Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Venue: County Hall, Worcester

Contact: Alyson Grice/Samantha Morris  Overview & Scrutiny Officers

No. Item


Apologies and Welcome


Apologies were received from Mr R W Banks, Mr P M McDonald, Ms C Driscoll and Ms T Russell.


Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip


Mr S J Mackay declared that he had a close relative who was a looked after child in another Local Authority.


Public Participation

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 5 March 2019).  Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.





Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meetings

(previously circulated)



The Minutes of the Meetings held on 11 January 2019 and 29 January 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



Children's Social Care Service - Ofsted Monitoring Visit Feedback pdf icon PDF 80 KB

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The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families and the Service Manager – Family Front Door and Partnerships had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the outcome of Ofsted’s seventh monitoring visit of the Council’s children’s safeguarding services.


The Chairman noted that the visit had taken place in January 2019 and the next visit from Ofsted would be a full inspection in the spring.  The exact date of the inspection had not yet been confirmed.


In the discussion that followed, the following main points were raised:


·       In response to a question about the percentage of temporary and permanent team leader posts, it was confirmed that there was currently only one vacancy with two posts having recently been filled.  Although these staff were new to the Authority they were very experienced and would be expected to operate as Managers from day one.  Recruitment for other social care staff was ongoing and with regard to the workforce, the Authority was currently in the strongest position for the last two years.

·       It was confirmed that this monitoring visit had focussed specifically on children at risk of CSE (child sexual exploitation) and going missing.  In relation to county lines, multi-agency partnership work was ongoing as part of the ‘Get Safe’ agenda.

·       Members were reminded that the Authority employed three permanent Missing Return Officers who carried out welfare return interviews with missing children.  They also spoke to parents and carers to evaluate what would be the best response to each incident.  Intelligence was used to identify patterns and trends to inform the ‘Get Safe’ agenda.

·       A Member questioned Ofsted’s comment that good practice was not sufficiently embedded and reflected in case recording when seeking children’s views.  The Panel was advised that although views were sought they were not always recorded which was important in order to provide clear evidence for decisions taken.

·       Concern was expressed that some CSE risk alerts were not on children’s files.  Members were informed that this was not the situation across all cases and work was ongoing to reinforce practice standards.  Permanency in the workforce would help with consistency of practice.

·       Concern was expressed about delays in holding multi-agency child exploitation (MACE) meetings.  Members were reminded that the police also had a lead role in this.  A new DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) had recently been appointed as Chairman of the ‘Get Safe’ Board and officers were hopeful that this new relationship would further improve the situation.

·       Although other agencies were involved in this work, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures were clear that the police and local authority social care were the two lead agencies.

·       It was pointed out that the Ofsted letter referred to partnership working between the police and social workers as ‘increasingly well developed’.  This partnership working was not new, and the police were trusted partners.  Members were reminded that information was shared at a triage session which took place every Monday to discuss children vulnerable to going missing and CSE.  Officers were now  ...  view the full minutes text for item 364.


Progress Update on Joint Local Area Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Written Statement of Action/Improvement Plan pdf icon PDF 88 KB

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The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills and the Interim Assistant Director – Education and Skills had been invited to the meeting to update Members on progress in relation to the Joint Local Area Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Written Statement of Action/Improvement Plan.


The Written Statement of Action/Improvement Plan was due to be discussed by Cabinet on 14 March and the Panel considered the draft Cabinet agenda report.  During the discussion, the following main points were made:


·       Concern was expressed that the Cabinet report was not clear in relation to action and timelines.  It also appeared that much of the action detailed relied on Babcock Prime for delivery.  This was a concern when many schools, especially academies, were choosing not to use Babcock Prime.

·       In response, Members were informed that behind this information was a more detailed report which included Red, Amber, Green (RAG) ratings and timescales.  It was agreed that this more detailed information would be shared with the Panel for future updates.  Members were informed that improvement work was not solely reliant on Babcock Prime, although Babcock were doing a very good job.

·       Further concern was expressed that the number of acronyms in the report made it difficult to read.  It was agreed that future reports should include a glossary of acronyms and terms.

·       In relation to the displacement of families from London due to local authorities looking for cheaper accommodation, it was confirmed that funding would follow the child.

·       The Chairman of the Panel reported her experience that there was a significant shortage of places within specialist settings in the County and expressed concern that this shortage had damaged parents’ and carers’ faith in the Local Authority.  She suggested that, when a new special school had been built in Wyre Forest, it was clear that it would not be big enough for future demand and this has proved to be the case.  Although it was acknowledged that some secondary schools were not sufficiently inclusive, at the same time there were not enough spaces in special schools.

·       The Interim SEND Group Manager reminded the Panel that nationally 1.4% of children attended a special school.  In Worcestershire this figure was 1.9%, representing an additional 386 children over the national figure.  In relation to funding, it was important to remember that that there was a finite budget and the system of decision making was very well-regulated.  The Council needed to look at demand management and re-balance the relationship between mainstream and special schools.

·       In response to a question about the proposal to establish an additional special school in the County, Members were informed that this was to accommodate children diagnosed with autism (covering difficulties with social skills, anxiety and communication) which was considered the hardest special need to meet.  A bid for the new school had been submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) and a response was expected soon.  The aim was to reconceptualise what good provision looked like via the ‘hub and spoke’ model.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 365.


Performance and In-year Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 77 KB

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The Panel was updated on performance and financial information for services relating to Children and Families.


The Chairman of the Panel reported back on a recent meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board which had discussed provision of performance information to Scrutiny.  The Board had noted that there was no consistency across the Council of how performance indicators (PIs) were presented.


In the ensuing discussion, the following main points were made:


Children’s Social Care


·       For future reports it would be helpful to have narrative presented next to the relevant data.

·       PIs presented to the Adult Care and Well-Being O&S Panel also included a list of Directorate priorities.  This would be helpful for this Panel, to allow Members to check performance against priorities and targets.

·       It was confirmed that, if a child refused to take part in a ‘missing from home/care’ return interview, they would be invited to talk to another trusted adult.  Where these interviews were initially refused but later completed by a professional other than the Missing Return Officer (eg Social Worker or Residential Care Worker) they were often not recorded.  It was agreed that further thought would be given to developing a mechanism for capturing and recording these conversations.

·       With reference to county lines, it was suggested that it was not helpful to record these by district.  Members were reminded that this was the first time these figures had been included and the development of PIs in this area was still at the early stages.

·       It was noted that the figures for children who had experienced 3 or more placements in 12 months were reducing.  However, they were still felt to be too high.  Members were reminded that the reality was that in an emergency a child might come into care via an emergency duty placement and then move on to a short-term foster placement.  This meant they had had 2 placements straightaway.

  • With reference to ‘Children Starting to be Looked After - % Looked After Within Previous 12 months’, Members asked if for future meetings this could be broken down by reason.

·       The Panel noted the higher cost of agency residential placements when compared to in-house residential provision.  Members were reminded that the challenge was to provide a permanency plan for the child, something which could not be achieved in agency residential care.

·       The position in relation to the number of children Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) appeared to be worsening.  The Service Manager for FFD and Partnerships agreed to provide further detail on the current position.

·       The County Council’s role in modern apprenticeships was noted, as was the involvement of schools.

·       The Cabinet Member for Children and Families referred Members to the annual report of the Virtual Headteacher which he felt may be of interest.  He also reminded the Panel that 19 young people who had previously been looked after by the County Council were now at university.

·       It was confirmed that all foster carers were provided with financial and social work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 366.


Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 73 KB

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The Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Panel was asked to review its work programme.


In the course of the discussion, the following main points were made:


·       Further clarification would be sought on ‘education otherwise’ to allow Members to decide on the focus of this work.  It may be necessary to set up a scrutiny task group to look at elective home education.

·       It was confirmed that the Panel would have an opportunity to consider further proposals on ‘short breaks for children with disabilities’ on 4 June before decisions were made at Cabinet.

·       Members were reminded that the Panel’s September meeting had moved from 25 September to 11 September to allow the Panel to have sight of the contract and KPIs for Worcestershire Children First.

·       Members were reminded that the LGA training session on scrutiny of an arms-length body would be held on 25 March at 1pm.