Venue: County Hall, Worcester
Contact: Alyson Grice/Samantha Morris Overview & Scrutiny Officers
Apologies and Welcome
Apologies were received from Mr B Allbut, Mrs R L Dent and Mr P M McDonald.
Additionally, apologies were received from Ms C Driscoll, Director of Children, Families and Communities and Mr M J Hart, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills.
Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Head of Legal and Democratic Services in writing or by e-mail indicating the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 15 November 2018). Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.
Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 14 September 2018 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Cabinet Members with Responsibility for Children and Families, and Education and Skills, the Assistant Directors for Social Work Safeguarding Services, and Early Help and Commissioning, and the Head of Financial Management had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on the 2018/19 budget position.
In the course of the discussion, the following main points were made:
· Members were reminded that the focus of this discussion would be on the 2018/19 budget for the 6 months to the end of September (end of period 6). Proposals for the 2019/20 budget would be presented to the Panel in January.
· Following an overspend in 2017/18, an additional £10.5 million had been included in the budget to cover Children's Social Care placements and to increase safeguarding staff capacity. An additional £0.4 million was also invested in children's Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) transport.
· The forecast outturn for the end of period 6 predicted an overspend of just over £1 million. Predicted overspends in the budgets for Placements and Provision, and Home to School and College Transport were highlighted.
· A question was asked about the 7% underspend in Targeted Family Support. It was confirmed that this was a one-off saving as a result excellent work by contract management colleagues, which had resulted in some staff being brought back in house. A locality model was now being developed with each district having a manager and 6 targeted family support workers. Each team would have capacity to work with approximately 100 families. Work was now ongoing to obtain data to allow teams to focus their resources on those families where officers could make most difference.
· It was confirmed that the increasing cost of placements and provision was not due to increasing numbers of children coming into care. Post-Ofsted there had been a rise in referrals and the Authority had more children in care than would be expected for an authority of its type. It had been difficult to get a baseline figure, as comparisons with previous years were not easy. However, the number of new children coming into care was now reducing and it was expected that this would reduce further once a good quality edge of care service was in place.
· Currently 45% of children in care had come into care in 2015 or before. Children who had been in care for this length of time were less likely to leave, as they were settled in stable long-term placements. However, for new children the focus was on achieving a timely turnaround. Members were informed that court proceedings had been massively speeded up and, according to national data, the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Local Family Justice Board was the top performing Board. This was an indicator of the quality of work done by social workers as courts would not accept paperwork if was not of good quality.
· Members were informed that for the first 6 months of this year, the County Council had dealt with 15 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children compared with 13 for ... view the full minutes text for item 344.
To accommodate the availability of the Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families, the Chairman agreed to alter the order of the agenda items. Agenda item 7 (Worcestershire Children First) would be taken next, followed by Agenda item 6 (Children's Social Care Service – Ofsted Monitoring Visit Feedback).
The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families and the Assistant Director of Families, Communities and Partnerships had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on developments relating to Worcestershire Children's First (WCF), an Alternative Delivery Model (ADM) for Children's Services.
By way of introduction, the Assistant Director of Families, Communities and Partnerships made the following points:
· The original statutory direction to set up an ADM had focused on Children's Social Care.
· In March 2018 Cabinet had decided to develop a wholly owned council Company as the chosen delivery model.
· Since April 2018, the programme had entered the implementation phase with an agreed go live date of October 2019.
· Cabinet had met the day before to note the proposal to broaden the scope of services and responsibility to be transferred to WCF to include education services and the commissioning of community health services (subject to agreement from Worcestershire's Clinical Commissioning Groups).
Members were given the opportunity to ask questions and the following main points were made:
· With reference to the commissioning of community health services, the Chairman suggested that this should be considered by the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
· In response to a question about the future role of scrutiny, Members were informed that further detailed work would now be needed. The context had changed and there was an opportunity to bring together services to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children. This brought together the wider improvement agenda including children's social care, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and broader education provision. Although the economies of scale would allow a more efficient use of resources, this was a secondary consideration. The main driver was to do the best for children and young people.
· It was confirmed that WCF would still launch on 1 October 2019, with a phased in shadow period from 1 April 2019.
· The programme plan was likely to include the same workstreams but with increased volumes of work.
· It was confirmed that no appointment had been made following the recent recruitment process for a Chairman of WCF. The recruitment would now be repeated and it was confirmed that the revised specification was likely to make reference to the increased scope. It was confirmed that this was a DfE appointed role. The function of Director of Children's Services would move to the new Company and would be a dual role of Chief Executive and DCS.
· Although certain reserved matters would remain with WCC as outlined in the appendix to the Cabinet report, WCF would have operational independence on a day-to-day basis.
· It was confirmed that there would be regular reporting to Scrutiny of performance information as the Council would remain accountable for performance. It ... view the full minutes text for item 345.
The Assistant Director Social Work Safeguarding Services had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the outcome of Ofsted's sixth monitoring visit of the Council's children's safeguarding services, which took place on 2 and 3 October. The visit had focused on children in care up to the age of 16.
The Panel received a presentation. By way of introduction, the Assistant Director made the following main points:
· At the time of the Ofsted inspection in 2016, there was a need to improve performance for all children in all parts of the Service. It was now 18 months into the implementation of the Service Improvement Plan (SIP) and the Service was making progress that had not been seen before from such a position of breadth and depth of inadequacy.
· The SIP was reviewed in the light of KPIs and Ofsted feedback. It was confirmed that the SIP would be retained once the service moved to Worcestershire Children (WCF) and reviewed as necessary.
· There were now 5 key workstreams:
A. Supporting and developing our workforce
B. Voice of the child
C. Enhancing our multi-agency partnerships
D. Edge of care
E. Placements for children in care – sufficiency duty
· Workstream C would involve engaging with colleagues in health, schools and the police via the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) and other forums.
· Workstream D included looking at all different levels of need to provide support to avoid children coming into care.
· With reference to Workstream E, it was important to ensure that children were matched as well as possible. This Workstream provided the biggest financial challenge.
Members were given the opportunity to ask questions and the following main points were raised:
· Members were reminded that the approach to service improvement had been to focus on all areas at the same time. Once an area had seen improvement, this should become business as usual. It was important to ensure the sustainability of what had been achieved.
· The Chairman of the Panel expressed concern that schools were increasingly finding that referrals made to social care were being referred back as they were not meeting the criteria for intervention. Schools were concerned that they did not have the capacity to deal with this. The Assistant Director agreed that there may need to be honest and challenging conversations between partners and she understood that some schools had capacity issues. She went on to inform Members that there was a much improved picture in terms of the relationship between referrals to the Family Front Door and which cases went forward for assessment.
· The next Ofsted Monitoring visit would take place on 8 and 9 January 2019 and would focus on Early Help. An Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services (ILACS) was expected to take place in May or June 2019.
· In response to a question about the permanency of social work staff, Members were informed that the Authority was performing better than other authorities locally. With reference to the Family Front Door, nearly 100% of ... view the full minutes text for item 346.