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Agenda item

Executive Member Questions

Minutes:

Councillor Ngongo presented the Executive Member update. She thanked officers for their assistance and outlined her priorities as follows:

 

-       To help to support families. Islington Council had bought 100 books for each of the Mother Tongue Supplementary Schools.

-       To have a youth platform to bring young people together and discuss their needs. The first meeting had been held and had been well attended. The meetings would take place monthly and the young people would decide the topic for each meeting.

-       To have a platform for parents to enable the council to work with them. The first meeting would be held in April and committee members could attend.

-       To reduce school exclusions. Councillor Ngongo thanked officers for their work on this.

 

Councillor Ngongo advised that officers had worked in collaboration to support the family of the boy tragically murdered in Hillrise ward.

 

Councillor Ngongo responded to the submitted questions as follows:

 

Question

The recent report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman - Careless: Helping to Improve Council Services to Children in Care sets out a number of areas of poor practice by councils in dealing with looked after and care experienced children and young people. They identified complaints in a number of areas such as failure to consult or inform children and young people about key events affecting them, care planning, placement stability, contact arrangements, children leaving care and accommodation for 16/17 year olds.

Alongside this, the Secretary of State has just announced that it will be illegal

from September for councils to put children under the age of 16 into

accommodation that was not regulated by Ofsted. This does not protect 17 year olds.

Can the Executive Member confirm that Islington Council has not been guilty of any of the poor practice as described in the Ombudsman's report and that it does not use unregulated homes for its 16 and 17 year olds?

 

Response

Councillor Ngongo stated that the council did not use unregulated homes for under 16s. Unregulated homes were only used in the very short term where there was no other option. In 2020/21, this provision was not used at all. The council’s priority was the safety of young people and when this provision was used safety plans were in place and OFSTED had to be contacted in writing to scrutinise the placement.

 

Question

In recent reports, both to the Children's Services Scrutiny Committee and to Policy and Performance, we have heard about the rise in domestic violence cases against women and their children during the pandemic. Can the Executive Member give us an update on the figures for the past half term of lockdown and a breakdown of the different communities affected?

 

Response

Councillor Ngongo stated that in the year up to February 2021, there were 2,528 reported cases compared to 2,516 in the previous year. The council supported these families and in January 2021 meetings looking at domestic abuse and actions had been set up and these would continue. The figures of domestic violence cases had remained stable in the most recent lockdown and there was a similar number of cases across ethnicities. Councillor Cutler asked for a breakdown of ethnicity figures and an officer confirmed this could be provided.

 

Question

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns has Islington seen an increase in children and young people joining gangs and a corresponding increase in the juvenile crime rate?

 

Response

Councillor Ngongo stated that young people’s crime had fallen in the borough last year and the council had a team working with the police to respond to issues and reduce crimes further. To have even one death was a tragedy. An officer advised that there had not been an increase in young people joining gangs and instances of the most serious crimes had been reducing in the last few years. However, there had been three arrests for serious offences in the last few months. Wraparound support was provided and the Integrated Gangs Team worked closely with offenders.

 

Question

Does Islington Council monitor under-16 year old pregnancies? If so, has there been an increase in these rates during the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

Answer

Councillor Ngongo stated that the council was still waiting for data. During the first lockdown, birth registration was suspended and once it reopened there was a backlog.

 

Further questions were asked at the meeting and the following responses were given:

-       In response to a question about lateral flow testing in schools, Councillor Ngongo stated that help was being provided to schools and young people. In a meeting with young people, some said they did not want to be tested. It was important to motivate them to keep young people and teachers safe.

-       In response to a question about attendance since schools reopened on 8 March, an officer advised that attendance in the schools that had been contacted was very good. In special schools, only those who were extremely clinically vulnerable were not attending. An officer had attended a number of schools to check how drop-offs were working. Where the People Friendly Streets initiative was in place, this made dropping off children safer for families and social distancing easier.

-       An officer advised that there were 10 secondary schools in the borough and there was a rolling approach with children being tested before attending school. There was a team of support staff to aid testing.

-       A member raised concern about parents gathering in groups outside schools and not always wearing masks. An officer advised that work had been undertaken with schools but she could be contacted with specific details and would raise this with the headteacher and if necessary send officers to advise parents.

-       In response to a question about whether home learning resources would remain online, an officer advised that the primary resources would be refreshed. Children could access the resources for any year group if they wished. Online music provision would continue. The lockdown music festival would start in the spring. In terms of the World of Work, employers would be asked to continue to provide virtual opportunities up until September 2021.

-       A member of the public asked about how concerned the council was about false positive lateral flow tests in schools and the effect on children’s attendance. An officer stated that this was a national issue and a written answer would be sought from the public health team.

-       A member of the public asked whether parents could act as wardens to ensure social distancing took place at school drop offs and collections. An officer advised that there was a floating resource that could be sent out if problems were reported.

-       A member of the public asked about the use of the facilities in local libraries and youth hubs to assist those in digital poverty. An officer advised that libraries would be able to open from 12 April with PCs and study space open. The council had tried to keep youth spaces open, in particular for vulnerable young people and these spaces were currently open.

 

Councillor Ngongo was thanked for her update and answers to the questions asked.

 

RESOLVED:

1) That the Executive Member update and the answers to questions be noted.

2) That a breakdown of ethnicity figures in relation to domestic violence cases be sent to Councillor Cutler.

3) That a written answer be sought from the public health team and sent to the member of the public who asked about how concerned the council was about false positive lateral flow tests in schools and the effect on children’s attendance.

 

 

 

Supporting documents: