Agenda item

Corporate Parenting Activity During the Covid 19 Pandemic

To provide an update regarding the activities of the service to meet the Corporate Parenting Responsibilities of the Local Authority during the Covid 19 pandemic.

 

 

Minutes:

The sub-committee received a report on how the Authority had exercised its corporate parenting responsibilities during the Covid 19 pandemic. The statutory activity of children’s services had continued throughout the pandemic. Social workers and social care staff had continued to come to work and to work remotely to meet the needs of vulnerable children and young people in North Tyneside.

 

There were currently 299 children and young people in care. The majority (224) lived in fostering households. All aspects of the fostering service had continued. Officers and members both paid tribute to the foster care community who had responded to the pandemic with stoic resilience. In some instances carers had placed themselves and their families at risk to respond to the needs of children in care. The Authority had 157 approved foster carers and work to recruit others had continued. 

 

The Authority continued to provide support to 162 care leavers. Personal Advisors had been working from home maintaining contact with young people using telephones, face time and social media. The resilience shown by the care leaving population had been humbling. They had come together to support each other practically and emotionally and have developed networks to problem solve.

 

The Authority’s 5 children’s homes had continued to operate during the pandemic with staff and carers working throughout. There had been challenges with young people struggling to cope with the implications of lock down and some not being able to adhere to the social distancing rules. Where young people had needed to self-isolate due to be symptomatic, they had been cared for within the homes.  Where young people had tested positive for Covid 19, staff had volunteered to work in these homes with young people in a ‘care bubble’.

 

Staff and carers had received welfare and psychologist support and PPE had been made available and had been used. All staff at work with identified under lying health complaints had been supported with individual risk assessments and when required to do so those who are extremely clinically vulnerable are at home with work provided. Arrangements were in place for staff from other homes to provide cover if required and several staff from other areas of the council have been inducted to support this work.

 

It had been apparent during the pandemic that some of the areas of focus from the Corporate Parenting Forum had shifted. For example, concern for the number of children missing from care had declined dramatically. Other areas such as the need to promote the health needs of our children, and to ensure that children are placed as close to or within North Tyneside as possible remained areas of priority.

 

The sub-committee examined in more detail the reasons why children and young people in care in some instances had to be placed outside of the borough, they discussed the benefits of children being placed closer to home and how the number of out of borough placements might be minimised.

 

Members considered the impact of lockdowns on the mental health of children in care which was unlikely to be fully understood for sometime yet. In the short term the closure of schools and the delivery of on-line learning had presented some challenges in terms of encouraging vulnerable young people to continue to engage with their education.

 

Officers described the difficult balance between allowing family time for children in care but doing so safely and minimising the risks associated with social contact across different households. Discussions were ongoing about prioritising care workers for testing and vaccinations.

 

The Chair thanked officers for the report and on behalf of the sub-committee he expressed gratitude and appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of social workers and carers in maintaining services throughout this challenging period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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