Venue: Online only
Contact: Alyson Grice/Samantha Morris Overview & Scrutiny Officers
Apologies and Welcome
The Chairman congratulated Councillor Potter on her appointment as Chairman of the Adult Care and Well Being Overview and Scrutiny Panel, which had been confirmed at the meeting of full Council on 16 July. Also, Councillor Mackay had been appointed Vice Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Panel on this date and the Chairman welcomed him to his new role.
Apologies were received from Ms R L Dent, Mr M J Hart (Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills) and Mr B Allbut (Church Representative).
Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Assistant Director for Legal and Governance 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 Thursday 16 July 2020). 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 16 June 2020 were agreed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman.
The Director of Children’s Services/Chief Executive of Worcestershire Children First (WCF) and the Director of Education and Early Help, WCF updated the Panel on developments relating to the wider reopening of Worcestershire schools and settings from 1 June 2020 and work to support schools in planning for September 2020.
By way of introduction, the Chief Executive of WCF reminded Members that the COVID-19 pandemic was not an easy situation and had had a real impact on children. However, she believed the Council could be proud of staff who had risen to the challenge. Schools were now preparing for a full reopening in September.
The Director of Education and Early Help agreed that the Council could be proud of the efforts made by staff throughout the lockdown period, both those working at home and those in schools. She went on to highlight the following points:
· The wider reopening of schools had started on 1 June in primaries and 15 June in secondaries. In terms of attendance, schools had seen a strong start.
· Overall, there had been a remarkable response to the pandemic which had brought the whole school system together. The Education Incident Planning Group had met over 40 times and would continue to meet throughout the school holidays on a weekly basis. This group included phase leads and key partners.
· The SEND task group, the alternative provision task group and the early years task group would also continue to meet weekly throughout the summer holidays.
· From September, schools would move from the COVID response phase into an education strategy phase. WCF had produced an information bulletin for schools on a frequent basis and to date had produced 62 issues.
· Feedback from schools suggested that the return to school had been a relief for children and staff.
· It was confirmed that places had been found for all children whose early years setting had not reopened following lockdown.
· An addendum to the risk assessment tool had been circulated to schools and completed responses were now being received.
· WCF had worked with schools to provide additional storage where this was required in order to reconfigure classrooms in line with the government’s social distancing guidance and 61 schools had taken up this offer.
· The school improvement team had developed a ‘recovery curriculum’ with the aim of supporting schools to create a safe, healthy, celebratory space when children returned to school.
· Ofsted had informed schools that it would resume visits in the autumn. These would last for one day, with one day’s notice and would not be inspections. Visits would be to schools previously judged to be inadequate and others.
· The Director was proud to say that all laptops and other IT equipment to support remote learning had been delivered to maintained schools by the end of the summer term.
· Members were reminded that the Learning and Achievement Service was now part of Worcestershire Children First. This included the Educational Psychology Service which had recently offered training in trauma support to all schools. 170 delegates ... view the full minutes text for item 439.
The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families, the Director of Social Care and Safeguarding, and the Supporting Families First Practice Manager had been invited to the meeting to update the Panel on Supporting Families First, including the impact of COVID-19 on the service.
By way of introduction, the Director of Social Care and Safeguarding made the following main points:
· Supporting Families First was a new team which had gone live on 20 January 2020.
· Social workers would always act to protect a child but they also aimed to support and challenge parents to undertake their parenting responsibilities by managing risk and reducing tension, and therefore reducing the need for a child to be taken into care.
· The management of risk was a multi-agency responsibility involving schools, the police and health partners, with significant work undertaken to ensure management of partners’ anxiety around support for children.
· The team had continued to work throughout lockdown. Although lockdown began on 23 March, COVID-19 had been around earlier than this and the team had responded accordingly.
The Supporting Families First Practice Manager summarised the presentation slides which had been included in the Agenda. He made the following main points:
· The team operated in a multi-disciplinary system aiming to wrap a plan around families. The team worked with young people aged 10 to 18 years of age, although 3 younger children were also supported as part of sibling groups.
· Supporting Families First worked predominantly on a Child in Need basis or where young people were subject to a Child Protection Plan.
· The aim was for each family Member to develop practical skills through a cognitive behavioural approach which was a good way to help families gain understanding of the context of behaviours.
· The service consisted of 3 multi-disciplinary pods working in the North East, North West and the South of the County. Staff had lots of experience and on the whole were internal appointees. Each team consisted of:
o an Advanced Social Work Practitioner,
o a Clinical Lead and three Emotional Health and Well-Being Practitioners,
o Outreach Workers, who were the main link with the family,
o Substance Misuse Workers, who were able to break down barriers with other services,
o Youth Mentors with strong links with schools, and
o A Money Mentor who was able to work with families who were at risk of losing their homes providing debt management advice and practical support.
· The Service was currently working with 54 children, 71% aged 10 to 15, 25% aged over 16 and 3 children below the age of 10 who were part of sibling groups.
· The Worcestershire Web Star was an assessment tool which had been developed with the aim of bringing together different disciplines, using Worcestershire Children First’s values of Happy, Healthy and Safe. The Web Star involved families at the earliest stage and families had responded positively. Following assessment, a plan on a page was developed which was transparent for families and made sense to social workers. This would be ... view the full minutes text for item 440.
The Panel was updated on performance information relating to Quarter 4 (January to March 2020) and the draft Financial Outturn 2019/20.
During the discussion, the following main points were made:
· For future presentations to the Panel, the Director of Education and Early Help would ensure the analysis and graphs appeared on the same page.
· An analysis of those schools that had received an Ofsted inspection or monitoring visit showed that four Local Authority maintained schools had moved from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ during the period.
· Ofsted would resume visits to schools in the autumn and would visit all schools previously judged to be ‘inadequate’.
· It was confirmed that any school placed in special measures would be required to consider moving to academy status.
· There were currently 675 children in the County who were electively home educated, which was a reduction on recent months. There were also 9 children who were ‘under enquiry’ to become home educated. In the main, these were positive contacts from parents who felt their children had thrived at home. It was important that officers were clear with parents what was required to home educate a child pointing out that appropriate work would not be supplied by teachers to support this.
· There were currently 62 children registered as missing education. ‘Missing Monday’ meetings were continuing.
· The completion rate for Personal Education Plans was 100% through the COVID period and the Virtual School had continued to operate.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
· There had been continued improvement in relation to timescales for assessment of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) with 100% completed within timescales during the COVID period. There had been very positive feedback from the Department for Education on this.
In response to a question about why a school would move from ‘outstanding’ to having ‘serious weaknesses’, Members were reminded that, previously, outstanding schools had not had to be re-inspected. The new inspection framework had found some schools wanting in relation to leadership and management. Under the School Improvement Programme, WCF had contact with all maintained schools and had identified some that may need intervention. WCF officers were aware of the issues and they were now being addressed.
Children’s Social Care
· Members were reminded that, at the end of March 2020, monitoring of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) had changed with the development of 40 COVID-specific KPIs. The data contained in the report covered the period up to the end of March and was, therefore, now out of date. The report contained no additional analysis as the situation had now moved on.
· The Service had performed well against the COVID KPIs and also when measured against the national picture.
· An analysis of Q1 2020/2021 data for the Family Front Door (FFD) had revealed that demand for social care was starting to increase. Last year had seen an average of 800 referrals per week with, on average, 49% requiring social work assessments. In Q1 this was up to 1000 referrals per week with 1500 referrals received ... view the full minutes text for item 441.
The Panel reviewed its draft 2020/21 work programme and considered which items should be investigated as a priority.
Following a detailed discussion, the Panel agreed its 2020/21 work programme for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board on 22 July and noted that the scrutiny work programme would be agreed by Council on 10 September 2020.