Agenda item

Review of the Permanence action plan

The Head of Looked after Children and Corporate Parenting will provide a report to the Board.


The Head of Looked after children and corporate parenting Board provided the Board with regard to progress made again the Permenance action plan.

The Head of service firstly felt it was important to highlight the findings by Ofsted in November 2019:

·         Middlesbrough has a particularly high rate of children in care against national comparators, and this level was increasing.

·         Children were experiencing longstanding neglect come into care too late, and decisions for them to do so are made in response to a crisis

·         There were serious delays in achieving permanence for most children in care.

·         Early permanence was not prioritised for children in Middlesbrough, and there is a lack of parallel planning, which creates delay in achieving stability. There are missed opportunities to place children early for fostering for adoption

·         Children subject to care orders have lived at home for several years, without timely and purposeful review of whether the Care Order is still required.

·         Children experienced significant delay in securing permanence through adoption.

·         Too many changes in social workers also affect the quality of decision-making because new workers do not know children well enough to be confident about the plans that are proposed and agree to changes at short notice.

·         When children’s placements become fragile, there was a lack of coordinated support for both children and their carers to prevent disruption. Some children, including very young children, have experienced too many changes in placement before their permanent placement is identified.

·         Family arrangements were pursued sequentially, and for too long, when children cannot live at home.

·         There were delays in securing special guardianship orders for connected carers, although the support provided to many of these arrangements is good.

·         Insufficient attention was given to ensuring timely care planning, particularly for very young children.

·         Senior management panels and inconsistent legal advice provide insufficient scrutiny for understanding children’s experiences and to ensure that their needs were met in a timely way.


The Board learnt that the Council’s response was that the Corporate Parenting Strategy for Children and Young People in Middlesbrough was signed off and set out the Council’s vision for how the Council and our partners will support children and young people who are in our care, and our care leavers, to achieve the best possible outcomes in their lives. Transforming our approach to corporate parenting.

The Permanency Action Plan for Children and Young People was developed in consultation with partners and was built around the six permanency priorities set out in the Corporate Parenting Strategy.  The action plan defines how Children’s Social Care will achieve the vision.

The Permanency Action Plan would  be systematically reviewed and updated as actions are completed, towards achievement of the priority outcomes we have identified over the 3-year cycle of our plan.

The overall responsible Council officer for the Permanency Action Plan for Children and Young People is the Director of Children’s Services (DCS). For each of the six priority themes, a senior Council officer has been delegated by the DCS as the accountable lead for maintaining an overview of the priorities set out in the action plan.

The six priorities are as follows:


1.     Strengthening Permanency in Our Social Work Practice

2.     Growing Our Multi-Agency Partnerships for Permanency

3.     Reducing Drift and Delay for Achieving Permanency

4.     Improving the Way we capture and Use Our Data for Permanency

5.     Supporting Permanency in Education, Employment & Training

6.     Supporting Permanency in Education, Employment & Training


The Head of Service went through each of the priorities and identified what has been achieved since the permanency action plan had been launched; full details of these were outlined in the report which had been circulated to the Board prior to the meeting.

The Head of Service further went on to state some of the impact/ data and performance in the last 12 months:


·         There has been an 23.5% reduction in overall numbers of children looked after since August 2020

·         Since the height of 702 looked after children in September 2020, there has been a reduction of 165 looked after children.  

·         163 children and young people have ceased to be looked after in the last 6 months.

·         The 20/21 adoption score card evidences that the in the 12 months leading up to 31 March 2021 the average number of days between Placement Orders and Adoption Order has reduced to 189 days.  The 3 year average is 323 days.

·         There has been a 56% increase of number of adoption orders in the year 20/21 (25) compared to 2019/2020 (16).  

·         In this year to date 13 Adoption Orders have been secured. 

·         There are currently a further 33 children progressing to adoption with Placement Orders

·         Since Jan 2021 there has been 54 Connected Carers placements commence and 114 cease

·         The number of children in Connected Carers placements has dropped from 210 in Sep 2020 to 112 July 2021.  (47% reduction)

·         The number of children placed with parents has dropped from 99 in September 2020 to 58 in August 2021.  (41% reduction)

·         Since January 2021 there has been 17 Placement with Parents commence and 51 cease

·         There has been an increased number of children in Fostering to Adopt placements

·         Children progress though pre proceedings in a more timely way.


The Board learnt that the Commissioner reported in July 2021 on progress made and identified that:

“Within the permanency strategy considerable progress has been made in the tracking and oversight of children within the care system. This has led to impressive performance in timely moves for more children into adoptive placements and a significant increase in the use of special guardianship etc. We also see evidence of more appropriate use of Public Law Outline, a reduction in emergency hearings and a stronger relationship of trust is described with CAFCASS (Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Services)”


The Head of Service identified two risks:

·         The increase in demand across the service and across the tees valley region

·         Staffing instability across the looked after and care leaving service could impact on performance and leads to children experience multiple social workers, however there was a strategy in place to identify this.

The Board finally heard the next steps in respect to the action plan:


·         Data Team to develop a Permanence Dashboard and Score Card – Performance and progress to be reported to Improvement Board and Corporate Parenting Board

·         Life Story Work compliance and quality to be driven

·         Reduction and tracking of the number of children residing in external residential placements

·         Progress the Permanence Action Plan and report to Improvement Board and Corporate Parenting Board

·         Develop further practice standards for Placement with Parent/Special Guardianship Orders and Reunification

·         To continue to work with Partners in Practice to develop improved fostering processes.


After the presentation a number of Board members made a number of comments in relation to the presentation. Firstly, a Board member stated that it was enlightening to see how much has been done since the Ofsted report and thanked staff for all their hard work in making the lives of children in Middlesbrough better, and whilst there was a long way to go, the steps made had been huge and a massive achievement.

Another Board member wanted to ensure that our looked after children were experiencing the same life experiences as other children. In response, the Director of children’s Care advised that within the child’s care plan, hobbies and interests are addressed and we must also ask ‘Is it good enough for my child?’.  The Foster Carer wanted to ensure that our looked after children are addressed the way they wished to be e.g. a child looked after or child in care and secondly, he outlined that the children are family members and experience what we would do with our own children.


The Head of Service was thanked for her presentation.


AGREED- That the action plan be noted.











Supporting documents: