Merton Council

Home Home Merton Adult Education Home Home Jobs in children's social care Home Merton Means Business Home Wandle Valley Low Carbon Zone Home Safeguarding Children Board
How do I contact my councillor?

Agenda item

Update report: corporate parenting


Paul Angeli, Assistant Director of Children, Schools and Families, introduced the item based on the information available in the officer’s report and highlighted the following:

·         Performance indicators for the service are subject to scrutiny by Ofsted;

·         The number of looked after children in Merton has been around 150 – 160 for some time.  This is small compared to other local authorities (the second lowest in London);

·         Currently, there are 16 unaccompanied children in the Council’s care.  However, flagged this is likely to rise to 32 during the next year;

·         The performance of the service has been improving over the last 2/3 years.  This is demonstrated by:

o   Care proceedings being predicted to fall to 26 weeks (down from 60 weeks).

o   Older children, those who are disabled and with complex needs are being adopted.

o   There are good health outcomes in Merton for looked after children (excluding immunisation).

o   The falling number of looked after children and care leavers that are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) population.

o   The work on-going to address youth offending, substance abuse and child sexual exploitation.

o   Improvements in user voice/participation which is a being supported by a new dedicated officer.

o   Placement stability being good especially for those in care for more than two years.

·         Legislation is currently going through Parliament (Children and Social Work Bill) which will make councils responsible for children in care up until the age of 25.


In response to member questions, officers clarified:

·         More detail on the bill extending responsibility for looked after children up to the age of 25 is needed.  The requirements for the local offer are not known but it is assumed this will be about offering information, advice and guidance rather than there being any expectation of continuing financial and/or housing support after 21 years;

·         There is no expectation for adoptions to be made in borough.  In fact, there may be good reasons for adoptions to not be local.  The authority’s duty is to ensure that adoptive matches are appropriate.  Getting these right has sometimes allowed the Council to subsequently place siblings with the same family and also to avoid adoption breakdown;

·         The graph (3.8) on page 15 shows the average time taken between the Council receiving court authority to place a child and this placement happening with an adoptive family.  It was noted that this time period has fallen considerably over the last three years although it was also noted the impact proceedings being contested can have on the time taken;

·         Service priorities for this year are:

o   Improving the quality and value for money of placements.  This includes training staff to be confident in challenging placement providers if care needs are not being met;

o   Integrating the Signs of Safety approach to all areas of service practice;

o   Developing the Care Leavers Hub in partnership with a range of providers to ensure care leavers have access to a range of information, advice and support.

·         The service plan contains hard and soft performance measures for all areas of service development with a focus on stretch to achieve the difference between a good and outstanding service.  For example, the success of the Care Leavers Hub will be judged by the number of partners involved in supporting provision and the usage the Hub receives.  It will also be evaluated through the care leavers survey;

·         A service has been commissioned to provide a robust offer to missing children.  This focuses on the quality of the return home interview and thereafter weekly meetings to ensure understanding of why a child went missing and reintegration back into the family.  The focus is on not giving up and the Council continuing to offer support over an extended period.  The Council is also working closely with the police given the link between a child being missing and child sexual exploitation;

·         There is an on-going focus on stability of placements although it was noted Merton’s smaller cohorts will mean any placement changes will have a disproportionate impact on this performance measure.  Placement planning meetings are held to ensure placement decisions are being made correctly.  Reasons for placement breakdown are scrutinised and it was noted there has been a recent increase in stability demonstrating the effect of these measures.  Older adolescents are at risk of exploitation, going missing or youth offending if placements breakdown.  Therefore, 12 week placement assessments are being used to undertaken longer term placement planning.  This is reflected in the figures as it is also counted as a placement;

·         Immunisation performance is affected by unaccompanied children who are older (16+) and who are choosing not to take up the opportunity for immunisations.  LAC health visitors are taking a proactive approach, visiting these young people to discuss and highlight the benefits of immunisation.  In contrast, take-up of health and dentist appointments is good;

·         The average age of unaccompanied children coming into the authority’s care is 16 – 17 years although there has been one aged 12 years;

·         The Staying Put policy that enables children in care to remain with foster carers is having some effect on provision of foster placements but the time that children in care remain in their placement under this provision is typically fairly short; and

·         There has been a dip in the number of unaccompanied young people in the borough, mainly due to young people becoming 18 and transitioning to our care leaver service where numbers continue to rise. There is occasionally also a deportation.  Where this happens or is at risk of happening, the authority works hard to support the young person involved.  This may involve legal support through to ensuring they are in touch with family or friends, have their papers and some financial support if they return home.  It was noted that councils are being asked to meet more of the financial burden involved in this support.


Supporting documents: