COVID-19 - Impact response of the pandemic for Lancashire's Children in Care and Care Leavers
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Michael Nunn, Residential Senior Manager and Frankie Hearty, Residential Child Care Worker, Fostering, Adoption, Residential and Youth Offending Team Services were welcomed to the meeting and gave an insight on how lockdown and social distancing measures had changed the lives of young people across Lancashire's in-house residential services.
Michael updated the Board on the Outreach Adolescent Support Unit which has been run by the Outreach Service who have been working diligently with families that have young people on the edge of care in order for them to keep together, meet their individual needs and challenges and also find ways of having some fun during lockdown and taking some of those pressures away from families that are really struggling through this difficult time.
Some Mindfulness packs have been collated by the Council's Community Outreach Teams and were put together for parents with young people and young people themselves that were struggling during lockdown. The packs contained activities/sessions/help booklets/contact details and were left on the doorsteps of families in need across Lancashire to reach out to them. Private meetings on Zoom were also offered so parents/young people could speak to professionals on a one to one basis and all were given key contacts. Colouring books and art supplies were also donated from a number of businesses across Lancashire and the Council's Overnight Short Break Units to enable parents to do activities with their children and hopefully alleviate some pressures.
Examples of other activities carried out during lockdown were highlighted below:
· Sunflower competition where young people where young people were provided with all the equipment and a virtual celebration event will be held shortly.
· Live baking sessions – dropping off ingredients so young people could participate. This is also a great upskilling activity and something that will be taken forward in the future which has been well received.
Over a 1000 tins of shortbread biscuits were donated from Royal Edinburgh and these were distributed far and wide across Lancashire and gave an opportunity to drop these on the doorsteps and engage in conversation with young people and families in need.
The Adolescent Support Unit have continued to receive young people into the service and have been managed in separate groups to aid social distancing and minimise the impact of COVID-19 on the group.
Frankie guided the Board through the presentation that was attached to the agenda where it was reported that despite the challenging times everyone was experiencing, the homes and outreach services had continued to go above and beyond for the children and young people they cared for. It was noted that many of the young people had turned the experience into a positive one by developing better relationships in their homes with other young people and staff who care for them and learnt new technology to maintain contact with friends and family whilst being in lockdown. Young people have also received communication/contact during this time from many professionals and services including social workers, independent reviewing officers, teachers as well as many others which were detailed further in the presentation along with facts and figures and how they have supported each other and services that have supported them.
Young people have also been offered regular COVID-19 testing and the majority of young people have accepted the offer and been tested regularly, helping homes to best protect and safeguard their young people. Staff are also undertaking regular testing too.
Nine young people have been placed into Residential homes during lockdown, so they are continuing to receive young people into their settings and access the support that they need.
Young people also felt that calls, Facetiming and messages received by professionals were less intensive than face to face and felt that more of a relationship had been built also. Calls made were not always on a professional basis, keep in touch calls just to say hi were really well received.
Staff and young people have been incredibly adaptive and resilient to this new way of living, which has included staff balancing the risk of coming into work and working closely with young people and staff have risen to those challenges and maintained those relationships.
Some of the activities across the network that have been carried out during lockdown were as follows:
· Supporting the NHS on a Thursday night.
· Camping in the backgarden.
· Indoor activities booklet.
· Memory of lockdown – handprints.
· Walking in the local community.
· Exercises in the garden.
· In-house knitting blankets and patchwork quilts to see which home could make the biggest. 624 knitted squares currently are being donated to each of the NHS Trusts and displayed in each of the homes and at County Hall.
· In-house cooking – all young people have taken part in some way, whether it is basic to more specialised cooking skills.
· DIY skills – decorated bedrooms, painting fences, improving their living environment and took lots of pride in it.
· Relationship building between young people themselves and between young people and staff has been welcomed.
Feedback from some of the comments detailed in the presentation from the young people were welcomed by the Board and from 1 June 2020, the Residential Service has been offered an amazing and exclusive opportunity to be able to utilise the outward bound centres at Borwick Hall and Hothersall Lodge. As a result there has been an ever increasing number of children looked after experiencing a number of activities including mountain biking, tree climbing, archery, kayaking and many more.
Caroline Waldron, East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group shared work that they had been doing in relation to how they have been communicating in a different way with young people within the NHS in terms of facilitating their statutory health assessments virtually and young people have commented they preferred this and wanted it as an option going forward.
In terms of lessons learnt during lockdown and what will be taken forward in the future was received. This included digital communication instead of face to face with professionals, continuing to embrace home life, planning and strategy meetings being held digitally instead of travelling across the county and cooking classes as a way of upskilling young people will certainly continue.
An issue was raised around further support around mental health needs to be increased and work around this is in progress. There needs to be a better connection with the Transition Services and link up individual workers to ensure that everybody has a contact they can reach out to when they are struggling. Schools have a project called Emotionally Friendly Schools and this is something that could be used in the residential homes to ensure they are emotionally friendly places to be and train staff up to deal with mental health and signpost young people.
Michael informed the Board that there is a saying within the in-house service that "Every child deserves someone who thinks the world of them" and that is what is promoted and wants every young person to have a care worker they can reach out to and have any conversation they want with that worker. When young people have something they need support with, not only is it recognised, it is responded to and the right response is given at the right time. A lot of that is down to the key relationships that young people and care workers have.
Support for carers and staff in-house has been difficult as they have put the needs of young people ahead of staff. Workers have face to face discussions and supervision and are signposted to Employment Support and also SCAYT sessions offered to support staff to be physically and emotionally well to ensure the needs of the young people in care of the Authority are met.
Within the wider service, there has been a lot of support for foster carers from social care and social workers and families who look after young people which is incredibly wide. Within 72 hours over 700 Children's Services staff were mobilised to work from home to ensure they could keep in contact with young people and carers. The Fostering Services ensured all foster carers knew where to access help from and a weekly newsletter was produced so that everybody knew what was happening and kept up to date. There are lots of lessons to be learnt from the whole pandemic within different services should this ever happen again. Foster carers have supported each other within their own forums and done an amazing job in extremely difficult circumstances. Everybody is learning as the pandemic continues and adapting as required. Newsletters have also been sent to adoptive parents which has been greatly received as well as additional support offered.
The Board thanked all of the residential staff as well as fostering and adoption staff/carers who have been committed to supporting young people in care throughout the pandemic.
Date of decision: 22/07/2020
Decided at meeting: 22/07/2020 - Corporate Parenting Board
- Verbal Report