Young Merton Together

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Welcome from Yvette Stanley, Merton's Director of Children's Services

YS new picIt is always a pleasure and a privilege to discuss issues, big and small, with our young people. And, it is always enlightening to hear young people’s new insights into old issues, as well as to learn about their lived experiences and the myriad of pressures on young people today. I could not introduce this edition of Young Merton Together without acknowledging the tragic events that took place in Manchester on Monday 22 May, and very recently in London on Saturday (3 June), and without inviting you to hear the words of compassion and condolence expressed by Merton’s Youth Parliament in their letter to Manchester which was sent during the days after the earlier event.

I am sure that you will agree that their words represent the sentiments of the wider Merton community, and that, while written in the light of the Manchester events, they also relate to the more recent tragedy - “after all is said and done, the young people in Manchester and the United Kingdom will lead the way and show the world how we stand together for a brighter and safer future”.

This edition of YMT celebrates the direct work with children, young people and families, undertaken by staff in all our Children’s Trust organisations:

We work hard to engage and enable young people to achieve better outcomes and to play a positive role in their lives and the lives of the wider community;

We are committed to closing the gap in educational outcomes and opportunity for our children and young people, to give them a foundation of knowledge and understanding on which they can build throughout the rest of their lives: Merton offers every child a primary school place; Merton supports young people with English as an additional language to access education - SmartChoice; and Apprenticeship participation increases in Merton.

Our ‘Early Help’ offer aims to deliver early help and improve outcomes for those subject to the effects of disadvantage: Early help for Merton's children and families; New children’s centres offer April 2017; New commissioned services for children and young people; and Merton early years children are ‘school ready’.

And, under the theme of ‘safeguarding children and young people’ we have the following updates: An update on the key priorities of the MSCB Business Plan – Early Help, ‘Think Family’ and ‘Adolescents’; Tackling child sexual exploitation; A multi-agency approach to ‘Neglect’; Identifying and safeguarding ‘Children Missing from Education’ (CME);UK says No More domestic violence or abuse’ campaign; and Private Fostering week 3-7 July.

It just remains for me to thank you for your daily work and commitment to engage and support children and young people, and provide them with great opportunities to enjoy their lives and to achieve to their potential, while supporting them in challenging times.

Best wishes,

Yvette.

Private Fostering Week 2017

Merton Children's Services are marking Private Fostering Week (3rd – 7th July) by reminding Merton residents to get in touch if they know a child is living with someone other than their parents or close relatives.

Private Fostering Week is a national event which is part of an initiative called Somebody Else’s Child which aims to reduce the number of children in un-notified private fostering arrangements in England.

Private fostering is a private arrangement made by a parent for a child under 16 years (or 18 if disabled) to be cared for by someone other than another parent or close relative lasting more than 28 days.

A close family member is considered to be a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, step-parent or grandparent. A private foster carer might be a family friend, a cousin or a neighbour.

Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is safe, that the arrangement is suitable and that we are providing them with support and access to services.

Nobody knows exactly how many children are privately fostered, but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that some of these ‘invisible’ children could be at risk of abuse or victims of trafficking.

Merton Children’s Services are asking that if anyone is aware of a child or young person who is living with someone who is not a close family member for longer than 28 days that they notify our MASH Team on 020 8545 4227.

For further information about Private Fostering you can contact Debbie Taylor in The Vulnerable Children’s Team on 020 8545 3672.

'Fun and fit family day' promotes new Monday evening fitness session

Jude Simmons, Merton's Head of Youth Service, tells YMT about a wonderful family day event held on Saturday 3 June, to promote the new Phipps Bridge Youth Centre's Monday evening fitness club for local residents, where they can also bring their children, aged 6+ to enjoy arts and crafts:

'The 'Fun and fit' family day was such a success! Seeing the community coming together to have fun and learn new skills at the same time. It definitely put the youth centre on the map!  We recruited new members for our fit club on Monday evenings where families come together and take part in activities designed to keep you fit!'.

Our 'Fun and Fit' family day on Saturday 3 June was well attended by children, young people and adults celebrating all things healthy; a wonderful time was had by all!

Supported by Merton's Youth Service and volunteers from Benedict Primary School, the local community, Wimbledon AFC and some of the older young people from Pollards Hill Youth Centre, more than ninety attendees enjoyed circuit training in the garden, healthy cooking, Fit Kids sessions, dance and stretch class, smoothie making, a gym session, mini health checks and much more.

The purpose of the event was to promote a new Monday evening club for local residents which runs at the Phipps Bridge Youth Centre, Cobham Court, Haslemere Avenue, Mitcham CR4 3PR from 6.30pm to 8.30pm during term time.

Local people can come and enjoy circuit training and any other healthy activities that they would like to take part in, and can bring their children aged 6+ to enjoy arts and crafts, play games and table tennis, whilst their parents or carers get fit!

The aim is to encourage local people to use the youth centre, and for the community to see the centre as somewhere that they can get together, in order to break down barriers between young and old, and to bring neighbours and friends together. It will also be an opportunity to promote the activities of the youth centre at the same time. Our aim is to create a centre which has a real community focus offering activities which are led by local volunteers and supporters.

Everybody is welcome on Monday evenings and volunteers are needed to provide healthy cooking workshops, dance classes and anything else fitness related!

For more information about coming to the fitness club, and about helping out as a volunteer, please email me, Jude Simmons on jude.simmons@merton.gov.uk.

For more information about Phipps Bridge Youth Centre see the webpages: www.merton.gov.uk/phipps_bridge_yc.htm

 

Continuous Improvement

Follow this link - Continuous Improvement - to access this edition's section about the Children's Trust's commitment to continuously improve the quality, timeliness, and equity of our services for children, young people and families.

This month we feature: Merton's children's services shaped by users

Merton offers every child a primary school place

A primary school place has been offered to every parent in Merton with a child starting school in September.

Figures published by the Pan-London Admissions Scheme, which coordinates school places in the capital, show that 2,610 children from Merton applied for a primary school place.

Of these:

  • 80.8% of children were offered a place at their parents’ first choice of school, an increase from 80.4% last year
  • 90.9% of children got into one of their top three schools, up from 90.1% last year
  • 94.1% of children were offered a place at one of their parents’ preferred schools, an increase from 93.7% last year
  • Every child who applied was offered a primary school place

For more information about admission to schools in Merton see the webpages: www.merton.gov.uk/admissions.

Merton celebrates Duke of Edinburgh success

Ninety of Merton’s young people were presented with certificates and badges, by local dignitaries, for their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award achievements at a special ceremony in Wimbledon Arts Space in April 2017.

In total, 355 young people completed their awards in Merton during 2016/17. At 61%, Merton has enjoyed one of the highest completion rates in London this year.

The young people from 13 secondary schools across the borough were recognised for their perseverance and hard work which led them to complete their awards over 12 months from April 2016 at bronze, silver and gold levels. Rutlish School was presented with an excellence award for their success rate in completing the DofE scheme.

DofE requires young people to get involved in different activities, develop a variety of skills, volunteer and get involved in sports. Volunteering is a key part of the DofE. The young people carried out a total of 6,000 hours of volunteering in Merton over the last year. Examples of their volunteering included helping at primary schools, fundraising for charity and helping at a hospital. Sports included rowing, Tae Kwon Do and football. The young people developed skills such as debating, playing the violin, singing and playing chess. A major part of the awards at each level is the expedition. Bronze expeditions include trips to Kent and the South Downs and excursions to the Brecon Beacons and Yorkshire Dales were part of the silver and gold awards.

Earlier in April a group of the borough’s Duke of Edinburgh award achievers visited St James’s Palace to meet the Duke of Edinburgh. One of those who met the Duke was Rebecca Marett (picture above) outside St James’s Palace with Seo-Yeon Lee and Amabel Watkins), who completed her bronze, silver and gold awards in Merton. The former Ursuline High School pupil is now working as a part time youth worker at the Open Award Centre, helping others to take part in DofE.

Anyone wishing to apply to be part of the DofE award scheme should contact Carol Curtis, DofE Manager  by email dofeaward@merton.gov.uk or call 020 8274 5828 or call in at the Open Award Centre on a Tuesday evening (Term time only) between 7-9pm at John Innes Youth Centre, 61 Kingston Road, SW19 1JN.

Merton young people debate mental health – and win!

A group of young people from Merton, supported by the borough's Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service, took part in the London Debating Mental Health programme led by South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust. This is a brand new London based initiative aimed at about empowering young people who have used mental health services, to speak out about the mental health issues that matter to them. The programme culminated in a debate competition event against other teams of young people from London, hosted by Facebook UK, which the Merton team – ‘the Merton Hawks’ – won!

The programme supported the young people to learn debate skills through a 12-week course, led by English-Speaking Union mentors. Sessions were based on a combination of games, informal and formal discussion and were each centred around key oracy skills.

Once they had received the full round of training, Merton’s young people and teams from other London mental health services came together at an event, with key mental health decision-makers, to have honest and open discussions about mental health and the things that matter to them. 

Forty young people took part in five debates on topics voted for by them. The motions were: Celebrities have a responsibility to talk about their own mental health; Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy and; Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health.

The ‘Merton Hawks’ first debated ‘Opposition’ on ‘Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy’. They were then ‘proposition’ (decided by a coin toss) in the final: ‘Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health’. During both debates, the team also had to respond to questions from the ‘floor’ (audience), which they handled with skill and confidence. Congratulations to the team, on their success.

Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: "Young people’s mental health is an ongoing and ever growing area of discussion and debate, in which we must ensure young people participate. Offering young people the opportunity to explore and unpack arguments surrounding the mental health agenda helps them to further understand the complexities of this issue. This was an excellent piece of work and a significant opportunity for our young people to generate their own thoughts and arguments from both sides. We are incredibly proud of their win and we look forward to broadening the conversation around young people’s mental health in Merton”.

London Debating Mental Health is a partnership between South West London and St. George’s  NHS  Mental Health Trust, London and South East Children and Young People IAPT Learning Collaborative, the English-Speaking Union and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. The organisers are confident that this partnership will continue to grow to support young people.

For more information about London Debating Mental Health contact Laura Tyrell South West London and St. George’s  NHS  Mental Health Trust camhsparticipation@swlstg-tr.nhs.uk.

 

Merton says NO MORE domestic violence or abuse

During a week in mid May (2017) Merton Council raised awareness of the national campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.  

Merton was one of the first London boroughs to join the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, which aims to engage communities to take a stand against domestic abuse and sexual assault. The initiative is a partnership between London-based charity Hestia and NO MORE in the United States.

One of the faces of the week-long campaign, was Zoe Gallen, the Council’s strategic lead for domestic violence and abuse, who was chosen to appear alongside comedian Eddie Izzard.

The UK SAYS NO MORE flag flew outside Merton Civic Centre in London Road, Morden, to show support for the campaign. Inside the Civic Centre, information was displayed throughout the week on services available in the borough to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Also, we carried out some awareness training with a GP surgery.

Domestic violence is not just physical. Perpetrators can be controlling, isolate their victims from friends and family; control their money; invade their privacy, for example by reading their emails or monitoring their calls or restrict their freedom by telling them where they can or cannot go.

Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “We must end the silence around domestic violence and sexual assault and say: ‘No more’. There is no excuse for anyone, child or adult, to be subjected to physical harm or mental abuse in their own home by their partner or another member of the family.

“We are proud that Zoe Gallen is one of the faces of such an important campaign and we want to raise awareness of the support available for anyone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse.”

The One Stop Shop, a confidential service for anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse in Merton, is open on Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays) from 9.30am – noon at Morden Baptist Church, Crown Lane, Morden SM4 5BL.

For more information call 020 7801 1777 or visit our website www.merton.gov.uk and search for ‘domestic violence’.

 

Merton ‘OSCA’ goes to teacher who set up student support group

A teacher at Ricards Lodge High School has been presented with a Merton ‘OSCA’ for her exceptional support for students.

The OSCA – or Outstanding Service for Children Award – was given to Angelina Di Passio in recognition of her leadership and support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Questioning group at the Wimbledon school where she teaches history.

Ms Di Passio is a volunteer staff member of the school’s Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural Working Group made up of students and staff.

She has played a key role in supporting students who have identified as LGBTQ+, helping to set up a support group which meets fortnightly after school and regularly attends to help students discuss a number of LGBTQ+ issues.

Ms Di Passio has supported the group to plan and deliver assemblies as well as arranging LGBQT+ film nights.

Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “Teenage years can be difficult for students who have identified LGBQT+ and the support that the group set up by Ms Di Passio gives them the chance to meet and talk about issues in a safe and friendly environment. She thoroughly deserves to receive Merton’s Outstanding Service for Children Award.”

The OSCA comes soon after Ms Di Passio was hailed as London’s Inspirational Teacher of the Year in the Evening Standard School Awards supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation.

Merton celebrates Foster Carer Fortnight

Merton Council hosted a series of roadshow events around the borough during Foster Care Fortnight for people to find out more about becoming a foster carer.

This year's Foster Care Fortnight ran between 8-21 May. Merton Council delivered information events in town centres with the aim of recruiting new foster carers who can provide a vulnerable child with safe and secure place to live. A team of experts offered advice and guidance for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer. including information about the assessment process, training, financial allowances and the comprehensive support provided by Merton Council for foster carers.

Whatever your age, ethnicity, marital status, sexuality or personal circumstances, fostering could be for you. To become a foster carer, you need to have a spare bedroom and some experience of young people. Time, patience, resilience and understanding are essential qualities for fostering a child. You will also need people in your family or community who will be able to provide practical help and emotional support. Fostering is about more than just parenting – it is a team of people working with parents and social workers to care for children.

There is currently a shortage of foster carers for children of all ages in Merton, but particularly for teenagers and sibling groups.

Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: “Fostering is a way of providing a family life for a child who is unable to live with their parents and can be incredibly rewarding. The roadshows we have organised to mark Foster Care Fortnight are a great opportunity for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer to ask questions and find out more about how they can provide a safe and loving home for a vulnerable child.”

To find out more about fostering a child, visit: www.merton.gov.uk/fostering

Call: 0800 073 0874 or 020 8545 4070 or email fostering@merton.gov.uk

Are you looking after someone else's child?

All professionals are legally required to alert Merton's children’s services of children who are being privately fostered so that an assessment can be undertaken to ensure that the child’s welfare is being promoted and the child is safeguarded.

A privately fostered child is one who is:

  • Living away from home
  • Under the age of 16 years (under 18 if disabled)
  • Cared for by someone for more than 28 days who is not a parent or close relative (stepparent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle).

How to Notify?

If you are aware of a child or young person living in a private fostering arrangement please notify MASH on 020 8545 4227.

For more information visit

 

Be healthy

Healthier Community Celebration event

boy circus skillsMitcham Town Community Trust*, with support from Big Lottery, organised an uplifting Healthier Community Celebration event at Canons Green on Saturday 27th May.

Over 700 people flocked to the 'Let's Celebrate' health and wellbeing themed community event with loads on offer. There were fruit smoothie bikes, a BMX track, pop up tennis, steel pan workshops, a mini Better Leisure outdoor gym, gymnastics demonstration, exercise taster sessions much more.

The event was delivered in partnership with MVSC and Better Leisure (Canons Leisure Centre Team) and was attended by a number of local dignitaries.

Kristina Burton, MTCT Development and Project Manager:’ It is a true pleasure being a part of such united group of schools and community groups including supportive Health and Wellbeing professionals. I am very proud of all achievements so far and look forward to offering even wider range of new and exciting health opportunities to the whole community.’

Bec Yusuf, MVSC (event manager): “It’s great to see our local community coming together and getting stuck in with the wide menu of great activities that were on show. Massive thanks to all those who helped make this happen.’

*Mitcham Town Community Trust has been a registered company limited by guarantee since 20th August 2013 and consists of eleven schools and two community groups from Mitcham Town. Cluster membership covers eight primaries, two special schools (SEN and SEBD), St Marks Family Centre and the Jeremiah Project. Working in partnership with one another and a variety of other agencies for many years, the Trust is offering wider community access to facilities and varied activities within and beyond the school day.

 

A ‘whole life’ strategy for ASD

In Merton we are committed to working with children, young people with SEN and Disabilities, and their parents, in order to improve outcomes for individual children and young people including improving their independence, self-esteem and general quality of life. This is a key priority area included in our Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan.

One aspect of work under this priority is to review and refresh, with all partners across the children’s trust, our overarching Special Education Needs Strategy. We have now embarked on the first stage of this refresh with a focus on Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which we have identified as the area of primary need with the largest increase. 

As we have a statutory requirement to publish an adult ASD strategy, Merton has taken the decision to develop and publish a ‘Whole Life ASD strategy’, taking a holistic ‘life-course’ approach. This will encompass all resident children, young people and adults with ASD. It will also take account of families and carers of residents with ASD.

This work is being delivered by the Public Health team with input from all key stakeholders; a steering group and wider stakeholder reference group have been established. 

During this month (June 2017) a workshop will be held for local stakeholders to seek feedback on the draft strategy. In addition to the workshop we will be publishing an online public consultation – more details will be forwarded to Children’s Trust partners to ensure that all stakeholder have an opportunity to contributed.

We aim to finalise the strategy during the autumn. 

For more information on the development of the ASD strategy contact the Public Health Specialty Registrar in Merton’s Public Health Team: claire.greszczuk@merton.gov.uk; 020 8545 4577.

Trauma and trouble!

Come and join us for an interesting Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) Network meeting focusing on 'trauma and trouble'!

  • What's the link between mental health and violent or offending behaviour? 
  • What mental health support is available for youth in our justice system, and what's missing?
  • What's your role in all this?

What are CAMH Network meetings?

CAMH Network meetings are a place for professionals with an interest in Children and Young People’s Mental Health to get together, network and learn. The meetings take place once per school term for two hours, and each meeting focuses on a different theme. Previous meetings have covered self-harm, anxiety and depression.

The agenda is flexible, but we aim to include a short briefing by an expert in the field, a case-study discussion, an interactive group session and a question and answer session, all centred around the theme for the day.

So far we’ve had great attendance from professionals across health, education and social care, as well as very positive feedback.

Here are some of the things attendees have highlighted:

  • “I found out about services I was not aware of”
  • “I’ve learnt about all the options for support”
  • “I really enjoyed the practical tips and ‘do’s and don’ts’”
  • “I’ve learnt how CAMHS works”
  • “I really enjoy the networking with other disciplines”

What’s on the agenda for the next meeting?

The next meeting is on Wednesday 14 June (3pm) and will focus on ‘trauma and trouble’:

  • A briefing by Dr Roberta Evans on the links between 'trauma' and 'trouble' and what mental health support is available in our Youth Justice Team
  • A case study following a young person from childhood to late adolescence presenting with challenging behaviours linked to mental health needs;
  • An interactive session discussing the services and gaps in our current provision for young people in trouble or at risk of offending;
  • Q&A with the experts;

And as a bonus:

  • A best-practice example of a school-based mental health promotion project;
  • An introduction to the new Strategic Manager of the Virtual Behaviour Service and a key project on her agenda.

Don't miss out on this excellent learning and networking opportunity - register TODAY!

Download the CAMH network meeting flyer.

 

 

New counselling service for young people in Merton

Off The Record, a counselling service for young people, opened its doors in Merton in April 2017.

The charity has over 20 years’ experience delivering youth support services in Sutton and Croydon, and has now been commissioned by Merton CCG to extend their services to Merton as a pilot project.

Off the Record offers a free, confidential support service for young people aged 11-18 in Merton, including online and face-to-face counselling programmes, drop-in sessions and online workshops. Through this service, young people have access to a professional youth counsellor, as well as regular online workshops dealing with topical issues such as exam stress or depression.

If you are a professional and would like to refer a young person to this service, please note that all referrals should go via the CAMHS single point of access (0208 254 8061).

Young people ages 14-18 years may self-refer and can do so via:

  • Phone: 020 8680 8899
  • Email: merton@talkofftherecord.org
  • Or drop-in: Thursdays 3.30-5.30 at Wandle Valley Resource Centre, Church Road, Mitcham, CR4 3FA
  •  

Please visit Off The Record’s website to learn more: www.talkofftherecord.org

 

WISH support for young people

WISH Merton supports young people ages 12-18 years who self harm or who have experienced sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.

The WISH Centre Merton is based at: 2-14/2-15 Peel House, 32-44 London Road, Morden SM4 5BT.

Please contact 020 3740 9175 / 07534 991931; merton@thewishcentre.org.uk

Family Nurse Partnership

Merton Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) are a team of dedicated nurses from Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust who support first time mothers to be, aged 19 and under. They offer regular home visits from early pregnancy, working alongside midwives and incorporating ‘The Healthy Child programme’. At age 2 clients are handed over to our partnering health visiting services. Working with Young Mums and Dad’s and the extended family, the overarching goals are to improve:

  • antenatal health
  • child health and development
  • economic self-sufficiency

The team aim to work with the strengths of the client encouraging them to fulfil their aspirations for their babies and themselves.

Locally Merton FNP has shown increased breastfeeding initiation and continuation above the national rates for this cohort as well as steadily increasing clients returning to employment, education or training.

For more information or clarification, please contact: CLCHT.FNPMerton@nhs.net.

Listening to Merton's health service users

health watchHealthwatch Merton is working to help local people get the best out of their local health and social care services. Whether it's improving them today or helping to shape them for tomorrow.

Our success depends on you telling us what’s going on in care services in Merton and how things could change and improve.

There are many different opportunities and ways for you to do this and we invite you to help us to create change together by ‘speaking up’ and getting involved in whichever way possible.

For more information and to get involved see: www.healthwatchmerton.co.uk/

Stay safe

An update from the Chair of Merton's Safeguarding Children Board

Keith MakinAs part of our continuous improvement approach the Merton Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) has identified some key development priorities for 2016/17; these have now been extended to through to 2019.

These also link with our business as usual work plan undertaken by the MSCB and its sub groups. The Board continues to seek to improve its links to practitioners and their managers as part of our quality assurance processes to inform service improvement and development as well as maintaining our strong focus on the Voice of the Child/Young person. Addressing the incidence and impact of neglect is a cross-cutting theme that runs across the work of the Board and each of our priorities.

Our Priorities for 2017-2019 are:         

Think Family – to support children and adults in our most vulnerable families to reduce risk and ensure improved outcomes. 

Evidence from local and national research tells us that our most vulnerable parents/families are those who

  • Experience poor mental health.
  • Struggle with substance misuse.
  • Are affected by domestic abuse.
  • Parents with learning difficulties that may affect their ability to respond to the changing needs of their children.

It is important that professionals understand the underlying causes of issues like neglect and other forms of abuse and offer effective support early before these problems get worse.

In order to support our work on our Think Family priority there will be an appointment of a Think Family Coordinator, who will coordinate the work that is being done across adult and children’s services in order to ensure that this work is joined-up and that family (children and adults) receive a seamless delivery of services. We will also be launching a suite of protocols (including Mental Health, Parental Substance Misuse, Parents with Learning Disabilities and Learning Difficulties); these protocols should give practitioners guidance and outline the joint multi-agency approach to supporting families in Merton.

Supporting Vulnerable Adolescents

We know that, for some young people, adolescence is a time of particular vulnerability. We are determined to support adolescents who are at risk of

  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
  • Children who go missing from home/school/care.
  • Children and young people who are at risk radicalisation and violent extremism.
  • Children at risk of serious youth violence and gangs.
  • Self-harm and poor mental health.
  • Suicide.

Early Help – To develop an early help system that is responsive and effectively prevents escalation of concerns.

With changes in local providers and agencies and with changing levels of resources available we need to ensure our approach to Early Help continues to be fit for purpose. We know that timely and purposeful help or intervention at all stages of a child or young person’s journey is the most effective way improving impact and outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families. As part of our review we are looking at our service offer at all levels of the model and engaging partners in discussion on thresholds, case work approaches and models of intervention. A broad multi-agency coalition of partners met to review the Merton Child and Young Person Well Being Model between October 2016 and March 2017. As part of this review it was agreed that the model will now be known as the Merton Child, Young Person and Family Well-being Model, clearly reflecting our commitment to Think Family. This group made the following recommendations

Recommendation 1: MSCB and Children’s Trust reaffirm the MSCB and Children values that underpin our approach.

Recommendation 2: That Information presented as part of the review of the Merton Children and Young Person Model be presented in the MSCB’s annual report to reflect the breadth and depth of the work being done with children and families in Merton

Recommendation 3: That the revised visual representation of the CT and MSCB the model is adopted.

Recommendation 4: That the Children’s Trust and MSCB endorse Merton’s Practice Model including the Signs of Safety as our local approach beyond children’s social care.

The next step is that a smaller group map out the work arising from the recommendations coming out of the review and agree which MSCB Sub Group or Children’s Trust Board will oversee the development and implementation of appropriate action plans.

For more information please contact the MSCB Business Manager paul.bailey@merton.gov.uk.

 

Merton offers 'Early Help' to children and families

In Merton our ‘Early help’ offer is provided at different levels of our longstanding Merton Child and Young Person Well-Being Model developed with our Safeguarding Children Board and Children’s Trust partners. In line with the C4EO definition of Early Help, we aim to provide services which intervene ‘early and as soon as possible to tackle emerging problems for children, young people and families’. This may take place early in a child’s life, or ‘early in the development of a problem’.

This approach aims to enable and empower families, reducing an escalation of need. Our Children’s Trust Partnership delivers, commissions and brokers early help services through the voluntary sector, schools, Public Health, Merton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Safer Merton, the council and other key partners. It is embedded in our Children and Young People’s Plan Priority 1: ‘Deliver early help and improve outcomes for those subject to the effects of disadvantage’ and our Health and Wellbeing Strategy Theme one: A best start in life which focuses on improving health outcomes for children.

Merton Well Being Model - Our Well-Being Model under went a significant update in 2013, to ensure that it was fit for purpose, during which we implemented the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) model, building a team around the child working below the safeguarding threshold. During 2017 a task and finish group has reviewed the model again in the context of population growth and significant changes across agencies. We are taking this opportunity to make the best of our collective resources, enable our workforce to work more collaboratively and empower our families to access suitable services.

Family Services Directory - Our Family Services Directory and information service provide parents and professionals with a range of commissioned and non-commissioned services available directly without the need for referral. We maintain an Early Help guide for practitioners on the early help offer which requires referral.

Early years, children’s centres and community health - Merton’s Early Years’ early help offer includes strong local partnerships between community health and early year’s services. The sector includes 100% good and outstanding Children’s Centres and 97% good and outstanding PVIs. Our community health services were recommissioned in 2016 strengthening the universal service offer and services for more vulnerable children and young people. And, transformative approach included reconfiguring the Children’s Centres offer and the co-location of Community Health services staff into children’s centres to enable better collaborative working.

-We have targeted the take-up of Children’s Centre services to families from deprived areas in the borough and have reviewed our under 5s work between health and children’s centres to secure better safeguarding, health and wider outcomes for under-fives, including redesigning pathways and specialist health provision and to fund perinatal adult mental health direct work. One hundred per cent of all children who are in receipt of free 2 year old funding are placed in good or outstanding provision.

Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are supported across our integrated department. However, we also have a discrete early help offer for children and young people with complex needs, enhanced and developed following implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014. Our SEN interventions service provides effective early help and support for children with an identified SEN support need. Our Local Offer for children with SEND was developed with parents and considered effective in follow up evaluations and peer review. Commissioned support and advocacy provides early help through the voluntary sector. We also continue to fund short breaks provision as early help for children with disabilities and for those under Section 17 and 20 arrangements.

Common and Shared Assessment Framework (CASA) - CASA work undertaken in our Early Years Supporting Families Service and Children’s Centres is overseen by a qualified Social Work Team Manager, bringing additional value and risk management to pre-sfeguarding threshold casework. Both early year’s settings and schools have been supported with a Safeguarding Guidance and audit tool which is in good use across all primary and secondary schools.

Parenting programmes - Professionals are able to refer more complex cases to parenting courses contributing to our Think Family approach to all intervention. Parenting programmes are generally evidenced based and offered through Children’s Centres, schools and council services for a variety of presenting issues. An impact evaluation conducted on the 2014 cohort of parents who completed a Merton parenting programme found that 80% had no further contact with Children’s Social Care in the six months after attending a programme.

Schools and post-16 - Our schools demonstrate strong performance for attainment and progress, good behaviour, high levels of attendance, low persistent absence and low levels of exclusions.

  • Overall 91% of our schools are graded good or outstanding by Ofsted an improvement from 2012/13 (85%) our performance is better than the national (86%) and the London (90%) averages, supported by our leadership of school improvement.
  • Our Key Stage 4 attainment and progress outcomes remain good against all benchmarks.
  • Our NEET and Not Known performance remain in the top quintile in London supported by our My Futures service.

-We established a time limited Chronic Absence pilot project (CAP) which was successful in improving school attendance of some of our most disengaged pupils, embedding the learning into our business as usual approach with continued improvement of attendance and maintaining our strong focus on preventing permanent exclusions.

-Children missing education and those at the risk of missing education are monitored by a multi-agency panel, leading to 96% of all cases being closed within 3 months during 2015/16.

-Schools and academies remain in a strong partnership with the Merton Safeguarding Children Board and Children’s Trust to ensure a joined up approach to holding children safe supported by local authority services (core or bought back), for example, Education Welfare Service, Virtual Behaviour Support which support young people below safeguarding thresholds.

-We have increased our universal primary education offer by 23 forms of entry focussing on extending access to good and outstanding education. This pupil population increase is now moving through secondary education and we have clear plans in place for secondary school expansion.

Youth Offer - Despite financial constraints within the council we have transformed, and as such retained a good youth offer now delivered in partnership with the local voluntary sector and housing associations. We recognise the need to exploit this offer further as part of a package of intervention for vulnerable young people.

Our performance to reduce under 18’s conception is strong: Merton is the fastest improving borough in Outer London with rates below the national and London. This success has been achieved through effective partnership working, developing sustained well publicised young people friendly sexual health services.

Commissioned services - After our evaluation of early help commissioned service in 2015/16, in the context of savings required, we have retained services for: young runaways and those vulnerable to sexual exploitation; advocacy for looked after children; risk and resilience (teenage pregnancy and substance misuse) service; GUM and sexual health clinic in St Georges and St Helier; the Young Carers Service; and the continued spot purchase of a range of other interventions as required. For more information see the article: Merton Commissioned Services update.

Mental health - The local authority collaborates strongly with schools, helping them to commission and facilitate access to services for parents, such as an effective Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHs service). We will undertake a piece of work to map interventions available via our schools to ensure best use of resources and economies of scale. This is particularly important in the context of our Wellbeing model review in which more early help will be led by Universal Services such as schools.

We have worked with a wide range of partners to refresh our CAMHs strategy based on the local CAMHs review and central government’s vision for CAMHs services outlined in ‘Future in Mind’. We successfully submitted Merton’s Transformation Plan for CAMHs services as required by Department of Health and have received funding to support implementation.

Youth justice - Merton’s First Time Entrant numbers have reduced, and our YOT early help/triage function works well to de-escalate need. School funded Police officers in all secondary schools contribute to positive outcomes for young people at risk of youth offending. And we continue to work proactively with girls at risk of exploitation by gangs.

Family Nurse Partnership - We see the Family Nurse Partnership initiative as a key component of our early help strategy and parenting offer and are looking to extend the age range to ensure access for older care leavers and vulnerable young people.

Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) - We also continue to provide targeted intervention through Multi Systemic Therapy (MST), and are leading on the Pan London development of a Social Impact Bond for children at the Edge of Care offering MST and FFT (Functional Family Therapy).  

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) related services are commissioned through our VAWG Partnership including our Domestic Violence One Stop Shop, Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) and our Domestic Violence Refuge. We also utilise MOPAC funding to support gangs work including girls and gangs and the Redthread service amongst others.

Transforming (Troubled) Families service - Alongside our voluntary sector commissioned services and those not commissioned but accessed locally we have enhanced our partnership offer through, for example, the Transforming Families service:

  • ‘Turning around” 100% (370) of high need ‘troubled families’ between 2011 and 2015, and
  • achieving some of the highest levels of success in London and as an early adopter/pilot for phase two, already achieving 26% of our target which demonstrates excellent progress compared to other London boroughs.

Future Actions:

-In refreshing our well-being model we will:

  • update tools and processes supported by single and multi-agency training, reinforcing core principles of ‘Think Family ‘and extending strength based approaches.
  • review support provided to universal services and parents, pre safeguarding thresholds.
  • ensure partners continued understanding of Well-being Model step up/down threshold and pathways.

-Continue to deliver the MSCB priority of ‘Think Family’ and ‘early help’.

-Continue to work with Public Health, Merton CCG and our new community health provider to provide integrated services, delivering better outcomes for children, young people and families.

-Exploit the Youth Offer further as part of a package of intervention for more vulnerable adolescents.

-Map the range of interventions available via our schools and pathways for access to ensure best use of resources and economies of scale.

For more information see the webpages:

Merton's commissioned services for children and young people - an update

April 2017 brings a new financial year and a new configuration of council commissioned voluntary services for children and young people. During the preceding year the CSF commissioning team undertook a comprehensive procurement exercise to ensure the right services were commissioned to meet the needs of young people according to identified priority areas.

The procurement process incorporated consultation and market warming events, benchmarking exercises, reviewing of existing specifications, development of tender documentation and the establishment of an evaluation panel including Merton’s Young Inspectors. Contracts were awarded in late February to a range of providers:

Advocacy and Independent Visiting - Jigsaw 4U: 020 8687 1384

Advocacy and Independent Visiting is available for Looked After Children, children subject to child protection aged 10 upwards. The service aims to give children and young people a voice as they navigate the complexities of the social care system. The service is introduced by social workers to all children/families and referrals made directly to Jigsaw4U. Independent visiting is offered to children and young people with limited or no access to family support or where additional voluntary support is thought will benefit the child or young person.

Short Breaks for Children with Disabilities - Merton Mencap: 020 8254 8389 (access through the 'SENDIP' team)

Merton Mencap were successfully awarded a range of short break services providing Ofsted registered play schemes at weekends and during school holidays. The schemes offer various social and leisure activities and to enable their parents and carers to have a break from their caring responsibilities. The services are offered to young people who have a moderate or severe learning disability, complex needs, autism, and social communication disorders, and who may also have additional needs, such as: hearing impairment, learning disabilities, medical needs, mobility issues, speech / language disorders or visual impairment.

Alongside the short breaks offer Merton Mencap also secured continued delivery of both the Independent Travel Training and a Parents’ Membership Forum. Independent Travel Training supports young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities to start and sustain travelling independently, especially to their place of education which may be within Merton or ‘out of borough’. The service aims to increases choice for young people with SEND regarding transport options and contributes to greater confidence and independence for the young person.

The Parents Forum for parents/carers of children with disabilities and special needs offers support to parents to help them achieve improved outcomes for their children, and provides a means to meet other parents in the same or similar situation while giving them a voice to influence service provision and planning in the borough.

CSE and Missing Services - Catch 22, Risk and Resilience Service: 020 3701 8641

Catch22 were awarded the tender to provide our new combined CSE and Missing Service. The service aims to prevent or reduce missing episodes and reduce vulnerability to CSE. It will be achieved through the provision of independent Return Home Interviews (RHIs) and packages of support for targeted young people aged under 19 years who are missing from home or care and/or young people at high risk of or experiencing child sexual exploitation.

Catch22 will be notified of young people missing from home via the Missing Person Unit on a Police Merlin PAC (Pre Assessment Checklist). Referrals will be prioritised, through a weekly missing meeting and RHIs aimed to be conducted within 72 hours where the child or young person is from a vulnerable group. Referrals for CSE will come from Social Workers and /or may be identified through Return Home Interviews but will be agreed via the Children Services named lead for CSE.

Young Carers Service - Carers Support Merton: 020 8646 7515

The Young Carers programme will continue to be provided by Carers Support Merton. The service offers a programme of assessment and support to meet the specific needs of young carers and their families. All young carers referred will be assessed to determine their needs and to agree an action plan, which may include limited key working, referral to clubs, linking them with other local services, connecting parents to other local services. The focus will be to support young people to understand and manage their caring role, ensure they do not take on inappropriate levels of care and help them move towards greater independence and access to mainstream services.

Merton's Early Help offer

Merton's Children, Schools and Families Department continues to work in partnership with a range of voluntary and statutory organisations to offer a comprehensive package of early help services for children, young people and families in Merton.

Young people in South West London can access service information and advice and guidance from the young people’s health website: www.gettingiton.org.uk

 

Merton offers support for commissioning

  • Need support to achieve real value for money?
  • Frustrated at not getting what your paying for?
  • Want help to challenge poor performance?  

‘Commissioning’ is a process used to plan, procure, deliver and evaluate the services you provide. Educational Excellence Everywhere, (white paper), clearly outlines the increased level of accountability the DfE places on schools regarding their commission practices. Schools’ financial management practices face more scrutiny as funding formulas change. While particular reference is made to the use of alternative educational provision, the expectation that good commissioning practices are embedded, and demonstrable in all areas, is plainly articulated. Increasingly, the skill set of a good school business manager/business manager must include commissioning knowledge and expertise. Not only to ensure you achieve value for money and can confidently challenge poor or underperformance, but so you can safeguard your organisation and the community it serves.

Merton Children, Schools and Families Commissioning Team can provide you with bespoke support and training to support you through particular projects or to help you review your current practices and evidence base. The team supports schools and service settings to assess need, develop business cases, conduct commissioning and procurement exercises and quality assure and monitor the service provision of the external agencies commissioned.

This service is offered through either hosting a commissioning manager within your organisation  and/or through adhoc business meetings / telephone support to your business teams. A full menu of commissioning support and training options is available on request. Training packages will be developed following discussion with you, or can be offered to a number of schools/organisations at one time using a collaborative approach. Time-limited telephone support packages are  available on request for participants of be-spoke training packages.

For more information contact Leanne Wallder, Head of CSF Commissioning, leanne.wallder@merton.gov.uk; 0208 545 3591.

A multi-agency approach to 'Neglect'

Merton Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) updated our multi-agency Neglect Strategy in March 2017.

The MSCB is committed to ensuring that neglect is widely understood and responded to through joint working arrangements, and that thresholds for intervention and support are clear including early help through to statutory level, in accordance with Merton’s Well-Being Model.

Locally, neglect cases form over one third (on average about 40%) of all Child Protection (CP) plans. In 2015-16, there was a significant increase in the use of neglect as a category in CP plans at 42.6% compared to 33% in 2014-15. A high proportion of Serious Case Reviews are due to neglect.

The MSCB offers multi-agency neglect training via a training officer, who is an internationally recognised neglect specialist. The single-agency training expectation is that the agency will provide appropriate training as their staff come into contact with families in different ways.

The MSCB Business Plan was reviewed at the Board’s Annual Away Day in March 2017. At the meeting the board committed to extending and deepening its three priorities, with the overarching cross-cutting issue of neglect.

For more information about the MSCB Business Plan review see the article - An update from the Chair of Merton's Safeguarding Children Board.

Tackling child sexual explotation

Merton's children's services is committed to a multi-agency approach to tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The CSE Strategy, which was updated in April 2017 sets out our local multi-agency arrangements, under the Merton Safeguarding Children’s Board (MSCB) and the Merton Children and Young People’s Partnership, to tackling CSE. It promotes a multi-agency approach to addressing CSE through a shared understanding that supports prevention through better information sharing and improved identification. The strategy also promotes a shared multi-agency response to improve effective interventions to protect those most at risk of being sexually exploited and robustly pursue the prosecution of perpetrators.

The key principles underpinning Merton's multi-agency responses to tackling the sexual exploitation of children and young people are: 

  • The primary concern of anyone who comes into contact with a child or young person who has been or is at risk of being sexually exploited must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • It is important that the child or young person is assisted to participate as fully as possible in all decisions that are made in respect of them. Parents or carers should also be as fully involved as possible in the work.
  • Children and young people do not make informed choices to enter or continue to be sexually exploited, but do so from coercion, enticement manipulation or desperation. They may have difficulty distinguishing between their own choices around sex and sexuality and the sexual activities into which they are being coerced. Their experiences and circumstances mean that they have constrained choices.
  • Sexually exploited children and young people should be treated as victims of abuse.
  • Children and young people should be enabled to make realistic choices and whenever possible be supported with effective provision for “exiting” from the circumstances where they are being sexually exploited.
  • The professionals involved in making judgements on the levels or risk should be clear on the basis of those judgements and the sources of information and should make those assessments as part of a multi-agency approach.
  • There should be equal importance given to the issues of prevention, protection and prosecution. Legal action should be taken against the perpetrators of sexual exploitation, but where prosecution is unlikely, disruption strategies should be employed.
  • Where the police are considering criminal action against children and young people and the final decision rests with the police, they should consult with partner agencies through the CSE meetings to ensure that all alternative and appropriate actions have been considered for that child or young person in line with ensuring adherence to ACPO guidance in relation to not criminalising young people where possible.
  • Professionals involved in working with children and young people subject to sexual exploitation will need to show professional resilience and be prepared to take a pro-active approach in engaging the child or young person as they do not always engage easily.

Other information in the strategy includes: referral and consultation; role of the Multi-agency Sexual Exploitation Panel (MASE); agency roles and responsibilities; and key documents and contacts.

In addition this year, we have updated the CSE Protocol April 2017 which sets out the multi-agency arrangements for identifying and responding to children, young people and families affected by child sexual exploitation in the London Borough of Merton. The document includes information on: referral and consultation; reporting suspicions of CSE; categories of risk; and referral and assessment pathways flowchart.

The MSCB provides training for those who work with children and families on understanding and tackling CSE. Please see the MSCB Training Programme 2017/18.

Identifying and safeguarding ‘Children Missing from Education’ (CME)

In Merton a child of statutory school age is considered to be a ‘Child Missing Education’ (CME) under the following criteria:  

  • Not registered at an educational provision.
  • Not registered as being ‘Educated other Than at School’ (Elective Home Education).
  • Has been out of education for more than 20 calendar days.
  • Chronic non-attendee (below 20% attendance) needing multi agency input.

The ‘Children Missing Education: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities’ issued in September 2016 details the statutory duty placed on local authorities to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to identify ‘children missing from education’ in their area. It also states the requirement that all schools - maintained, academy, free and independent - in an area must inform their local authority of all ‘on roll’ and ‘off rolled’ pupils, and that any off rolling is a joint decision with the local authority.

Our policy: Merton’s Good Practice Guidance for Identifying and Safeguarding Children Missing from Education (CME) implements the statutory guidance locally. It is designed to support a multi-agency approach to safeguarding children who are missing from education, involving the local authority, schools, the Metropolitan Police, children’s social care, and health services.

We now have in place robust processes for ensuring that we meet our statutory duty to identify and safeguard children not receiving a suitable education:

In September we published comprehensive guidelines for schools and briefings for head teachers, and are now successfully collecting data on all ‘on’ and ‘off’ roll children from all Merton schools including independents.

In addition, we have two panels in place which meet regularly to ensure that the local authority and partner agencies work together to share information to promote the welfare of children and to reduce the amount of time a child remains out of education.

The Children Missing Education Panel monitors children who are ‘CME’ under the criteria listed above. The agencies attending the CME panel include the local authority, children’s social care, youth justice, alternative education, and school nursing. The panel is responsible for producing a ‘Live’ CME Panel database to ensure that actions are being recorded and that agencies are working together to support the children and young people under review. It also links into to other processes – tackling child sexual exploitation and children missing from home or care - to ensure that other all risks are taken into account.

The Secondary Heads Placement Panel (Hard to Place/Fair Access) supports the collective admissions function to ensure all children are in school. It meets monthly and is chaired by schools.

The quality assurance review of our CME processes for the last academic year (2015/16), shows that as a result of this work:

  •  Less children are off roll in Merton without education in place against a background of a growing school population.
  •  Ninety six percent of cases were actioned and closed, and a suitable educational placement found, within three months, and 56% of these within one month.

 For more information on our work to address Children Missing Education see the webpage: www.merton.gov.uk/educationwelfare

Could you be a foster carer?

A foster mum who has cared for 15 children is encouraging other people to consider becoming foster carers.

Elaine Atkinson, who has been a foster carer for four years, now specialises in looking after young people between the ages of 12 and 18.

She said: “I enjoy seeing them blossom. Dealing with teenagers is not hard – you show them respect and you show them love. Every child needs a different approach but you can help to prepare them for the world.”

Fostering is a way of providing a family life for a child who is unable to live with their parents.

Mrs Atkinson said: “Some of the children come from disadvantaged homes and have gone through so many unpleasant things but as a foster parent you can take them onto the next stage and help prepare them for the world. I am still in touch with many of the children I fostered – they still come over for dinner.”

Merton Council is urgently recruiting more foster carers for children of all ages, but particularly for teenagers and sibling groups.

People of any age, ethnicity, marital status or sexuality can become foster carers, but they do need to have a spare bedroom and some experience of young people. Merton Council’s fostering team can offer advice and guidance for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer, including the assessment process, training and financial allowances. All foster carers receive comprehensive support from the local authority.

Mrs Atkinson said: “I would say give it a try to someone who is wondering whether to become a foster carer because it is very rewarding. What you put in is what you get out. It is important to be open-minded and patient so you can encourage and motivate young people. I say to them I am your foster mother but I would like to do the same for you as I would if I were your real mother.”

To find out more about fostering a child, visit: www.merton.gov.uk/fostering

Call: 0800 073 0874 or 020 8545 4070 or email fostering@merton.gov.uk

Independent Visitors for Looked After Children

Jigsaw4u, runs an Independent Visitor Project to support children and young people who are ‘looked after’.

Independent Visitors (IVs) are volunteers who are matched with children and young people in care who would benefit from having an independent adult befriender to visit and advise them.

It is a confidential relationship and IVs are often able to provide a sense of normal family life to a young person living in a residential children’s home or who has moved around a number of different foster placements.

For more information about the project and to volunteer as an Independent Visitor download the flyer.

Enjoy and achieve

School inspection outcomes

Over the past few months, Merton schools have experienced a flurry of Ofsted inspections, with a total of seven schools being inspected (an eighth of the total number of maintained schools, academies and free schools in Merton). 

At the beginning of February, William Morris and St Teresa’s were inspected, and both were judged to remain ‘good’. The report for William Morris identified that the school is one ‘where all pupils, whatever their starting point, are entitled to the highest quality learning experiences’. In St Teresa’s report it was recognised that the school’s ‘dedication and commitment to enabling all pupils to achieve their best means that you have not been complacent in driving further improvements’.

On the 14th March, Ofsted were very busy in the local area when four schools were inspected (Aragon, Hatfeild, Joseph Hood and Pelham). These coincided with a number of inspections in neighbouring boroughs as well, and it is thought that Ofsted were perhaps trying out their new ‘hub’ style inspection process, where a number of schools are inspected in a local area, coordinated by a senior HMI. These schools too were judged to remain good. 

In Aragon, the inspection team recognised that ‘the leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school since the previous inspection’. At Hatfeild, the letter identified that the leadership team are ‘now driving the school on to the next level’. 

At Joseph Hood, the report drew out how ‘leaders, including governors, challenge each other regularly about the impact of their work on improving pupils’ outcomes’. And at Pelham, it was recognised that leaders ‘have created a school in which pupils feel safe and happy and are eager to learn’.

Towards the end of term both St Thomas of Canterbury and Merton Abbey were inspected. St Thomas of Canterbury was judged to remain good, and that the leadership team ‘have continued to improve the school to fulfil your vision for pupils’ education, academic success and personal development within the Catholic faith’. 

Merton Abbey was judged to require improvement, with strengths in the including the following being identified: ‘headteacher and all staff demonstrate a high level of care for pupils’ and ‘pupils’ behaviour is good. Pupils have positive attitudes to learning in class and conduct themselves well around the school’.

At the beginning of the Summer term, Rutlish School was inspected, and their report is still to be published.

At the moment, 89% of schools are judged to be good or better, which is in line with the national average, but below the average across London.

Travel assistance for children with SEN and disabilities

In Merton we are committed to working with children, young people with SEN and Disabilities, and their parents, in order to improve outcomes for individual children and young people including improving their independence, self-esteem and general quality of life. This is a key priority area included in our Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan.

One aspect of work under this priority is to continue to co-produce and improve our published ‘Local Offer’ of services and available provision.

During the latter part of 2016/17 Merton’s ‘Local Offer’ was updated with two new SEN Travel Assistance Policies, one for pupils of statutory school age and one for post-16 students.

These outline the local authority’s duty to provide suitable travel arrangements for eligible children, the criteria to be considered for funding, and detail on how assistance will be provided.

The policies are important so that parents and practitioners are aware of the availability and help this service provides.

As part of the updated policy ‘Travel Training’ opportunities have been extended to all children with an Education Health and Care Plan, not just for those in receipt of travel assistance.

An Annual Update Survey has been sent out to parents and carers to gain insight on the quality of SEN services including transport arrangements, covering the internal aspect such as office backroom staff and external services such as taxi and private hire.

For more information on the new travel policies visit the webpages: Merton Local Offer.

 

Rutlish School wins award for exceptional 2016 results

Rutlish awardRutlish School has been nationally recognised for its exceptional 2016 performance by the Schools, Students and Teachers network (SSAT). Educational Outcomes data analysis from SSAT has shown that the school is in the top 20% of non-selective schools nationally for attainment and progress.

SSAT Educational Outcomes awards will be presented at a regional celebration event held to draw attention to the work of high-achieving, improving and innovating schools and teachers.

Sue Williamson, Chief Executive of SSAT said: "It is my great pleasure to commend Rutlish School on their excellent 2016 performance, and to have the opportunity to highlight and share their great work at an SSAT Educational Outcomes celebration event. We know how hard teachers work to ensure the success of commitment and hard work of the leaders, teachers and students at Rutlish School. A big thank you and well done to the pupils, staff and governors".

SSAT gives fresh ideas to ambitious schools. They help with knowledge of what works in schools, world leading CD and their thriving networks of school leaders and teachers the most extensive in the country. For more information see www.ssatuk.co.uk; press@ssatuk.co.uk.

Merton Volunteer Police Cadets At 2017 Virgin London Marathon!

VPC marathonOn Sunday 23 April, 15 Merton Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) joined 500 other VPCs (and young people from other organisations) on duty as key support crews throughout the route of the 2017 Virgin London Marathon!

After an early parade at Wimbledon police station, the Cadets travelled to a Water Station in Southwark where thousands of water bottles stacked in pallets were set up, ready for Scouts and Cubs to hand out to the tens of thousands of people taking part.

Our Merton VPCs had the job of keeping the area clear of discarded water bottles, which soon pile up throughout the event. After cheering the professional athletes and wheelchair competitors, soon the roads were full of thousands of runners in all sorts of costumes, charity flags, tops and much more!

Cadets worked hard throughout the day to fill six huge white sacks with empty plastic bottles for recycling, ensuring the whole Water Station area remained open & safe for competitors to grab a drink and quick refreshment.

Cadet Jessica aged 14 said “This has been great today, seeing the London Marathon live and knowing we are supporting them!”.

Cadet Savannah aged 15 said “This is one of the best days in Cadets, everyone pulling together to help each other, and it’s been great to cheer on the runners, they’re amazing!”.

Volunteer Cadet Staff Julie (one of our amazing adult leaders who gives up her own time to run Cadet activities and events) said “I am so proud of all our young people today, after a very early start they have all worked so hard! We’ve cleared thousands of water bottles, at one stage it seemed never ending. It’s been brilliant to play a small part supporting this iconic world-famous event, and we can’t wait to come back next time!”

The team were especially pleased to see their Cadet Staff (and Merton PC) Marco, running the Marathon for a children’s charity and completing the distance in a new personal best of 5 hours 30 minutes! Well done Staff Marco (here in blue shirt with the Cadets!)

Over 5000 Volunteer Police Cadets aged 13-18 serve in VPC units across London on all boroughs, taking part in major events like this and making a positive difference in their local communities every week. It’s nothing to do with joining the police (although many do), but is all about giving our young people opportunities, challenges and some great fun along the way, outside of school, college or other activities.

For more information about Merton's Volunteer Police Cadets contact Tim Mann, Merton Youth Engagement & Volunteer Police Cadets; Tim.Mann@met.pnn.police.uk

 

Funded opportunity for schools to become leaders in Anti-Bullying practice

all togetherMerton is working with the Anti-Bullying Alliance throughout 2017 and 2018 to offer schools in the borough the opportunity to become All Together Schools. An All Together School is one that has proven its activity to reduce bullying.

What is All Together and how do we take part?

The All Together programme has been developed over the last three years and builds upon the work of the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s previous SEND anti-bullying champion programme which saw significant positive results. Participating schools are supported on and offline to make whole school change to its anti-bullying practices, using a social model approach.

AB allianceThe programme includes a special focus on reducing bullying of disabled children and those with SEN but aims to reduce bullying of all children and young people.

The programme is funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, with support from the Council for Disabled Children, Contact a Family and Achievement for All.  

This FUNDED offer provides:

  • A CPD-certified workshop where schools will be guided through anti-bullying principles, prevention and response strategies and includes a particular focus on disabled children and those with SEN.
  • Access to the 'All Together Pupil Wellbeing Questionnaire' to allows school to assess and monitor levels of wellbeing and bullying in school.
  • Resources for schools including an innovative and responsive anti-bullying  audit and All Together Action Plan that supports schools to implement and evidence change.
  • Online CPD training for all school staff that includes a module on cyberbullying.

For more information about All Together please go to: www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/get-involved/become-all-together-school

If you want to find out more about the programme in Merton please contact Denise.dyer@,merton.gov.uk

Merton’s young learners are school ready

In Merton we are committed to supporting children in need of early help and those subject to the effects of disadvantage. This is a key priority area included in our Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan.

One key area of work under this priority is to focus on improving our ‘school readiness’ scores for children at the end of their early years education (end of Reception year). ‘School readiness’ is based on the ‘Good Level of Development (GLD)’ performance indicator, and our aim is to ensure that this is in line with the national benchmark.

Academic outcomes for 2015-16 released in Merton’s School Standards Report show that the proportion of pupils achieving a ‘Good Level of Development’ in Merton rose 3.5 percentage points to 71.2%; this is in line with the London and outer London average and above the national average.

Since 2014 (three-year trend), the increase of 11 percentage points has been greater than the improvements seen across London and nationally (9 percentage points). The Average Point Score (APS) for pupils has also risen by 2.5 percentage points – a greater rate than nationally and in London. At 34.7, this is the first time in Merton it is above national and in line with London averages.

Further GLD data highlighted the following outcomes granulated by equalities characteristics and vulnerable groups:

  • Merton girls continue to perform better than boys (78% compared to 65%, respectively) however, the gender gap has narrowed by 1% and nationally the gap is wider.
  • The proportion of children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) achieving the GLD has increased by four percentage points to 59%. Performance of all other pupils also improved at the same rate so the 14% gap remains – nationally, the gap is 18%.
  • Although performance improved in 2016, Merton children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) attained below the national and London averages. The performance of children on SEN Support, in particular, will be a focus of improvement at this phase as it will be across other key stages.
  • Ethnic groups with the largest representation of pupils in Merton’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) outperformed children of the same ethnic heritage nationally. In particular, the proportion of Asian Other children achieving the GLD rose by 5% - greater than the improvement made by all children.

For more information on the outcomes for pupils at all stages see the Merton’s School Standards Report. And for information on early year’s education see: Merton Early Education.

Educating our looked after children

Merton's Virtual School (VS) for Looked After Children (LAC) and Care Leavers, aims to ensure that there are high aspirations for all children and young people in public care and to support and challenge all those who work with them to promote their educational achievement and make sure they reach their potential. This includes children looked after by Merton wherever they access education but also those children looked after by other boroughs attending schools and educational settings in Merton.

As part of Merton’s overall approach to continuous improvement, the VS underwent a peer review process in September 2016, with Barnet and Hounslow local authorities. The focus for the review in Merton was to identify ways to support improved outcomes for looked after children at Key Stage 4, which, although in line with the national averages for LAC, are currently below the Merton averages for all pupils. The process was very useful and the following positives were highlighted:

  • The VS is a highly visible part of the services provided for young people in Merton, and is seen as an important service by others in the local authority.
  • The head teacher is able to work constructively to draw the necessary strands together and link with colleagues from other local authorities and other agencies.
  • The aspirations and priorities of the VS are relevant and appropriate to the needs of LAC in the borough; there are clear strategies of support to achieve them.
  • The VS uses tutors effectively, and the school’s partnership with the SMARTChoice (link to article about this) provision is also making a significant difference to LAC in terms of their outcomes at KS4.
  • Advisory teachers are clearly very influential in their work – whether it is their ability to source appropriate tuition, challenge providers about quality of teaching, develop effective PEPs (personal education plans) or advise foster carers about schools and the education system in general.
  • The VS monitors and analyses outcomes data for LAC, and the school’s leadership is actively exploring ways to gauge the impact of their work at KS4 that goes beyond progress data, numbers of GCSE or other qualifications, and includes wider successes such as destinations, attendance, or improved engagement with education by LAC.

Suggested areas for improvement include:

  • Investigate ways in which the VS can be more closely involved with edge-of-care services; early enough to develop an education presence before the young person moves into care.
  • Explore ways to implement larger projects for the use of pupil premium grant, including ways to measure success for individuals.
  • Further develop ways to support children with SEN; 68% of young people sat their GCSE and 50% of those had an education, health and care plan.
  • Continue to enhance the celebration of our young people’s successes including educational outcomes, destinations, attendance, and engagement with education.
  • Further develop the use of ‘voice of the child’ in improving provision.

For more information on the work of Merton’s Virtual School contact the head teacher: Kathy.goodman@merton.gov.uk.

Creative students put on touring art exhibition

An art exhibition of work created by students with disabilities or learning difficulties has been displayed in Wimbledon and Morden.

The learners studied creative arts on Merton Council’s Towards Independence adult education courses, which are tailored to the needs of people who need additional support with their learning.

Their work was be displayed at Merton Arts Space at Wimbledon Library in Wimbledon Hill Road, Wimbledon, between 23 – 26 May. The exhibition then moved to Merton Civic Centre in London Road, Morden, between 30 May and 2 June.

Merton Council offers a variety of subjects for residents with disabilities or learning difficulties to equip them with the skills they need to live independently in the community including cookery, maths, IT, exercise and horticulture.

Merton Council’s Director of Community and Housing, Simon Williams, said: “Learning new skills can be a vital step towards becoming more independent for people with learning difficulties or disabilities. We have a wide range of adult education courses available which are tailored to the needs of students who may need some extra support.”

New courses start in September in venues around the borough. Applicants will be provided with advice and guidance to find a course which meets their needs.

Find out more: www.merton.gov.uk/adulteducation

Cricket Green Special School - an update

Celia Dawson, the head teacher at Cricket Green Special (CGS) School, gives YMT an overview of a very successful few months.

Primary exhibition

Primary pupils from Cricket Green visited Morden Hall Park and were asked to think about the future of the park and it’s potential for discovery. The pupils used natural materials to create sensory-based pieces of artwork which are specific to them and their experiences of play. The pupils particularly enjoyed the natural playground and the new wetlands walkway and expressed a desire to discover more wildlife, particularly more fish in the river! Pupils would like the future of the playground to offer a sensory experience which is accessible to all. Cricket Green were very excited to give the public an opportunity to view the pupils’ artwork today. Feedback from the public was very positive about the quality of the work.

Joint music project with Ricards Lodge

We are over half way through a new and exciting joint music project with students from Ricards Lodge 6th form. Fourteen CGS students from across Key Stage 3 have been selected to be a part of this group and team up fortnightly with 14 students at Ricards Lodge for this joint project. We started by getting to know each other and listening to songs written and composed by the talented 6th Form students and have progressed to learning performance skills as well as vocal and instrument practice. Our goal is to perform these songs together with the Ricards Lodge students in a CGS school assembly before half term. We are very excited!

CGS art exhibitionShed13 Art Exhibition in Wimbledon Village

Pupils from CGS have been working extremely hard with our resident artist, Dani, in Shed13 and have produced lots of beautiful art pieces. We had a wonderful opportunity to showcases these creations at the Norman Plastow Gallery in Wimbledon Village in an exhibition which ran over 5 days. Several pieces of art work were sold but more importantly the exceptional creative skills and talents of our pupils were showcased for all to see. Well done everyone.

Royal Albert Hall

Last week CGS pupils were fortunate enough to take part in the amazing Merton Music Foundations performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Some pupils were in the massed schools choir, adding their own brand of enthusiasm. We also had performers working with the OAE to create and perform a song. This saw pupils playing instruments and singing, headed up by our amazing soloist Najah. It was a wonderful evening show casing much talent. Well done to everyone involved !!

Pupil Council

Cricket Green school has developed its pupils council this year and added new roles and responsibilities. Working with Mr Jhugroo the meetings link into Governors committee meetings and pupils have attended meetings to give feedback So far the pupils have fed back on work experience, residential trips and the Royal Albert Hall event. They have also carried out joint Learning walks with Governors and fed back on observations. Our Project Search trainees have linked with one Governor to share their hopes and ambitions and carryout mock interviews.

We are always impressed with our pupils commitment to trying new things, even though they might feel nervous. So far this new venture has been well received by Governors who have been overwhelmed by the pupils and students enthusiasm and skills. Much more to come with this venture!!

For more information about Cricket Green Special School see the webpages: www.cricketgreen.merton.sch.uk.

Rutlish School - an update

Rutlish School gives YMT an update on successes this term:

Rutlish Yr 7 football successRutlish win South London Cup Final!

Rutlish School Year 7 football team have won the South London Cup Final!

Year 7 boys from Rutlish School, Merton, had a day to remember as they cruised to a 4-0 victory over Bishop Thomas Grant School, Streatham.

The result never looked in doubt as Rutlish went 2 goals up early. A further goal came before half time and with another early goal at the start of the second half, the result looked comfortable.

A massive congratulations to all the boys who have now completed the double having won the Merton League earlier in the year.

Rutlish pupil secures place on this year’s WE Scholarship trip to India to build a school

Joseph McIntyre, from Rutlish School has successfully secured a place on this year’s WE Scholarship trip to India to help build a school; the trip will take place in August.

This is the second time that a Rutlish pupil has been selected for the scholarship; a former student took part in the programme two years ago. And as well as being a great opportunity for Joe, it is also a reward for the school.

This is a fantastic opportunity as Joe has been selected as one of 30 outstanding students (in the UK) to win this once in a lifetime experience.

WE is a charity that Rutlish as been working with for some years, raising much needed funds for Free the Children. WE is at the centre of empowerment, giving students the opportunities to volunteer to make a change in their communities and the world. 

For more information about the scholarship see the webpages: www.we.org/gb/virgin-atlantic-volunteer-trip/

From Rutlish to SladeRutlish pupil wins place at top art school

One of our former students Woon-Joon Choi has been accepted at the top Art School, The Slade, for his degree course. This is a great achievement for the Rutlish pupil: former students of the Slade include Anthony Gormley and Patrick Heron.

Five hundred students applied for a place and only 20 were chosen. This is a fantastic boost for Rutlish School and especially the Art Department.

For more information about Rutlish School see the website: www.rutlish.merton.sch.uk/ 

Women and Leadership Conference at the Royal Shakespeare Company

RR6 at RSCRicards Lodge High School tells YMT about a group of students who attended the conference in May:

A group of our RR6 A level Drama and Level 3 performing Arts students were among the sixth form students who attended a Women and Leadership conference held in Stratford upon Avon on Monday 8th May. The event was hosted by RSC Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman.

The conference focused on Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra which travels between Rome and Egypt and centres around Cleopatra’s leadership. The conference also went on to explore the role of women as leaders and figureheads in society. The day started with a discussion with Josette Simon who plays Cleopatra and Antony Byrne who plays Mark Antony. The rest of the day was spent in workshops exploring what it means to be a woman in a position of power; and whether or not we value and admire the same qualities in female leaders as we do in male leaders.

The final activity was a panel discussion with Josette Simon actress, Iqbal Khan Director of this production of Antony and Cleopatra, Abigail Rockison-Woodhall from the Shakespeare Institute and our very own Year 12 drama student Davida Afriyie.

Davida was asked her views on 'to what extent does the media have in encouraging women to use their sexual charms to get what they want'; her response was to say that ‘we should be striving for a meritocracy where hard work and merit should enable everyone to reach their potential and put an end to the concept of women having to break through a glass ceiling’. Students then had the opportunity to see the production of Antony and Cleopatra at the RSC’s magnificent Waterside theatre. Alex in Year 12 commented ‘this was a fantastic opportunity to explore one of Shakespeare’s texts in such depth and be able to discuss some of the key themes and issues in the play with other students from other schools’.

To watch the panel discussion in full please go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM8nWmRRnIk

Activities for Merton's young people

Young MertonYoung Merton www.youngmerton.co.uk is packed with information about places to go and things to do for young people in Merton all year round. With details of more than 300 activities from ball sports to street dance, martial arts to music, theatre clubs to youth groups and more, Young Merton brings you plenty of choice to fill your free time.

Lots of information is provided to help you choose what you want to do, including accessibility details for young people with disabilities or special needs.

Find out more www.youngmerton.co.uk

School holiday activities

Merton Active plus bannerDo you work with parents? If so, let them know about the Merton Active Plus holiday courses. Packed full of activities, our courses will keep children busy for hours, giving parents a break during the school holidays!

Booking is open for the next school holiday. For more information including course descriptions, and bookings: http://booking.merton.gov.uk/active-plus

If you would like to run a course in tandem with us for children up to 16, get in touch with an idea and let's see if we can make it happen

Merton's Family Services Directory and SEN Local Offer

FSDThe Merton Family Services Directory and Special Educational Needs Local Offer is available at www.merton.gov.uk/fsd.

The website provides details of a broad range of services for families in Merton. The new site has been built using ‘responsive’ technology, meaning it can be viewed and used easily via smart phones and tablets.

If you are working with families whose first language is not English, you may wish to try the Google Translate button at the bottom of each page of the pages of the site.

If you have any feedback about the information currently included please contact us using the contact form on the site: or by emailing fsd@merton.gov.uk.

Positive contribution

Merton’s Youth Parliament reaches out to Manchester

Following the shocking events in Manchester on Monday 22 May, Merton’s Youth Parliament sent a letter to Manchester, to reach out to their peers following the tragic loss of young lives.

"We are writing to you to send our wishes, thoughts and support as your colleagues, partners and more importantly, your friends here in the London Borough of Merton. We, as Merton Youth Parliament, would like to send our deepest condolences to everyone in Manchester, especially to the young people and those affected by the terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert hosted at the M.E.N Arena on the night of Monday 22 May. 

The concert that took place should have been a place without fear, or even the thought of such a horrendous act, the barbarity that was shown wasn't aimed at young people but was taken out on us because of the twisted and sickening thoughts of someone who represents no one but his own selfishness.

These events should never take place, let alone be witnessed by anyone, least of all the youngest in our society. Whilst it is in times like these that darkness and hatred are spread, we can live in the hope that after all is said and done, the young people in Manchester and the United Kingdom will lead the way and show the world how we stand together for a brighter and safer future. As you may know London recently experience such atrocities and as a wider city we came out stronger than before, we see this sense of solidarity repeated in Manchester across the news and on social media.

Our next meeting will be opened with 2 minutes of silence for all those affected by the events of Monday night.  We will reflect on the importance of our roles as young people's representatives in times of adversity.

We wish you every strength and thought as you begin to move forward as a city of young people."

 

Merton’s youngsters influence key decision makers

Merton’s ‘User Voice Strategy end of year review 2016/17' gives a detailed overview of activities undertaken through the year, by our Children’s Trust services, to ensure that children, young people and families views, wishes and feelings are central to practice and inform developments in service systems and processes.

A key commitment that we have made to young people, through the strategy, is to ensure that we provide a range of participation opportunities for them to be able to influence decision makers in the borough. This year’s review of activity highlights the following achievements in this area of our work:

We have launched the new dedicated Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service, whose new strategy aims to modernise our existing ‘participation promise’; implement a structure to increase the accessibility of participation opportunities; deliver guidance and training to the borough’s youth organisations to ensure that they deliver ‘ethical and meaningful’ participation; and improve evaluation and quality assurance processes to ensure the continuous improvement of participation activity across the borough.

Through a range of young people’s forums/groups, including - Merton Youth Parliament, Young Inspectors, Pollard’s Hill Youth Committee, and school based ‘pupil voice’ activities - youth led conferences; and ‘positive activities’ groups including Merton Police Cadets - Merton’s young people have influenced a range of issues which affect youngsters lives. Notable participation activity includes:

  • Developing the Merton Youth Parliament (MYP) constitution, and the local strategy for the wider participation of children and young people.
  • Taking part and winning the mental health debate competition held at Facebook headquarters.
  • Contributing ideas for the development of a new health and community campus in Mitcham.
  • Delivering the HealthFest conference to promote health and well-being.
  • Informing the tendering, commissioning and recruitment process for Merton’s Risk and Resilience Service.
  • Feeding back on the new design of the 'Getting it on' website which gives information on sexual health and drugs and alcohol services for teenagers in South West London.
  • Undertaking training, delivered by Public health, to complete a review of local take away food outlets.
  • Leading on decision making for Pollard’s Hill Youth Centre.
  • Delivering a conference supporting the emotional health and well-being of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus) young people.
  • Shaping teaching and learning improvement action plans for individual schools in the borough.
  • Taking part in European Union and United Nations ‘parallel’ conferences for pupils
  • Merton Police Cadets supported Merton’s 16 Days against Domestic Violence event, providing “front of house” meet and greet, and welcoming guest. Through a range of research, consultations and surveys this year young people have told us the following, which will be used to inform a number of key strategic action plans
  • The top three solutions to supporting children to lead healthier lives are (Merton Great Weight Debate): Less marketing and advertising of high fat and sugary food and drink; Cheaper healthy food and drink; Support for families to cook healthier food.
  • They have a clear vision for the development of the new community health campus in Mitcham (at the Wilson), as a welcoming, accessible place, with a sense of community, which supports the diverse needs of local people. (East Merton Community Conversation).

For more information on the work of the Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service contact the manager: Chelsea.renehan@merton.gov.uk.

 

A word from our children in care council

Merton's children's services work hard to support the participation of children in care and care leavers to ensure that they are involved in the decision making process related to the services which they receive.

As part of this, Merton’s Looked After Children (LAC) and Care Leavers continue to be represented by the Children in Care Council (CiCC), a formal group consisting of young people who are regularly consulted on how to improve the services and support that LAC and Care Leavers receive.

The CiCC act as:

  • A forum for developing ideas and projects that aim to improve the lives of children
  • and young people in care and leaving care.
  • A lobbying group to influence change in services accessed by children and young
  • people in care and leaving care
  • A consultation group for managers and policy-makers in the design, delivery and
  • evaluation of projects and services.
  • A forum for feeding back to Corporate Parenting Panel.
  • An opportunity to meet other young people in care and care leavers and make friends

Membership

The CiCC is open to ALL children and young people in care and leaving care and meets once a month. CiCC member’s responsibilities include:

  • Representing the views of children and young people who are looked after by Merton Council, or are leaving care.
  • Advising managers and policy makers about the design, delivery and evaluation of projects and services.
  • Lobbying and campaigning to influence change in services accessed by children and young people in care and leaving care.
  • Raising awareness of the rights of children and young people in care and leaving care, and of what it’s really like growing up in the care system.

CiCC members would need to commit around 2 hours per month. This commitment includes attending meetings, the completion of accreditation and checking and responding to emails or texts.

At the last CiCC meeting young people discussed a range of issues with Merton’s lead member for children’s services, which she committed to discussing with other councillors and at the next meeting of the council's Corporate Parenting Group, and then feeding back to a further CiCC meeting:

  • Housing - the process for accessing semi-independent and independent housing, and related issues.
  • Education - support for transition from GCSE to A' levels.
  • Health - ideas on supporting access to health services.
  • Performance management of LAC and care leaver services - this should go beyond data, and include the personal stories of children and young people.

For more information about the children in care council contact the lead officer: stuart.barker@merton.gov.uk.

A voice for parents of children with SEN and Disabilities

Mencap logo newMerton’s Forum for parents of children and young people with disabilities or special needs, Kids First, is one of the longest running forums and has one of the largest memberships of its kind in London. The forum is a project run by local charity Merton Mencap.

The forum produces its own termly newsletter for members and practitioners. The content of the newsletter is guided by requests from members for information and advice. Articles include contributions from a range of teams in the local authority, including the Local Offer Team, the Information and Advice Service for SEND, the Language and Learning Service, Short Breaks as well as local and national support organisations.

Download a copy of the Kids First newsletter Spring 2017.

 

Supporting youngsters to build resilience and manage risk

One of the key priority areas of work included in Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan is to ‘engage and enable young people to achieve better outcomes’. A key area of work under this priority is to ensure that our young people have timely access to substance misuse and sexual health advice and/or referrals for specialist services, and to deliver risk and resilience education via targeted workshops in schools and youth provision.

Merton’s Risk and Resilience Service moved into its second delivery year in April 2016/17 and we continue to offer commissioning support and challenge with regard to delivery of services, through regular meetings and on-going monitoring. In their first year, the service achieved 90% of their key performance indicators, with four on target and 76% over-achievement.

The main achievements for the service in their first year included:

  • Meaningful contact with 625 young people through detached youth work, with over 160 engaged on three or more occasions.
  • Delivery of a range of diversionary activity courses including cooking and education, football courses, martial arts programmes and boxercise.
  • Utilisation of the detached Urbie Bus to deliver both daytime and evening prevention and support activities.
  • Trained and engaged 16 volunteers to enhance delivery of prevention and detached youth activity.
  • Increased take-up of registration and repeat access to the C-Card scheme (out performing repeat visits target by 159%, and increasing first time registrations by 110% and repeats by 253% on the previous years’ activity).
  • Delivery of almost 150 sex and relationships education (SRE), and drug and alcohol education (DAE) targeted workshops, in education and youth settings, and offered support to almost 200 parents including in-depth support to 26 parents.
  • Provided over 560 opportunistic alcohol brief interventions with children and young people
  • Provided advice and consultancy regarding substance use and sexual health to over 100 professionals and delivery of training to an additional 225 professionals.
  • Engaged just under 100 (new referrals) young people aged 24 and under in comprehensive treatment interventions.
  • 100% of young people going through treatment met their care planned goals at exit and less than 5% re-presented to the treatment service after 6 months.
  • The percentage of young people (who completed treatment) where substance misuse has reduced or are drug free was 100%.

This year, an in-depth commissioning review of under 18s substance misuse treatment demonstrated that while numbers of young people entering treatment are declining, the service has enabled those with the highest vulnerability and needs to access and benefit from it.

Referrals from the Youth Justice Service have declined significantly, but through effective partnership working, the service has increased referrals from other sources of support. Headline information produced by the National Drug Treatment Service also confirms this picture.

For more information on the Risk and Resilience approach in Merton and the work of Merton’s Commissioning Team contact the Head of Service: Leanne.wallder@merton.gov.uk.

 

 

Merton welcomes first refugee family to London through the Community Sponsorship programme

Yvette Stanley, Merton's Director of Children's Services, wrote the following article which was published in a recent edition of the Local Government Chronicle: 

In February 2017 the London Borough of Merton became the first Council in London to help welcome a Syrian refugee family under the Government’s Community Sponsorship Programme.

Modelled on a successful Canadian scheme, it is the community that undertake to resettle the family with the support of public agencies rather than the other way around. In our case we have worked closely with The Salvation Army to support their application to resettle a family in Merton. A key factor for us has been that The Salvation Army are housing the family for two years – a major plus for a London borough with high demand for social housing.

We have supported The Salvation Army’s application every step of the way. I’ve been really impressed by their commitment and willingness to anticipate the families needs. The family have been living in a refugee camp in the Lebanon for several years. As well as the trauma of having to flee their home country, the family have significant medical needs and the children have had a sporadic education.

As the Council lead, I have co-ordinated the Council and statutory partners support to The Salvation Army and the family. This has included vetting their accommodation, finding school places for the children, provision of language classes, establishing links with the CCG, sorting out benefits, liaising with the police about any potential community tensions and looking at employment options in the longer term. This has meant that everything has been put in place ahead of the family’s arrival in the UK.

The process for becoming a Community Sponsor has not been an easy one – this is the third family to be welcomed under Community Sponsorship in the country, Lambeth Palace having been the first. The Home Office have carefully vetted The Salvation Army and there has been a detailed application form to complete, including stringent safeguarding policies, and risk assessment. Ultimately, we have agreed to step in if in the unlikely event The Salvation Army could no longer support the family. It should also be borne in mind that The Salvation Army have agreed to provide housing support for two years. It remains to be seen whether by this stage the family will be able to secure their own accommodation without further support.

What has impressed me in particular about the scheme is how The Salvation Army have taken the lead in co-ordinating community support for the family drawing on the expertise and resources within their own congregation ranging from a retired GP to a local builder as well as the wider voluntary sector.

We have found this model has worked well for us. In our borough there is a great deal of good will and practical offers of community support. What the scheme has done is ensure that this is pulled together by a local community organisation, with the Council coordinating a range of public sector services.

Although you might think that this is a lot of effort for one family we think that what we have done can be replicated elsewhere. We are planning a briefing session with our local authority neighbours and with other local voluntary organisations who are interested in the scheme. We think it provides a good blueprint for the public and community sectors working together. It channels the best of what each sector can offer and offers the chance of a new life for a family who have experienced years of uncertainty in a UN camp.

For more information on the Community Sponsorship Programme see the Government webpages: www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-full-community-sponsorship 

First LGBT youth club opens in Merton

A youth club for people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has opened its doors in Merton.

The club, which is aimed at 13-19 year-olds, is the first of its kind in the borough offering a safe space for young people to meet and, if necessary, seek advice and support.

rainbow

The club successfully bid for a grant of nearly £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All initiative and has the backing of Merton Council which is actively involved in tackling discrimination and hate crime against members of the LGBT community.

Chris Lee, Director of Environment and Regeneration for Merton Council, said: “It is important young people have a place to go where they feel safe and can share their experiences.

“The club welcomes any young people who have and haven’t come out and meets every fortnight at the Endeavour Youth club in Martin Way.”

For more information about the club and additional activities and events, go to www.mertonlgbtforum.org.uk  

Download a copy of the most recent LGBT Merton Spring 2017 newsletter.

Merton and Wandsworth Cadets out on Army Exercise Weekend role playing as civilians and casualties in attacks!

VPC army exerciseOn Friday 5 May – Sunday 7 May, a team of Merton and Wandsworth Volunteer Police Cadets had privilege of taking part in a unique and dynamic military exercise weekend at Longmoor Barracks in Hampshire.

Throughout the weekend, units from the Royal Logistics Corps (151 Regiment and 210 Logistics Squadron) with 157 Detachment Army Cadet Force and others ran a series of exercises and events simulating Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA).

Our Cadets role-played civilians, casualties and non-combatants in houses and streets coming under military action. They adopted their roles with enthusiasm and vigour, throughout day and night operations, attacks and defensive operations!

PC Jojo Duffy, Merton VPC Leader, said “This has been an amazing weekend which has really pushed our Cadets, but everyone has stepped up and given 100%, I am very proud of them!”

Head Cadet Amy said “This is completely different to anything we’ve done before, we have learnt a lot. It’s been great to see how our Army colleagues operate and see the kit they use. I even got medically evacuated to a helicopter whilst role-playing an injured civilian!”

This was a great joint exercise between our two uniformed services, and one we definitely look forward to repeating again!

https://www.facebook.com/search/posts/?q=merton%20police

For more information about Merton's Volunteer Police Cadets contact Tim Mann, Merton Youth Engagement & Volunteer Police Cadets; Tim.Mann@met.pnn.police.uk

Economic well-being

Loan Sharks' money confiscated and used to sponsor credit union accounts

A NEW INCENTIVE has been launched in Merton as part of a scheme to encourage residents to start saving and warn them of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks. The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are working in partnership with CMS Credit Union to promote saving and highlight the legal alternatives to loan sharks available when borrowing money.

A joint initiative will see the team use proceeds of crime money, confiscated from convicted loan sharks, to sponsor new credit union accounts.

The first 50 people to join CMS Credit Union and save £10 per month for three consecutive months, will be awarded with a £25 savings boost straight into their credit union account.

This new incentive will encourage Merton residents to get into the habit of saving regularly and will prevent more people from having to turn to a loan shark to borrow money in an emergency.

Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the National Illegal Money Lending Team said:

“We are pleased to be working with CMS Credit Union to launch this new incentive, which will see loan sharks cash being put to good use, to sponsor new credit union accounts.

“We would always urge residents to look at borrowing money from safer and legal alternatives, such as their local credit union instead of using a loan shark.

“If you or someone you know has been a victim of a loan shark, the team are here to help on 0300 555 2222. Your call will be handled by a trained IMLT officer and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence.”

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Loan sharks often target low income and desperate families and act as though they are providing a community service by lending money to struggling individuals.

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt. Many loan sharks will resort to bullying tactics, such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment.

Michael Wilson, Manager at CMS Credit Union, said:

“CMS Credit Union have teamed up with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness of the services that both organisations provide in order to support the local community.

“This incentive will invite new members to save and borrow ethically with a credit union; a legal and safer alternative to using loan sharks. This incentive will mean that new members will be awarded with a further boost to their savings after they have saved for the required period of 3 months.”

For more information on how to become a member of CMS Credit Union, call 020 8760 5711 or visit the website www.croydonplus.co.uk. Alternatively, residents can drop-in to speak to an advisor at Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden, SM4 5DX on Wednesdays between 10am and 2pm. 

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 378 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 325 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £71.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 26,500 people.

To report a loan shark: Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222; text a report to 078600 22116; visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk; e-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uksend a private message us www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

The National Illegal Money Lending Team deliver training to local authorities and community groups across the country. Please download a copy of the slides used at a training session delivered to staff at a community organisation in Merton: Illegal Money Lending: a short guide. In addition they produce a regular newsletter:  Stop Loan Sharks newsletter.

 

Merton's children's centre services

Our children’s centres offer services for parents and carers from pregnancy through to the end of their child’s reception year at school.

We provide a range of drop-ins and bookable programmes supporting your child’s learning and development, including baby massage for first-time parents, speech and language and parenting programmes and support for families with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

We also work closely with our midwifery and health visiting partners. Antenatal and postnatal clinics, development checks and weaning support are delivered though the centres, along with drop-in child health clinics.

Download the Children’s Centre Services Timetable and Service Information booklet

For details of eligibility and bookings for programmes, please speak to a member of children's centre staff, your health visitor or other practitioner who is working with you and your child.

Apprenticeship participation increases in Merton

One of the key priority areas of work included in Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan is to ‘narrow the gap in educational outcomes and opportunity’. One aspect of this work involves continuing to strengthen partnership arrangements, for example with employers and work based learning providers, to expand pathways and opportunities for young people including apprenticeships, and to make apprenticeships more accessible. This work is driven by Merton’s Economic Well-Being Group, including apprenticeship providers.

Compared to our statistical neighbours (boroughs who are considered to be similar to Merton in terms of a range of demographic indicators) Merton has achieved the 5th greatest percentage increase since 2015 in young people, in the 16-18 academic age group, participating in education and training through apprenticeships. This means that we are now ranked as 4th for apprenticeship participation for this age group, amongst our statistical neighbours; this is above the London average.

Our work continues to focus on improving the proportion of 16-17 year olds participating in education and training through apprenticeships. While rates of participation have improved to 3.2% in 2016 from 1.7% in 2014, this is below the London and national rates.

For more information contact Merton’s head of service for Education Inclusion: keith.shipman@merton.gov.uk.

 

Merton supports all children to access education

One of the key priority areas of work included in Merton’s Children and Young People’s plan is to ‘narrow the gap in educational outcomes and opportunity’. One aspect of this is to ensure that we manage the commissioning of appropriate Key Stage 4 educational provision for young people who are new to Merton, and who have English as an additional language. We are committed to ensuring that these young people, who are often ‘in year’ applicants for a school place, are supported to access appropriate full time education.

SMARTChoice is an alternative education provision commissioned by Merton and based at St. Mark’s Academy, which accommodates pupils in Key Stage 4 who require support accessing education taught in English. Learners enter the programme at various points in the academic year with different experiences of education; some having had no formal prior education.

During this academic year (2016/17) all of the 25 young people currently accessing the programme have been entered for qualifications ranging from ESOL Entry Level 1 to GCSE Double Science, and between them they are expected to attain over seven GCSEs in modern foreign languages. Also, current Year 11s have secured post-16 education, employment or training (EET) offers.

In addition to this year’s success, one hundred per cent of last year’s cohort progressed to education, employment and training destinations which included the St. Mark’s post-16 ESOL course.

Merton’s Admissions Team work hard to ensure that, where learners are suitable for the SMART Choice programme, a swift referral is made as soon as an application for a school place comes into the team. This year, the rate of referral achieved was on average, one day, with seventy-six per cent made on the same day. On average, learners enrol onto SMART Choice within 10 schools days of the local authority receiving an application for a school place.

For more information on the provision of Alternative Education in Merton contact the head of service for Education Inclusion: keith.shipman@merton.gov.uk.

 

Merton Cadets visit National Police Air Service

VPC helicopterThe Merton Volunteer Police Cadets team recently visited the National Police Air Service (NPAS) and learned a lot about the unit’s work helicopter policing and much more.

After a briefing on the flightline and safety checks, the Cadets met Air Observers and learned about the diverse role and work of NPAS across the UK.

They saw film of active pursuits, foot chases and lives being saved, where the police helicopter was vital to ground units in making arrests and gathering crucial evidence.

During the presentations, the air crew suddenly received an urgent call to respond to an incident in central London. The Cadets saw first-hand the rapid response and take-off from the flight line, as the helicopter took off and disappeared into the distance.

They were then allowed into the control facility, where via heli-cam live feed, they saw the aircraft rapidly arrive above an active crime scene, identify a suspect and liaise with PCs on the ground to make an arrest.

Cadet Molly aged 16 said “So much happened in such a short time – they took off, getting updates all the way on the radios, then we saw the suspects being arrested and scene secured all from the air. Amazing job by the police officers and air crew”.

Volunteer Cadet Leader Julie said “This has really opened our eyes to the complex and demanding job our colleagues do, and seeing inside the helicopter, with so much tech in a small area, I really admire what they do. Thank you NPAS for an amazing day, and all you do for units on the ground!”

For more information about Merton's Volunteer Police Cadets contact Tim Mann, Merton Youth Engagement & Volunteer Police Cadets; Tim.Mann@met.pnn.police.uk

 

Employability courses for adults

There are a number of new training courses for Merton residents based at the New Horizon Centre, South Lodge Avenue, Pollards Hill CR4 1LT. These are delivered in partnership with Groundwork London, as part of the 'employability' aspect of Merton Adult education.

Download the information flyers for full details:

There is also a Home-Start project:

  • Encouraging healthy eating habits for the under-5s - cook and eat.

For more information on the work of the Commonside Trust at the New Horizon Centre contact the Director Naomi Martin: Naomi@commonside.net

South west London recovery cafes

South west London recovery cafes which provide therapeutic support for people with mental health difficulties.

Their aim is to support people to reduce their immediate crisis and anxiety, to safety plan, draw on strengths, resilience and coping mechanisms to reduce the need to use mental health crisis services in the future.

This is a useful out of hours service where people can be supported in coping with mental health issues within the community.  

If you would like more information you can contact Debbie Barnard: info@sunshinerecovercafe.org (Wimbledon) or Elvio Correia recoverycafe@hestia.org (Tooting).

For more information download the Recovery café flyer.

Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth

CABCAB Merton and Lambeth tell YMT about their My mate Al service:

My Mate Al is our service aimed specifically at young people. We have help to assist young people to access the information and advice that they need.

My Mate AI provides advice by telephone on 0344 243 8430 and via web chat & email at www.mlcab.org.uk .

The service runs alongside our normal information and advice services and is delivered by our younger volunteers (16-26 years). It is free, confidential, independent and impartial.

Please let us know if you would like some publicity and marketing materials by contacting samantha.richardson@mertoncab.org.uk

Service management and partnerships

Children, Schools and Families Department Staff forums

These meetings are an opportunity for all staff in Merton's CSF Department for discussion and networking with additional workshops for any key issues arising. They are held quarterly in March, June, September, and December.

All meetings will be held at 1.30-4.30pm, in the Main Hall at the Chaucer Centre, Canterbury Road SM4 6PX.

For details of upcoming meetings contact Malini Hoezoo, Policy Officer, 020 8545 4096; malini.hoezoo@merton.gov.uk.

Presentations from the latest meeting are accessible to Merton's CSF Department staff at: http://intranet/children_schools_and_families_dept-newpage-13

Merton’s Children’s Services Procedures Manual

Merton’s Children’s Services Procedures Manual is the online resource which holds Merton’s policies and procedures relevant to social care activities. The manual can be accessed here:

Merton Children's Services Procedures Manual

The manual can be accessed through the internet link above and also via the intranet home page (for Merton Council Staff only) under the ‘More popular pages’ dropdown in Useful Links. It may also be useful to create a direct link as a shortcut on your desktop for easy access.

Please note that if you already have an icon on your desktop or have it in your ‘Favourites’, then the link will need to be refreshed (right click on the existing link and then click ‘refresh’).

Training and events

Children's Workforce Induction 2017

The Merton Children's Trust hosts Children's Workforce Induction Training. This is an opportunity for any new staff to develop an understanding of Merton's approach to integrated, multi-agency working with children, young people and families. Scheduled sessions are as follows:

These are open to all new members of staff from any statutory, community, voluntary, private or independent organisation in Merton working with children, young people and families.

If you would like to book a place please send an email stating which session you would like to attend, your name, job title, the agency you work for and your manager's name to childrensworkforce@merton.gov.uk. For information and enquiries please call 0208 545 3867.

Merton Safeguarding Children Board Training Programme

MSCB logoThe Merton Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) Training Programme is available to all MSCB member agencies, the voluntary sector and independent sector agencies working with children, young people and their families in Merton.

The training courses aim to improve knowledge, skills and competencies within safeguarding practice. Courses are FREE to Merton statutory, voluntary and faith organisations. The fee for private organisations or organisations based outside the borough of Merton is £75 per delegate for each course booked.

The training programme and online booking is available here.

There are also e-learning courses available for those who cannot make the training courses in child protection, child development and e-safety. These can be booked here.

Enquiries about the MSCB training should be made to, Merton SCB Training Section, 4th Floor, Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX; 020 8545 4866; mertonlscb@merton.gov.uk

National training and events

Child Protection in the Digital World

For more information on this training, on 9 July, delivered by the Public Policy Exchange see the webpage: Child Protection in the Digital World.
 

Children's services conferences and training

For information on conferences and training for those working in children's services visit: www.capitaconferences.co.uk/public-sector-conferences/childrens-services, or email: Dave.Eastman@Capita.co.uk

National consultations

Government consultations relating to children and young people

This page of the www.gov.uk website lists all government consultations related to children and young people.

You can also access government consultations on all other topics

Continuous Improvement

Merton's children's services shaped by users

Merton’s Children’s Trust User Voice Strategy 2014-16 implements one of the core ambitions of Merton’s Children’s Trust – Demonstrating that the views and ambitions of children and young people have informed and improved our service offer.

Under the strategy we provide an annual review of activity with a focus on that which has had a positive impact on practice, and on service developments within Merton’s children’s services.

The 'User Voice Strategy end of year review 2016/17' demonstrates that we are able, again this year, to report on user voice activity which has involved each of the vulnerable cohorts identified as priorities in the Children and Young People’s Plan. And, we are also able to include an overview of how other Children’s Trust services - Public Health, CAMHS, Central London Community Health Trust, schools, the Police, and commissioned services - have embedded ‘user voice’ into their work to ensure that children, young people and their families’ voices inform how support is planned and delivered.

All service areas across Merton’s Children, Schools and Families Department, have committed to and undertaken user voice activity during 2016/17, under the five commitments detailed in the User Voice Strategy 2014-16. To follow is a summary of progress this year under each of the five commitments:

Ongoing practice approach expected of all practitioners to put children’s wishes and feelings at the centre of decision making and planning

This year we have further embedded our commitment to ensure that, through their everyday practice, practitioners and managers put children’s and families’ wishes and feelings at the centre of decision making and planning about their care. We have formulated and embedded ‘Merton’s Practice Model for Social Work’ along with a programme of skills training in methods which facilitate this approach, which aims to deliver services which are child and family led and responsive to the needs of the people they serve. In addition, we have refreshed our Quality Assurance Framework which aims to evaluate and continuously improve the ‘practice model’, supporting the development of ‘a culture which values learning from frontline practice and the lived experiences of children and families’.

Through a range of processes - children and families participation in the Child Protection Conference process support by 'Signs of Safety; young people's participation in LAC reviews through the new 'Merton Model of LAC reviews', and through the support of the commissioned advocacy services; support for families who are going through the Education, Health and Care Plan process - we have ensured a child and family centre approach to everyday practice.

Providing opportunities for children and young people to influence key decision makers.

This year, our commitment to providing a range of participation opportunities for all children and young people has been further enhanced by the launch of the new dedicated Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service. The service has implemented a new strategy which will modernise our existing ‘participation promise’, implement a structure to increase the accessibility of participation opportunities, deliver guidance and training to the borough’s youth organisations to ensure that they deliver ‘ethical and meaningful’ participation, and improve evaluation and quality assurance processes to ensure the continuous improvement of participation activity across the borough.

Through a range of young people’s forums/groups, including - Merton Youth Parliament, Young Inspectors, Pollard’s Hill Youth Committee, and school based ‘pupil voice’ activities - youth led conferences; and ‘positive activities’ groups including Merton Police Cadets - Merton’s young people have influenced a range of issues which affect youngsters lives. And, through a range of research, consultations and surveys this year young people have raised issues and fed back ideas which are being used to inform a number of key strategic action plans.

Understand what our feedback from users is telling us to continuously improve services.

This year our commitment to enabling children, young people and families who are users of children’s services, to influence improvements to systems, has been further embedded. A dedicated Participation Manager is now in place to support a range of opportunities for looked after children (LAC) and care leavers. And, we have drafted a ‘Participation Framework for Commissioned Services’ which will increase the capacity of our commissioned services to implement, monitor and evaluate their user voice activity, ensuring that it has a positive impact on the young people they support.

Through a range of user forums (including the Children in Care Council, Young People’s Group for LAC and Care Leavers, Youth Justice Youth Board, Transforming Families parent forum and the Merton Kids First Forum); consultations and surveys; satisfaction feedback processes; and taking part in recruitment and training processes, we have ensured that users are central to informing developments in children's services systems and processes.

Publish and share our feedback findings across the children’s workforce.

This year, our commitment to publish and share our feedback findings across the children’s workforce has been enhanced by broadening our information gathering on user voice activity, to all parts of the Children’s Trust – Merton Public Health, CAMHS, the community health provider, schools, Police, and commissioned services - and ensuring that this information is included in all reporting activity.

This year, an average of 8-10 articles on user voice activity have been included in each of the bi-monthly editions of Young Merton Together online magazine which published for all organisations in the borough working with children and young people. Articles cover all types of user voice activity including practice, young people’s participation, and children’s services user feedback. The aim is to ensure that learning from user voice activity is shared and used to inform service planning and delivery across all services.

Demonstrate to those who participate in user voice activity the impact of their involvement.

Throughout the year we have continued to ‘complete the feedback loop to those who participate in user voice activities’ by sharing with participants who share their views, what has happened to their input. Notable examples of this include: the online published results from the Children’s Centres community consultation, and the new service offer; foster carer recruitment events which involve foster carers sharing their experience of being a foster carer; South West London Adoption Consortium newsletter which regularly includes feedback from adopters on their experiences; the Merton’s Kids First newsletter which includes articles on the outcomes of participation meetings and events; and the Project Search employment and training programme newsletter written by the young participants of the programme, who feedback information about their successes and challenges.

In addition, we have continued to ensure that service users have access to complaints processes in order for us to address their individual concerns, and to make any necessary changes to improve the experience of services for all users. Examples of this include Merton’s Children’s Schools and Families Department quarterly complaints reports which are analysed by senior managers to inform priorities for developments in practice and process. And, CLCH’s dedicated Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) which provides information, support and signposting to help to resolve any concerns highlighted by users.

For more information on Merton's approach to 'user voice' contact the Head of Service for Policy, Planning and Performance: naheed.chaudhry@merton.gov.uk.

 

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