Wirral’s Local Offer for Care Leavers
Decision Maker: Cabinet
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
Wirral’s first Local Offer for Care
Leavers has been drafted and been shared with the Wirral Children
in Care and Care Leaver’s Council; this is now being
presented to Cabinet for consideration and permission to
Councillor Pat Hackett introduced a report which informed the Cabinet that Section 2 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 required the Council to consult on and publish a local offer for its care leavers. The local offer should provide information about all the services and support that was available to care leavers from the local authority, including information about both their statutory entitlements as well as any discretionary support that a local authority chose to provide.
The Cabinet was also informed that during 2018; with the involvement of the Wirral Children in Care and Care Leavers Council; a working group consisting of Wirral Leaving Care Service staff, the Young People’s Involvement Service and the Learning Skills and Education Team had met regularly to discuss Wirral’s Local Offer for Care Leavers.
This groundwork carried out had led to a very successful Conference in November 2018 at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton focusing on Wirral’s Local Offer for Care Leavers. The Conference was hosted and attended by Wirral Care Leavers, staff from across the Council, its partner agencies, Health, Education, Housing, the charity sector and businesses. The emphasis had been very much on what could Wirral, as a whole community, do to support Wirral Care Leavers. The Conference included presentations from young people and other contributors; and ended with people being asked to make a pledge about how they might improve the lived experience, opportunities and support for Wirral Care Leavers.
Since the conference Wirral’s first Local Offer for Care Leavers had been drafted and had been shared with the Wirral Children in Care and Care Leaver’s Council; and was being presented to the Cabinet for consideration and permission to publish.
The Cabinet noted that decision supported the children pledges in the Wirral Plan 2020 with specific focus on supporting vulnerable children and that this matter affected all Wards within the Borough and was a Key decision.
Councillor Hackett informed that when OFSTED last visited Wirral in 2016 it found the Council’s support for people leaving care to be sadly lacking. Since then officers had carried out a huge amount of work as had the former Leader, Phil Davies and this had resulted in improvement. OFSTED was now back on the Wirral carrying out a further inspection and had found a much better services on offer for care leavers as detailed in the report. Councillor Hackett made the point that these young people were among the most vulnerable in society and deserved nothing but the best support from the Council. He was pleased and relieved that this was now what was being provided. Better advice, better support and better opportunities were the Council’s promise to its care leavers and Councillor Hackett was fully in support of the recommendations set out in the report.
Councillor Anita Leech was also in support of the recommendations and considered that the report went a long way to supporting young people as they left care as it would ensure that they got a better start in life and certainly the financial assistance they would receive would be very beneficial to them.
Councillor Janette Williamson put on record the Cabinet Members’ thanks to former Cabinet Member, Bernie Mooney, who had actually been instrumental in the progress that had been made in Children’s Services and informed that her good work would be continued by Councillor Tom Usher. Councillor Williamson had seen some of the new support that had been put in place and she was really proud and excited by it. A lot of work had been carried out around social value in apprenticeships and the Council had recently won an award in this area. It had also made a decision to exempt care leavers, up to the age of 25, from Council Tax which she knew was a massive help to them. Also arrears had been written off after they had been accrued because the Council did not want to see young people leaving care, with the disadvantages they faced as a result of this anyway, being saddled with any kind of debt or being worried about the Council Tax. This was a big step and Councillor Williams was pleased about it.
Councillor Chris Spriggs recognised the work that had been carried out so far by the Council’s Social Work Teams. They had been under unimaginable pressure for a very long time, as there were a record number of children in care on the Wirral which went with a budget that was under constant scrutiny. It was a measure of their hard work, expertise and dedication that this offer had been developed.
Councillor Julie McManus reminded the Cabinet that everyone had been shocked and disappointed at the outcome of the last OFSTED inspection and, it was fair to say, that everyone wanted to see vulnerable people supported well and kept safe. She was really pleased that progress was being made and it proved that when Members had said this would be their number one priority they had really meant it.
Councillor Liz Grey added that a year ago the Council put £20m into Children’s Services and this had been done despite austerity. Children’s Services and vulnerable young people had been recognised as a priority. That was the right decision and it was clearly paying off.
That the Cabinet accepts and authorises publication of the Wirral Local Offer for Care Leavers.
Report author: Colleen Halpin
Publication date: 27/06/2019
Date of decision: 24/06/2019
Decided at meeting: 24/06/2019 - Cabinet
Effective from: 05/07/2019