The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report which provided information in respect of the scheduled attendance of Members of the Executive at the Board.
The intention was to enable the Board to hear from each Executive Member on progress towards objectives and priorities and any emerging issues or pressure areas within their portfolio.
Todays meeting was attended by Councillor J Sharrocks, Executive Member for Childrens Social Care. Councillor Sharrocks updated the Board as follows:-
Youth Offending Service
The service has been subject to several Inspections. These had recognised continued improvements in the service and the delivery of practices to help young adults.
Lord McNally, Chair of the Youth Justice Board, had visited the service in September 2014 and had been impressed.
The service had entered into a partnership with The Princes Trust to engage in accredited programmes to help young people go onto further education and to build up their portfolio.
A Girls Group had been established, which was looking at gender specific issues. There was sometimes an assumption that all youth offenders were male.
A Member asked about whether the use of theatre activities had been progressed. Councillor Sharrocks said she would ascertain the position and advise the Board.
Children with Disabilities
A range of activities had been run, including trips to Flamingo Land for families during the summer holidays and Fun Clubs in October. Fun Days had also been held at the Rainbow Centre.
A Disability Matters Newsletter was circulated to 800 families and 200 staff.
Adoption and Fostering
The service had utilised the "Love Middlesbrough" publication to raise awareness about fostering and adoption.
An activity day had been held which was attended by families interested in adopting.
In recent months, 19 looked after children had been adopted by foster carers, which was encouraging.
The service was examining its processes to see if timescales could be shortened without reducing the quality of the placement.
Grant monies had been used for additional staff and promotion of the service.
Middlesbrough had 104 approved foster carers currently and the number was increasing. There were also a number of independent foster carers. Councillor Sharrocks advised that she was a Member of the Family Placement Panel.
A Member asked if there were any single parent foster carers. Councillor Sharrocks confirmed that there were. The support network was always looked at in these cases, but the placements had worked well.
There had been a number of good news stories about the service. She would consider how best these could be drawn to peoples attention.
In response to questions from a Member asking why finding foster carers for children/young adults aged 14 was difficult and what was being done to try to overcome this, Councillor Sharrocks said that people tended to prefer to adopt younger children. In terms of measures to overcome this, it was a question of priorities e.g. should money be spent directly on attempting to improve the adoption rate for this age group, or should it be spent on, say, working with families?
Child Sexual Exploitation
A briefing for Members was being held on 4th March 2015. It would be repeated after the Council Elections. She hoped that this would develop into training.
A Member highlighted that training was available for drivers transporting vulnerable people.
The numbers were reducing from what was a high basepoint.
There was also a need to look at "planned pregnancies" to put out the message that people can wait, via initiatives such as the "Why risk it?" campaign.
Social Worker links to schools in Middlesbrough had been successfully piloted and this would be extended.
A Member asked how the service was faring in view of the pressures it faced. Councillor Sharrocks responded that reviewing caseloads, to look at how they were progressed, including early intervention, was assisting. She would like working with families to help people become good parents to be developed, as some found this difficult.
The Chair thanked Councillor Sharrocks for informing the Board about her work and for answering Members questions.