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 Ms R L Dent.


Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip


Mrs F M Oborski declared an interest as Chairman of the Wyre Forest Local Children’s Trust.


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





Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting

(previously circulated)



The Minutes of the Meeting held on 17 July 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Additional documents:


The Independent Chairman of the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership (WSCP) had been invited to the meeting to present the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board’s (WSCB) Annual Report 2018-19.  The Director of Social Care and Safeguarding also attended.


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


·       Concern was expressed about potential overlap between the WSCB and the Children and Young People sub-group of the Health and Well-being Board (HWB).  In response, the Independent Chairman informed the Panel that he was happy if there were small areas of overlap between the two boards, but would be more concerned if there were gaps in coverage.  He confirmed that he met the Chairman of the HWB twice a year.  The Director went on to confirm that she was a member of both bodies, as were the Director of Children, Families and Communities and the Director of Education and Early Help.  Although there were clear links between the two boards, the new WSCP had a clear focus on safeguarding and child protection, whereas this was not the main focus of the HWB.

·       A question was asked about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implications of bringing together the three named Safeguarding Partners (Chief Executive of Worcestershire County Council, Chief Constable of West Mercia Police and Accountable Officer for the Clinical Commissioning Groups).  The Panel was informed that the Partnership would have an information sharing protocol and this was not something that had caused a problem previously.  It was confirmed that health services would be included in the information sharing protocol.

·       In relation to the WSCP’s GETSAFE agenda, Members were reminded that, although the original focus of this work had been on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), it was now recognised that the focus should be broadened to include other forms of exploitation.  The Independent Chairman told Members that the GETSAFE agenda was one of the most innovative and ambitious projects in the country and this should be applauded.  The Director suggested that the increasing numbers being identified under the GETSAFE agenda should not cause concern as it was an indication that children at risk were being identified.

·       The Chairman of the Panel suggested that Members may wish to look at the website to find out more about the charity’s work to support young people facing significant life challenges.

·       With reference to the rise in the number of Child Death Notifications, concern was expressed about whether parenting classes were reaching the right people and what else was being done to address this.  The Director reminded Members that there was a link to the Health and Well-being Partnership.  It was important that front line professionals who were in touch with families (for example health visitors and social workers) were aware of rising concerns in specific areas, such as excessive alcohol consumption coupled with bed sharing and smoking.  It would also be important to look at the regional and national picture to assess whether the picture in Worcestershire was reflective of the national situation.

·       The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 393.


Ofsted Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services Worcestershire pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families and the Director of Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the outcome of the Ofsted Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services which had taken place in June 2019.


The Chairman acknowledged that a great deal of progress had been made since the last Ofsted inspection in November 2016 and welcomed the improvements that had been made.  However, she asked that the discussion focussed on the challenges that remained.


The Director of Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding introduced the report by way of a presentation.  She made the following main points:


·       The 2016 Ofsted report had exposed widespread serious failings in the service and the Authority had been judged to be at the lower end of the ‘inadequate’ bracket.  Following the 2019 inspection, Ofsted had been clear that the service was at the top end of the ‘requires improvement’ range and inspectors had been very complimentary about the pace of change and the degree that change had been embedded at the same time as the Authority was developing an Alternative Delivery Model (Worcestershire Children First).

·       The Service was judged to ‘require improvement to be good’ in all areas.  It was important to emphasise that the improvement in the service was a phenomenal achievement, which was the result of 2½ years’ work by every member of staff.  The Chairman of the Panel agreed that this fantastic work was recognised by the Panel.

·       In response to a question about whether the Service was surprised to be judged as ‘requiring improvement’ in all areas, the CMR replied that, although there was an outstanding leadership team in place, the judgement on ‘the impact of leaders on social work practice’ was also about the wider partnership leadership, including district councils and CCGs.

·       There was a need for full consistency of practice across all staff and stability of management would help with this.  Information was now available to allow managers to drill down to individual social worker level to identify where improvement in practice was needed.  This would allow trends to be identified at an early stage.

·       Joint commissioning of mental health services had not yet resulted in a clear pathway or priority of intervention for children in care or care leavers. Members were informed about a task and finish group which had recommended that Looked After Children should be given priority for mental health services.  The service was now being re-commissioned so this change could be made.

·       There remained an issue with evidencing early help in some schools.  Schools needed to show how they were working with children and record how many children were involved, information that was needed by the Local Authority.  It was suggested that some schools did not recognise this as their role, even though it was included in legislation.  The Service would continue to work with all partners on this, including specific conversations with schools.  The Service was also looking to develop  ...  view the full minutes text for item 394.


Performance and In-Year Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel was updated on performance and financial information for services relating to children and families.


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




·       In January 2019, the number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) completed in time was very poor.  Since then the service had been restructured and seen significant investment.  There were now more SEN caseworkers and performance had improved, although the need to look at performance data remained.  Staffing was still not at 100% and it was proving difficult to recruit to vacant posts as they were not part of a recognised profession.

·       The latest available figures showed 68% of EHCPs completed in time which was a good return on the investment, but still needed to improve.  There was a need to look at the other 32% to identify why there had been a delay.

  • It was agreed that the PI relating to the Number of Outstanding Statements (of SEND) should be removed from the PIs as it was no longer relevant.

·       It was suggested that the indicator relating to the number of students currently awaiting a special school place was not useful data and needed refining for relevance. It related to the number of requests from parents for children to attend special schools rather than the number of children assessed as needing to attend a special school.  It was also indicative of the need to build confidence in the mainstream sector.

·       The Chairman expressed concern that children with an EHCP could be home educated.  The Director of Education and Early Help informed the Panel that this group of children were a focus of ‘Missing Monday’ meetings, which looked at the suitability of the education being provided.

·       In response to a question about whether there was a need for additional special school places in the County, the CMR suggested that overall there was over-provision, although he acknowledged that there may be a disparity between the north and south of the County.  The main objective remined inclusion as far as possible.

·       It was suggested that in some cases there was a lack of trust between parents of children with SEN and the Local Authority.  It was acknowledged that the challenge was to improve joined-up working across the system and develop parents’ trust that the SEN service would work for their child.  Although the recent focus has been on those with more complex needs, graduated response guidance had now been issued to schools.  This aimed to increase understanding of what early intervention was available.

  • It was clarified that the figures relating to the number of EHE pupils with SEN support related to children who were assessed as needing SEN support rather than those receiving support.  This PI would be retitled for future meetings.




  • Concern was expressed about the reduction in the number of secondary schools judged as good or outstanding by Ofsted.  Members were reminded about the introduction of the new Ofsted inspection framework.  Schools which had previously been judged as outstanding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 395.


Worcestershire Children First pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families, the Director of Resources (WCF) and the Assistant Director of Communities and ADM Programme Management had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on developments relating to Worcestershire Children First.


By way of introduction, the following main points were made:


·       On 5 September, Cabinet had been asked to approve the Interim Business Plan for WCF and been updated on preparations for ‘go live’ on 1 October.

·       The Company was on track to ‘go live’ on 1 October with contracts being 85% ready.  The contract for the Company would be for 5 years with an option to extend for a further 5 years.  If the Council decided to extend the contract it would need to give the Company 12 months’ notice.  A ‘no fault’ termination clause had been included, with again 12 months’ notice being required.

·       A Service Specification had been developed which set out ‘what’ not ‘how’.

  • The Performance Framework set out how the Council would hold the company to account.  It was agreed that, once finalised, KPIs would be shared with the Scrutiny Panel.

·       The Finance Mechanism outlined in detail the obligations on both parts.  A collaborative agreement was in place between the Council’s Chief Financial Officer and WCF’s Director of Resources which would include regular dialogue to ensure realistic expectations in relation to funding.

·       The Governance Schedule set out how the Company would participate in the democratic process including Scrutiny.

·       A number of practical elements had also been progressed, including payroll which had been subject to rigorous testing and was ready to go.

·       An interim Business Plan had been developed for the first six months and a revised version would be presented in March 2020.


Members were given an opportunity to ask questions and the following main points were raised:


·       The Chairman welcomed the thorough report and informed Members she was reassured that the Panel would continue to have access to all the information it needed.

·       She reminded Members that WCF staff were in the process of moving to County Hall and welcomed the fact that all staff would be together in one building, something which would facilitate face-to-face communication.  The Director of Children’s Social Care and Safeguarding reminded Members that it would not be possible for staff from West Mercia Police to move to County Hall until March 2020 due to issues with IT software licenses.  The Assistant Director agreed to arrange tours of WCF offices for any interested Members.

·       The CMR for Children and Families recommended that Members reminded themselves of the Reserved Matters outlined in the Business Plan.  The County Council would retain responsibility for these areas following the launch of the Company.


Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel reviewed its work programme for 2018/19.  Members were reminded that:


·       The proposals on Future Provision of Overnight Short Breaks for Children with Disabilities would be discussed by the Panel on 25 September.

·       A date to discuss the New Model of Delivery for Medical Education Provision was still to be decided.

·       A task group to look at elective home education would be set up in due course.