1. To receive an update on the Care Leaver Offer.
2. The Audit and Governance Committee received the Internal Audit Activity Progress Report 2018/19 at its meeting on 25 April 2019. The committee agreed to refer the section on the Youth Service Leaving Care Service to the Children and Families Scrutiny Committee for information and discussion.
22.1 Mark Bone, Head of Service, presented the detail of the local offer to the committee. He informed members that the presentation of the local offer on the website was very much influenced by the voice of young people.
22.2 Work on the care leaver offer was ongoing; further discussions with the district councils were scheduled to see whether the offer could be improved, for example, with regard to access to sport and leisure facilities.
22.3 In response to a question it was explained that the cost of the council tax exemption was approximately £10k (across all the district councils); the exemption only applied to those young people not already covered by benefits.
22.4 Members were concerned that the right accommodation was not available to care leavers. A member shared his experience of a facility within his division that was not now hosting the young people it was designed for, and the impact that this has on both the local community and the young people. It was felt that there was a clear gap with regard to an appropriate housing offer. The Head of Service acknowledged this position and informed the committee that there had been a considerable growth in the care leaver population; housing provision had not kept pace. He clarified that there was an ongoing piece of work with regard to housing and that this was referenced within the committee report.
22.5 With regard to the development of the mentoring scheme, discussed in the committee report, there were financial implications as additional resources were required. The Care Leaver Team was working closely with Commissioning on this matter. It was possible that this might have to wait until the next budget round.
22.6 Members were disappointed that the discussions regarding access to leisure facilities remained ongoing; this had first been discussed some years ago. It was explained that this was a complex picture. District Councils did not all have the same relationship with the leisure providers, so it was difficult to get a standard offer. However, the committee was informed that Mike Dawson, Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC) Chief Executive, had agreed to lead on this issue, and TBC was currently piloting an offer to care leavers.
22.7 Care leavers could be very vulnerable with regard to homelessness; they could lose their home, or if they had chosen to return to the family home could find that this does not work out. Officers worked hard to prevent homelessness. The Head of Service did indicate that he would like the district councils to have a more proactive approach in this regard. Committee members discussed the role of district councillors as corporate parents. It was noted that the district councils were represented on the corporate parenting group and felt that this was sufficient. It was however noted that legislation stated that in two authority areas the corporate parenting responsibility was shared with all the local authorities. Members agreed that they had a clear role to play in driving forward change and could raise these issues with their district cabinet colleagues.
22.8 Members were conscious that care leavers were adults and it was up to them if they wished to engage with the care leaver service, or not. The support offered to care leavers was discussed, particularly how those that were now living out of county were supported. This included identifying charitable trusts that may be able to support these young people back into education/training. The Head of Service stated that it was important to ensure that there was a stable base in place for these young people; it was about getting the basics in place to prepare them for the challenges ahead.
22.9 The committee noted the findings of the Audit report and the activity and actions to address the issues highlighted.