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Agenda item

Update report: looked after children and care leavers sufficiency strategy


Liz Broughton, Head of Access to Resources, introduced the item based on the information available in the officer’s report and highlighted the following:

·         It is the Council’s duty to provide sufficient placements for all children and young people in its care.  The resulting sufficiency strategy is based on a needs analysis and service review.  In total, 410 places were provided in 2015/16 for 273 children;

·         Foster carer provision is increasing.  The Council is also working with its existing foster carers to increase their skills;

·         The Council is providing an increasing number of supported lodging places with a residential placement panel working to ensure appropriate use of this provision; and

·         Work is on-going to develop semi-independent housing.  This isn’t regulated and therefore is a focus of quality assurance visits, in which young people themselves are getting involved.  Additionally, the Council is ensuring that this is delivered by known providers.


In response to member questions, officers clarified:

·         The recorded increase in use of children’s homes is partly driven by a change in Ofsted registration requirements for residential schools.  Also, this is due to the Council using assessment placements;

·         The provision of 410 placements for 273 children reflects that some will use more than one placement in the year;

·         When determining an appropriate placement for a child with SEN needs and/or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), priority is on care needs with access to appropriate education placed around this.  Additional support is provided through the Virtual School;

·         Care placements are supported with wider support packages; services are nested around looked after children.  The emphasis is on placement within 20 miles of Merton in order that this can be achieved successfully;

·         Merton can and has successfully attracted new foster carers including those from the independent fostering sector.  These are an important addition to Merton’s foster carers because they come with valuable prior experience.  This has been achieved by the authority having a good reputation for the support it offers its foster carers.  This reputation is supported through word of mouth recommendations.  Engagement with new foster carers through faith and the LBGT communities has been successful;

·         Merton has been successful in securing foster cares for children and young people with SEND needs despite the difficulties involved;

·         Decisions about progressing young people to semi-independent living reflect the duty on parents to progress their children to full independence.  Determining whether or not a young person is ready for this will depend on individual children and their needs.  This is reflected in individual pathway plans.  The growing number of care leavers means that there is pressure on provision of appropriate semi-independent living placements; and

·         To reflect the changing demographics of Merton’s looked after children population, there is a focus on recruiting foster carers who can provide placements for older children.  This recruitment campaign is targeted at professionals who may have experience that will make them more qualified for this older age group (for example, the police, prison service and NHS workers).  Specific materials are also being developed to support those fostering teenagers.  Services are also being commissioned to prevent placement breakdown and provide these foster carers with additional support.


Supporting documents: