In respect of the Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel's 2017/18 review of Listening to the Voice of the Child, the Head of Strategic Services and the Voice of the Child Practitioner were in attendance to provide Members with details of the progress made with the implementation of agreed recommendations/actions. The last update was received in December 2018.
In respect of recommendation a), when the last update was received a Member commented that it would be beneficial if the Top Tips posters were distributed to all schools to provide teachers with a useful resource in engaging with children and young people who access Children's Services. The Voice of the Child Practitioner confirmed that the Top Tips posters had now been circulated to schools by the Director of Education.
In respect of recommendation b), the Voice of the Child Practitioner advised that the e-learning module had been created and piloted with the social work teams.
The scrutiny panel heard that the Voice and Influence Conference had taken place on 6 March 2019. The conference was organised by the Children in Care Council (CiCC) for frontline practitioners in Children's Services. 150 professionals attended. At the conference the following areas were discussed:
the mandatory Voice of the Child e-learning module;
Voice and Influence champions across Children's Services;
commitment to support the voice and influence of children and young people; and
feedback from the bright spot's survey that was undertaken to gather the views of children and young people in care.
The conference was recorded and it was planned that video clips and key messages would be included in the e-learning module. Once the e-learning module had been launched, completion would be mandatory for all staff in Children's Services. It was envisaged that the e-learning module would be launched the week commencing 15 April 2019.
In respect of recommendation c), the Voice of the Child Practitioner commented that work was currently ongoing in respect of identifying young people from the Talent Match Programme to become involved in a Young Commissioners and Recruiters Panel. Once established, Human Resources (HR) and the Commissioning Team had agreed to develop bespoke training packages to upskill the young people in respect of HR processes/procedures, interview techniques and the commissioning cycle. Training planned to enable the panel members to become involved with all areas of recruitment, selection and commissioning.
In response to a Member's query, the Voice of the Child Practitioner explained that the panel would consist of children and young people aged 11 and above.
In respect of recommendation d), a mini Children in Care Council (CiCC) had been established. The group had been meeting for three months and had nine members aged between 7-13.
It had been identified that the established groups were not suitable to support those aged between 14-18. Therefore, work was underway to restructure the CICC and the Care Leavers Forum. The Voice of the Child Practitioner was working with the Head of Looked After Children (LAC) and Corporate Parenting to address the gap and develop new remits and structures for the groups.
The Voice of the Child Practitioner explained that work was also being undertaken with early help practitioners to develop two young peoples focus groups. It was planned that one group would involve primary-aged children and the other secondary-aged.
The scrutiny panel was also advised that work was being undertaken with the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Assessment Team and Priory Woods School to develop a SEN Youth Forum. Further work was required to explore options and determine how the group could be best supported.
In response to a Member's query, the Voice of the Child Practitioner explained that a youth group network was currently being established, which planned to improve communication and engagement between groups.
It was added that, as Facebook was identified as a preferred communication channel by children and young people, the following Facebook groups had been developed or improved:
SEND Local Offer
Children with Disabilities Team
Youth Voice Middlesbrough
All were closed groups and the content was managed, reviewed and updated regularly.
A discussion ensued regarding the importance of facilitating discussions between children and young people, who were experiencing similar circumstances. A Member commented on the transition from primary school to secondary school and the importance of obtaining children's and young people's views to ensure that the highest level of support was provided.
The Voice of the Child Practitioner advised Members that, in partnership with Beverley School, an annual consultation pack had been developed. The pack included questionnaires on topics such as transitions, work readiness, safe in the community, preparing for adulthood and leisure and activities. It was planned that the consultation pack would be offered to all schools in September 2019 and would provide SENCO's with termly consultation sessions and a clear feedback loop to the relevant teams. It was commented that receipt of feedback from young people would be collated and analysed to identify how services could be improved and developed.
In respect of recommendations e) and f), the Voice of the Child Practitioner was currently awaiting authorisation on the budget. Work had been undertaken with other local authorities in the region to identify the costs associated with establishing a Youth Council. Further work was required to determine the structure, budget and membership of the Youth Council. The Head of Strategic Services commented that establishing a Youth Council was a corporate priority that was supported by Social Regeneration.
In respect of recommendations g) and h) the scrutiny panel heard that a poster, conveying the United Nations Convention statement on the Rights of the Child, had been created and had been displayed in office buildings. It was added that members of staff were encouraged to hand out the leaflets to the young people they worked with.
In respect of recommendation i) it was explained that once the Youth Council had been established, a young person would become a co-opted member of the Children and Young People's Trust. It was also envisaged that representatives from the CICC and Care Leavers Forum would become involved in corporate meetings.
In respect of recommendation j) the child friendly version of the scrutiny report had been published and uploaded to the Council website.
In respect of recommendation k), as previously highlighted, Facebook groups had been developed for each relevant area to engage with children, young people, parents and carers. It was added that 149 young people and 214 professionals had signed up to use the 'Mind of My Own' app. The app allowed a child or young person to have a voice in the decisions that affected their lives. The most used scenario statement by a young person was 'my worker is visiting' and 'preparing for a Child Protection Conference'.
In response to a Member's query regarding engagement with LGBT children and young people. The Voice of the Child Practitioner advised that work was being undertaken to remove barriers and strengthen engagement with hard to reach groups. It was added that a community event (# feelgoodboro) had been organised for children, young people and families. 460 children, young people, parents and carers attended the event. The main purpose of the event was to promote the Local Authority's services and support for families and break down some of the barriers in Middlesbrough's communities.
Members were informed that a Children's Services Voice of the Child Annual Report 2018/19 had been published. A copy of which, was attached to the submitted update. The annual report outlined the participation highlights for 2018/19 and detailed the individual, service and strategic priorities for 2019/20. The following participation highlights were referred to:
The Bright Spots survey, which gained the views of children and young people in care. 40% of children in care and 54% of care leavers had submitted their views. It was reported that the feedback received had shaped team plans, service plans and the directorate improvement plan. Each team had also produced a "you said, we will" response to the findings.
The Voice and Influence Conference, as previously reported, the event was organised by the CiCC and 150 frontline practitioners attended.
I.D cards had been created for frontline workers, which outlined their role and contact information for children and young people.
Undertaking audits of case files to review and develop Voice and Influence work across Children's Services.
The CiCC organised a workshop on Family Contact at the regional CiCC Conference and presented to over 60 professionals. Following delivery of the workshop, and as a result of the feedback received, Children's Care had changed the term 'family contact' to 'family time'. All staff had been briefed on the change of terminology. A discussion ensued and it was commented that the circumstances of each child or young person would need to be assessed before the term 'family time' was used.
Members of the CiCC ran a stall at Teesside University about tackling stigma that care leavers faced. The stall facilitated discussions to determine the reasons for the low numbers of care leavers attending university. Feedback received was reported to the University's pastoral team with an aim to supporting an increased number of care leavers into university. A Member commented that it would be beneficial if further research was conducted to determine the barriers associated with aspirations and achieving. Financial constraints were also discussed.
The Voice of the Child Practitioner advised that key priorities had been identified for 2019/20:
Individual level - improving the voice and influence of children and young people in the commissioning of placements and the transitions planning process, creating I.D cards for frontline workers, enabling children and young people to chair their own meetings, launching a new survey, increasing the use and impact of the MOMO app and direct work on case files.
Service level - launching the Voice and Influence e-learning module, the LAC pack and the SEND annual consultation pack; strengthening the youth forum for children with additional needs; strengthening audits to review and develop the Voice and Influence work across Middlesbrough Children's Services; increasing the number of children and young people attending meetings regarding their case files; strengthening the role of the CiCC and launching a CiCC take over day of the Local Authority.
Strategic level - strengthening the Voice and Influence of children and young people in the corporate social regeneration agenda, launching the Voice and Influence champion network, strengthening the Young Recruiters and Commissioners Panel, establishing a Youth Council, strengthening the involvement of children and young people in corporate meetings and strengthening the impact of the participation steering group.
It was commented that further work was required to ensure that children and young people's experience of attending key strategic meetings was both positive and empowering.
That the progress made be noted and a further update be submitted when appropriate.