Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 14 January 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Cllr Colin Hay.


Declarations of interest

Please see note (a) at the end of agenda.


No declarations of interest were made at the meeting.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To Follow


Chair, Dr Andrew Miller, advised the committee that only the minutes of the meeting held on 26 November 2020 would be considered at this meeting. The minutes of the meeting on 1 December 2020 would be published with the agenda and considered at the committee meeting on 4 March 2021.


For clarification, it was confirmed that actions relating to the minutes of the meeting in November 2020 included:


a)    The sharing of safeguarding experiences during lockdown – Action (going forward) by Young Ambassadors;


b)    The request for safeguarding training, (as a mandatory training requirement for county councillors), to be referred to the Corporate Parent Group – Action by Andrea Clarke. It was later confirmed that an action to arrange an annual safeguarding training event for county councillors had been assigned to the Interim Director of Safeguarding and Care: Gail Hancock


Gloucestershire Youth Offending Service (YOS) Recovery Plan pdf icon PDF 196 KB

The committee discussed the HMIP Inspection Report at its meeting on 5 March 2020.


Additional documents:


At its meeting on 5 March 2020, the committee considered the Gloucestershire Youth Offending Partnership Improvement Plan, published in February 2020 in response to HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) inspection of the Gloucestershire Youth Offending Service in October 2019.


HMIP is an independent inspectorate, reporting on the quality of services and effectiveness of work with adults and children and young people who are sentenced by the courts. The findings are reported to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB).


The findings of the inspection carried out in October 2019 rated the service as ‘Requiring Improvement’. The HMIP report had highlighted many positive aspects of Gloucestershire’s Youth Justice Service and had been one point short of being rated ‘Good’. Ratings are based on 3 broad areas; (i) the arrangements for organisational delivery of the service; (ii) the quality of work done with children and young people that have been sentenced by the courts; and (iii) the quality of out-of-court disposal work.


To view the discussion at the committee meeting on 5 March 2020, (including the final HMIP inspection report), please refer to the link on published on the Gloucestershire County Council (GGC) website here.


Andy Dempsey: Director of Partnerships and Strategy at GCC, gave an update on the progress of the recovery planning, (relaxed in the Autumn in response to the Covid-19 pandemic), and introduced the Gloucestershire YOS Recovery Plan published in September 2020, setting out the working arrangements for representatives on the Gloucestershire Youth Justice Partnership Board to respond to the challenges of Covid-19.


Commending the work of the newly appointed Head of Service: Youth Justice and Community, Karon McCarthy, it was explained that the recovery plan should be considered as a ‘response’ document rather than as a recovery plan at this current time.


Key comments made during the discussion, included:


a)    Prior to the national easing of duties, the response to the HMIP inspection in 2019 had been very positive in relation to overall delivery of the Gloucestershire Youth Offending Service;


b)    Given the impact of the pandemic and noting the reduction in offending during the first period of lockdown, it was still too early to report on the medium to long term improvements anticipated from the recovery proposals;


c)    Responding to concerns about the impact of the pandemic on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, it was agreed efforts to gain/maintain the trust of young (BAME) offenders would be a critical piece of work for the Partnership Board going forward. A member suggested this aspect of work form part of regular updates to the committee regarding the YOS recovery process – Action by Andy Dempsey


d)    The suggestion that staff receive supplementary training on working with young offenders from BAME communities was noted. Acknowledging concerns about increased levels of anxieties when experiencing trauma or change, members were reassured that every effort was being made to give young offenders,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Child Friendly Gloucestershire pdf icon PDF 15 MB

Additional documents:


Andy Dempsey, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, (Children and Young People), at Gloucestershire County Council and Dame Janet Trotter DBE CBE CVO, (Chair of Child Friendly Gloucestershire), gave a detailed update on the Child Friendly Gloucestershire (CFG) Initiative.


To visit the Child Friendly Gloucestershire website, please refer to the following link:


The purpose of the presentation was to update members on the progress of the initiative, set up at the request of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in 2018, in response to concerns about the wellbeing of the children and young people of Gloucestershire.


As reported at previous meetings, there is no longer a statutory duty for localities to have a Children and Young People’s Plan. There is, however, a continuing duty under Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 for the Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services to co-ordinate the work of local partner agencies to secure the wellbeing of children and young people in their locality. 


Since its commencement in 2018, the CFG partnership has enlisted the support of a wide range of voluntary, faith and commercial sectors to work alongside senior statutory agency representatives and a diverse group of young people as a countywide coalition arrangement, reporting direct to the Gloucestershire Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB).


Key functions include;


a)    To provide oversight and scrutiny of the impact of the wide range of existing plans and strategies that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the children and young people of Gloucestershire, (as set out by the CFG initiative). 


a)    To develop specific actions and initiatives to deliver the priorities proposed by the group;


b)    To develop an infrastructure and arrangements from which to develop ongoing and authentic dialogue with children and young people from across the county;


c)    To develop a quality assurance and performance reporting framework from which to provide the Health and Wellbeing Board with evidence of the work of the group. This will form the basis for future service development and delivery activity. 


d)    To act as a focal point for the development of capacity across sectors to improve outcomes for children and young people in the county.


At its meeting on 21 July 2020, the HWB received an update on the initiative, including the impact of Covid-19 on taking the project forward. At this meeting, board members were asked to include the work of CFG in the wider recovery plan for the county. The HWB re-affirmed its commitment to the project and proposed that work continue over the summer period to identify areas of work where intervention and support might have a lasting effect.


In an further update to the HWB, in September 2020, it was announced that CFG intended to focus on activities that would enable rapid progress in response to Covid-19 related pressures. At this meeting, the HWB agreed to establish the Child Friendly Coalition/Strategic Group and agreed the 3 priority areas identified as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Quality Assurance Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 303 KB


Rob England, Head of Quality, (Children’s Services), at Gloucestershire County Council presented the Children’s Services Quality Assurance Report, (based on information reported up to November 2020).


The report confirmed that the high rate of inadequate practice reported 24 months ago had reduced significantly, albeit not at the expected pace or to the required target level.  Examples of inadequate practice, where children were considered to have received a poor service, were still too common. In terms of audit, however, children were no longer identified to be at immediate risk of harm.   


Overall, working practices were improving, progressing from an inadequate rating to requiring improvement. Members were advised of the need to target weaker work practices in order to offer more secure ratings, (based on consistently low levels of inadequate practice). Acknowledging concerns about weakening services for care leavers in the 3 month period prior to November 2020, it was agreed more focus was required in this area.


The report was described as encouraging. The proportion of good practice had improved during the past 12 months, but nevertheless, had been notably static during the 3 month period prior to November 2020, and had yet to reach the 40% short-term target within the Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP).  A quarter of the teams within the department had consistently delivered good practice but more work was required with practitioners and other teams to elevate standards to good.


The areas of practice requiring particular attention included: -


a)    Management oversight

b)    Analysis: conceptualisation available information and understanding the impact of the child/young person’s lived experiences and the service offered to them

c)    Drift and delay

d)    Risk assessment and review

e)    Care Planning and Permanence for Children in Care

f)     Meaningful and Purposeful relational practice (including contact with Care Leavers). 


Building on the strengths of the teams, good working relationships and supplemented with additional training, it was hoped further improvements would continue.


For children and young people receiving a Child in Need Service, (including those with disabilities), the improvements reflected by the last report had not been sustained. Working practices rated as good for children and young people with disabilities had reduced from 38%-20% with practices rated as inadequate for Children in Need rising from 6%-18%. 


There had also been a variance in the rates of good and inadequate practice for children subjected to child protection planning.  Good practice had  reduced from 22% to 17% and inadequate practice had increased from 14% to 20%.  This group of children were suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.  


Children in Care continued to be the most likely to be in receipt of a better service, with the highest levels of good or better practice at 53%, (up from 50% in the last report), and with the lowest levels of inadequate practice (3%).


Referencing performance in the Leaving Care Service, (reported at this meeting and in the report presented at the previous meeting), members noted that this service remained an area of concern.  Previously, an area identified as an  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 734 KB


Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services and Andy Dempsey, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, gave an update on performance against agreed targets for October and November 2020. The reports were taken as read at the meeting.


Responding to some of the key messages identified by the reports, the committee: -


a)    Expressed concerns relating to delays in the recording of information relating to children across the system and urged officers to consider ways of encouraging their teams to record data;


b)    Questioned the reliability of the council’s IT systems and equipment,  (responding to concerns about the council’s current system, members were assured that the system, although an older version, was fit for purpose); 


c)    Members were advised that requests for early interventions during the pandemic had significantly increased;


d)    Responding to information relating to child protection issues on page 98 of the agenda pack, and questions about the involvement and participation of drugs/alcohol support groups in strategic wellbeing discussions, it was suggested that a briefing note on the issue be added to the work plan for consideration at a future meeting. Action by Andrea Clarke


The performance update reports were noted


Revenue Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Additional documents:


Suzanne Hall, Finance Business Partner for Gloucestershire County Council, presented the Revenue Budget Monitoring Report for the commissioning of Children and Families Services in 2020/21, including net budget analysis and Year-End Forecast (October 2020).


Introducing the report circulated with the agenda, Suzanne confirmed that the budget update had been grouped by service area, with Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and non-DSG variances shown separately.


The forecast year end revenue position as at October 2020, (non-DSG funded services), represented an over-spend of £14.648 million, (11.24% of budget). Included within this figure was the forecasted additional cost of the impact of Covid-19 on budgets, totalling £6.979 million, (representing an underlying over-spend of £7.669 million, including estimated £2.585 million for additional external placements). Over-spends included external placements and home to school transport, both of which had been identified as ongoing pressures at the end of 2019/20.


Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funded services had been forecast with an over-spend of £14.432 million for 2020/21, including deficit carry forward of £8.442 million and deficit high needs budget of £5.449 million.


Additional forecast expenditure, brought in to address the impact of Covid-19, had been grouped into five key areas; i) external placement costs; ii) home to school transport; iii) transitions for care leavers; iv) staffing; and v) support to vulnerable pupils when schools reopen. A further £2 million had been forecast to offset costs relating to the anticipated impact on social care and education services after the easing of lockdown measures.


Activity levels within social care continued to place significant budgetary pressures on children’s services, in particular against the external placement and safeguarding staff budgets. At the end of September 2020, children in care numbers had been reported at 764, compared to 722 at the end of April 2019. This position was based on actual expenditure to the end of September 2020 and forecasts input in October 2020. In recent months the number of children in care had reached 800 plus.


Significant non-DSG variances referenced in the report included:-


a)    Children in Care – an over-spend against the external placement budget of £9.266 million (34.8% above budget). This included a contingency of £2.585 million for new cases in-year and £4.248 million for the current and future impact of COVID-19 on placement numbers.


b)    Safeguarding – this represented a forecast over-spend of £1.523 million, (7.8% above budget), including £0.4 million as contingency planning for additional staffing capacity to respond to a possible spike in activity.


c)    Young People Support – an over-spend of £0.546 million had been forecast to cover the cost of agency staff/vacancies in youth support teams. COVID-19 costs accounted for £0.196 million of the variance.


d)    Commissioning for Learning - home to school transport had been forecast with an over-spend of £2.594 million, (including an estimate of £1.34 million to cover the impact of COVID-19 from September onwards). This had been offset by a specific grant of £0.715m.


e)    Services for CYP with Additional Needs – this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.