· In a response to a member’s question about the increase in applications for free school meals, an officer advised that this was likely to result in a 6% increase in free school meals which was above the national trend although there was an increase across local authorities. This could level off as the economy recovered.
· In response to a member’s question about young people being triaged away from the criminal justice system, an officer advised that triaging took place where low level, non-violent offences had taken place if a young person was referred by the police. Work took place with each young person, focusing on their needs and providing support to prevent escalation. Afterwards some were referred on to agencies who could provide continued support.
· A member asked why there had not been a rise in domestic abuse offences as would be expected during lockdown. An officer stated that although the number of offences had not risen, the complexity and severity levels had increased. The council had become more responsive and had continued to invest. The police now had the best performance on domestic abuse sanctions and detections in the Metropolitan Police Service. Since January 2021, a multi-agency domestic abuse daily safeguarding meeting had taken place.
· In response to members’ questions about the stability of placements for looked after children, an officer stated that during the pandemic, there was not a rise in the number of children entering care, but more children stayed in care due to the court proceedings backlog. This was a national problem and London was short of 500 places which meant local authorities had to compete for places. Placement planning work was taking place regionally. COVID had made it harder to undertake matching. To match young people to the right placement, work took place sub-regionally. This meant the council did not have to compete for places and could hopefully find the right placement first time. An officer stated that six companies provided 90% of independent fostering places. Work was taking place with the other 10% of providers to ask them which families could support children and from the list provided, matching could take place. Commissioning work took place with the most complex cases and work took place sub-regionally to help children step down from secure settings. Islington had agreed to invest in a secure unit in London as there currently was not one. Work was taking place on interventions that could reduce some children entering care i.e. specialists working intensively with families.
· A member of the public asked about what was being done to support those who were not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) and why the Basket of Indicators had no Corporate Indicator for the section entitled “Delivering an inclusive economy, supporting people into work and financial independence and helping them with the cost of living”. An officer advised that the percentage of increase in NEETs in Islington was lower than the London average. In some cases the risk of becoming NEET could be anticipated and work could take place to help prevent it. There was a small group of people who were classed as Unknown. Work took place on the ground to track them, however this had been more difficult during the pandemic. A separate team worked with those who were 18,19 and 20 years old. The Corporate Indicators were linked to the council’s strategic plan. However all other indicators were monitored in the same way with the same level of focus.
· A member raised concern that many of the indicators were just above or below expected performance when it was expected that there would be a larger variance from the target due to Covid. Officers were asked whether these variances would be expected to increase in the next few months. An officer responded that some of the small variances were due to action being taken early on e.g. the increase in re-referral rates after the first lockdown showed virtual assessments had not worked as well as face-to-face assessments and therefore it was decided that no child would be assessed virtually. It was possible that variances could increase in future months but there was an increased focus on assessing data and taking action where necessary. The member thanked officers and paid tribute to the social workers who had undertaken face-to-face work in uncertain times.
· A member asked about the numbers of children missing from care and the reasons. An officer advised that some children stayed out later than they were meant to. The police had brought in a risk assessment to assess whether these children were at risk and how they should be treated based on how children not in care would be treated if they stayed out late. These children were separate from the children who went missing from care. The group of children who went missing from care often stayed in touch with their placements or their social workers. A multi-agency meeting was held within 24 hours of a child going missing from care. Unaccompanied and separated children sometimes went missing before they were 18 years old as they were concerned about what would happen to them once they reached 18. Most of the young people who went missing from care were boys aged 13-17. The officer stated that further details in relation to young people missing from care would be added to Corporate Parenting report that would be submitted to the next Committee meeting.
1) That the report be noted.
2) That further details in relation to young people missing from care be added to Corporate Parenting report that would be submitted to the next Committee meeting.