were placed in.
- The work that had taken place to expand Lambeth’s in-house foster care service, which would reduce demand on commissioned and out of borough placements.
- The financial assistance and support that was available when fostering, including work that had taken place to redesign the tiers of payments received by carers.
- The importance of foster carers receiving 24/7 wraparound support and the positive developments concerning fostering hubs, which would be rolled out using the mockingbird model.
- The need for placements to be continuously reviewed to ensure objectives were being met.
- The importance of having clear transition arrangements in place to support young people to move successfully into independence and adulthood.
Councillor Nicole Griffiths, Co-Leader of the Opposition, also made representations on this item. The following points were highlighted:
- Constant reviewing and inspection was needed, but this required the input of young people, and Lambeth itself needed to remain informed and not rely on third parties.
- It was hoped that the Foster Carers Campaign next year was successful.
- It was requested whether a housing offer for would-be foster carers could be made to provide them with the space and accommodation to become foster carers.
- Where safe to do so, the default should be to keep families together, but more research was needed into why children ended up in care and on the impact of poverty on family cohesion.
- It was queried how the Lambeth Children’s Partnership Board, Children in Care Council and Corporate Parenting Board would work together to deliver on the Strategy.
Councillor Griffiths also put on record her thanks to the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and to officers for providing regular updates on the development of the Strategy and highlighted that the Green Group took their corporate parenting role very seriously and supported any strategy that increased the wellbeing of Lambeth’s children and young people.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, together with the Strategic Director of Children’s Services, highlighted that:
- Young people, partners and health colleagues had all been involved in engagement and consultation on the development of the Strategy. The Children in Care Council and young people would also be involved in the development of services outlined in the Strategy.
- The Council would utilise the South London Commissioning Programme for external placements wherever possible. This would not only save money but would guarantee better quality placements when purchased.
- A key aim of the strategy was to improve performance monitoring systems to ensure information was used effectively to inform future service delivery.
- The needs assessment had highlighted that more needed to be done to provide services differently in the future. For example, work that was in train to establish an Edge of Care service, based on a well-established university evaluated and evidence-based model, to reduce the numbers of children who came into care.
- The Strategy provided focus on the support required for young people to transition from Semi- Independent Accommodation to obtaining their first tenancy or, where suitable, to access a Staying Put placement.
- Officers would work with housing colleagues to investigate options for those wishing to become foster carers but who required more space or accommodation for this to happen.
Further information was also provided in relation to how the Lambeth Children’s Partnership, Children in Care Council, Corporate Parenting Board, and other partners, would work collaboratively to deliver the Strategy. It was noted that regular updates on its development and implementation would be provided through relevant corporate governance arrangements to ensure the Strategy remained fit for purpose.
RESOLVED: That the Sufficiency Strategy 2020-2023 be approved, including development of the models contained within the Strategy.