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Strategy September 2021

Strategy Members

if you require previous minutes please contact Emma Moore at Emma.Moore@Devon.gov.uk

The Participation Team

 Ella Baker and Claire Richardson joined the meeting to introduce the new “Promise” to the carers. Ella began the meeting by sharing the summer video of how the children spent time with the participation team. The participation team will soon be sending out an article in the newsletter with all the October activities and are hoping to get a good response from carers.

Claire informed carers it is a statutory requirement for all local authorities to make a pledge to young people in care, this is the purpose of the promise. Its requirements are “inform me” “involve me” “respect me” “ celebrate me” “ respect me”.  Claire then showed the group a video where children expressed their thoughts on what is important to them and how they would like their carers and social workers to fulfil the pledges of the promise. The children also spoke about the positives they would like to keep and what was going well for them. They also expressed the need to use caring language, they are not fond of the usage of “respite” and “placement”

Carers responded:

  • Carers responded that it was totally workable and didn’t set goals and promises too difficult to fulfil.
  • Carers noted that memories are very important, you can’t take everything with you but memories will always follow you around.
  • Carers responded that every child should have the same opportunities and should be able to access the internet, it is part of life.
  • It was also mentioned that opinions are diverse around phones, different household situations, different situations children find themselves in, we always need to be acknowledging there could be a safeguarding issue.
  • Phones are not costly .. contracts are actually quite cheap and all households have access to the internet.
  • When children are older they have the choice to spend their savings on phones.
  • Most children come into care with a phone already.
  • Carers mentioned they  were told not to take phones from children previously by Julie. This often leads to severe emotional upset and children feel as if they contact from the world has been cut off. In many cases this can also lead to suicide due to the dependence on the phone.
  • Each child has a different experience and it should be negotiated. Eg – phone usage time. Apps child can use.

Claire finished the section by informing carers there is a plan for the children in care guides to be sent out in October by the post. The care guides will feature the promise. There will be exemptions for children who cannot receive them. Jo Halford will cascade this to social workers.

Reflective Circle: Emergency Bed With Abbey Rowland

 

Abbey Rowland then took over the meeting. She started by informing the group about the current crisis with emergency beds for children. There are currently 52 children who are in desperate need for a foster home. Some of these children need their placement moved as it is unsuitable. If we took children in residential into consideration it would be 100 children looking for foster homes.

Abbey then proceeded to let the carers know what the restorative circle approach was about, which is meaningful conversations. She wanted to know what carers thought the barriers and strengths of the service are around emergency beds.

The carers responded that many carers feel unsupported and this is why good foster carers leave the service. They noted it was extremely hard work to recruit carers so very disappointing to see them crumble and leave the service due to lack of support.

Carers also do not want to feel like they are fighting against the social worker they have allocated to them. Relationships need to be improved and this could be helped by having more permanent staff. Changes in staff is also not in the child’s favour in creates unease and uncertainty.

Pat added that when carers receive calls the questions they ask themselves are, will I have enough support? do I have the skills? A buddying system may be beneficial so carers have support from an experienced foster carer that can provide them information and advice.

PJ expressed how she feels the allegation process is a horrible process for carers to find themselves in and many do not want to risk it happening to them. She added that absconding children are very difficult for carers to take as they cause lots of disruption, particularly if a carer has another foster child to consider. It is often difficult to get through to the emergency team.

Deb added that perhaps more updating would help the situation. This would include regular household updates, as household status can change at any time. A carer may have a biological child leaving the family home to go to university for a few months which would free up a bed in their home. She continued that children are much more damaged than they have ever been before so let’s value our carers and respect that it isn’t always easy.  She added that foster carers want to be valued as professionals and carers should be included in significant choices and decisions.

Katie suggested that an app that can be regularly update carers status’s on would be a great idea. It means that information is quickly shared. Peer Guides aren’t as well informed as they previously were about spare beds due to lockdowns. It was suggested a Whatsapp group be created, allowing peer guides to  transfer knowledge around those with capacity.

Abbey and Emma continued to let the group know that there is currently a big campaign out that is attempting to recruit emergency bed foster carers. There were foster carers who recently went to panel to be approved as emergency bed carers and they are currently waiting for the ADM’s decision.

The service will also be conducting a skills audit asking carers what their skills and weaknesses are to ensure better matching. Carers can also identify their weaknesses and work on them.

Abbey ended the meeting by thanking the group for their participation and ideas. She requested that they attend a peer guide support group to see how these carers can utilise their skills and expertise in order to help the placement team find beds for children. The buddying system and the peer guides having the knowledge of carers in their localities will be explored deeper in this meeting.