Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 26 May 2022 10.00 am

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

No. Item


Declarations of interest

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


Councillor Andrew Miller declared he had been approved as a foster carer for the Authority.


Minutes of the previous meetings pdf icon PDF 120 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on the 10th March 2022 and the 22nd April 2022.

Additional documents:


20.1 That the minutes of the previous meetings held on the 10th March 2022 and the 22nd April 2022 were both approved as a correct record. 


Youth Offending Service pdf icon PDF 773 KB

To gain an overview of the service and how initiatives like Children First can support diverting young people away from crime.

Additional documents:


21.1  The Director of Partnerships & Strategy presented the report in association with Operations Director; Youth Support Team.  Members were advised that there was a duty placed upon the Authority as the accountable body, to bring forward an annual youth justice plan.  The format was determined by the youth justice board and the youth support team worked closely with the partner agencies in order to give the plan some substance. 


21.2  It was reported that there had been a significant upshift in youth service funding nationally, and the focus was now on early intervention.  Officers explained the Youth Service Team was working closely with the supporting families programme and this was proving to be a successful alliance to build upon for the future.  


21.3  In addition, the Children First Scheme had the ability to divert young people away from the youth justice system, and the scheme had been in operation for four years and the figures locally were lower than regional and national figures.    The number of reoffenders and types of crime were monitored closely, it was explained there was some disparity between the local and national figures and this was depicted in the performance report.  Officers were working hard to resolve the disparity between the local and national data but remained confident with local data figures. 


21.4  Data was compiled by ethnicity and gender, there was some concern over youth violence and a bid had been submitted for further funding. Members noted that Gloucestershire was deemed to be a relatively safe county, but there had been a spike with youth violence recently and it was necessary to understand what was the primary cause, in order to intervene more effectively. 


21.5  Members were advised that custody was a last resort for young people, the rate in Gloucestershire had always been low, however officers expected figures to rise as a large number young people had been remanded on custody, due to the severity offences and this would undoubtedly affect the performance figures. 


21.6  The Committee noted that The Director of Partnerships & Strategy, was also the Chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and he recognised the challenges ahead, overall he felt there was good engagement with the partnership agencies and there was an equal role to play for all.   It was recognised that children outside of school were at greater risk of offending, the aim was to provide a wrap-around service to address those various factors, while protecting the community from harm. 


21.7  The Operations Director explained the partnership board quarterly report and highlighted the main points.  She explained the draft Youth Justice Annual Plan (YJAP), which was yet to be approved and was very much a work in progress.  The YJAP showed the trends in Gloucestershire and how the service intended to work to address those concerns, it was noted that consultation had taken place with young people and the partner agencies.


21.8  In terms of the quarterly report, over 59% of children were diverted through the Children First Scheme, which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Education Update - Restorative Practice pdf icon PDF 145 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report.


22.1  The Director of Education (DoE) presented the report in detail and proceeded to update the Committee as a result of a request at the March meeting.  It was noted that restorative practice was in use in Gloucestershire schools across the County. 


22.2  The report explained how it was used throughout schools and the Authority in terms of the family hubs, restorative justice, etc.  The restorative practice model had been promoted nationally by Molly McCloud and shared good practice methods.  The projects aimed to train and develop others on a rolling basis. 


22.3  It was recognised there were challenges for children in the transition period between primary and secondary schools.  It was noted that the primary sector had embraced restorative practice much so than the secondary sector.  The DoE suggested that for secondary school it was perhaps a question of scale and suggested that perhaps a different engagement model might be required for secondary school given the cohort of pupils and staff.  Members were advised that the funding was due to cease in 2024 and it was necessary to secure future funding to continue beyond that date. 


22.4  In response to a question, it was noted the primary schools head teachers and their staff lead on the practice.  If supported well by the head teacher then it was possible to bring about a whole system change, it was essential to gain traction to bring about a positive change. 


22.5  In response to a question, the DoE explained in her experience as a secondary head teacher, restorative practice competed within many other initiatives and it would be necessary for head teachers to commit to approximately three days of whole staff training.  It was noted there were often issues around head teachers ethos, philosophy and the choice of direction in terms of behavioural management policies.  She felt it was important for the Authority to engage with schools as a whole in order to bring about a positive change and this would be a challenge given there were 106 academies.  In addition, there was a new Schools Bill which would impose a new set of academy trust standards and there would a statutory duty to cooperate with the local authority. 


22.6  The DCS explained that the team were doing good work in schools, which was well received and the impact was significant.  He felt it was essential to look at the impact if the service wanted Children’s Services to support this programme going forward and the significant outcome.  The DoE explained there were a large number of case studies available to support the programme and any future funding bids, it was important to articulate the outcomes.  The DCS stated that he would like the programme to continue. 


22.7  In response to a question, it was explained that it was not possible for the Local Authority to add clauses to new academy contracts to include restorative practice. 



22.8  The Cabinet Member referred to the report and the fact that ‘to do restorative practice is  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Plan for the new the Board and new improvement plan

To receive a verbal update on the plan for the new Board and refreshed improvement plan. 


23.1  The DCS informed the Committee that the new draft improvement plan was being devised and scrutiny would have the opportunity to look at the new plan in due course.  He proceeded to explain that the service was now in a very different stage of development, as children services where we no longer subject to intervention.  The DCS recognised that it had been an exhausting journey undergoing mini inspections ever quarter and focused DfE visits but it had been worth the effort to bring about a positive change to the service. 


23.2  Members were advised that the Improvement Board was also of the view that it now necessary to refresh and rebrand the Board, in order to face the new challenge of achieving a ‘good’ Ofsted rating.  It was noted the Authority had been recently graded as ‘in support and supervision’ which was an official category and a DfE advisor was still assigned to the Authority. 


23.3 It was noted the DCS had been tasked with a consultation process with board members, about the shape and configuration of the improvement board going forward.  The findings were yet to be collated and no decisions as yet had been made, and further discussions were due to take place with the Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years. 


23.4  The DCS advised based on the feedback received an independent chair was no longer required.  Although he wished to add that Andrew Ireland had served the board very well as an independent chair, as he was previously a Director of Children Services in Kent, who had undergone the same experience with Ofsted and had helped to get Kent from inadequate to good.  It was noted that Andrew had been very supportive of the Authority and his efforts were greatly appreciated. 


23.5  The DCS suggested the responses had indicated that the Deputy Chief Executive (DCE), who was also the Finance Executive Director and Head of Resources would be an ideal candidate, as Children’s Services were closely linked to the quality of support from corporate central services.  It was noted that it was a recommendation of the Ofsted report that corporately something needed to be done with the IT service, as this was a continued frustration to frontline workers and the service continued to lose workers because of IT failures. 


23.6  The DCS recognised it was a real barrier to the improvement journey and it was important to stabilise the system moving forward.  As the DCE had direct responsibility for IT, it would undoubtedly help to speed the process up as he was very supportive of Children’s Services and he understood what intervention meant both financially and in terms of quality of service. 


23.7  Members were reminded there were still some substantive problems that needed to be addressed, for example placement stability and staffing issues, the DCS felt with the assistance of the Executive Director of Corporate Resources these issues could be overcome. 



23.8  The DCS described the composition of the new board in detail,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Performance Report Quarter 4 pdf icon PDF 212 KB

Additional documents:


24.1    The Committee noted the report.


Quality Assurance Framework pdf icon PDF 549 KB


25.1    The Committee noted the report.


Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:


26.1    The Committee noted the report.


Committee's Work Plan pdf icon PDF 76 KB

 To discuss the future work plan items.


27.1  The Committee discussed the work plan in detail and members were asked to email any additional items for inclusion to the clerk. 


27.2  The Committee agreed that IT should be included on the agenda, given the impact it had on frontline staff and the concerns raised during the Ofsted inspection. The DCS advised the Committee that he had recently had a meeting with his corporate colleagues and had explained that there were considerable issues with the current IT infrastructure. 


27.3  As a result, it had been agreed that Liquid Logic would be appointed to host the children’s services electronic file system.  It was noted that they hosted the same system for neighbouring authorities, as it proved a stable service for frontline staff.    The Committee were advised that children services would struggle to progress at any pace, until the IT system was stabilised.  The details were being explored and it was agreed that an update report would be provided to the November meeting.  (Action – CS)


27.4  Cllr Evans referred to his earlier request for Early Intervention/Help to be included on the work plan and he asked for examples used in other Authorities as a comparison.   The DCS explained that the current service model had not broken down and it could always be improved.  It was noted that Gloucestershire undertook regular peer reviews with Cornwall who were an outstanding Authority. 


27.5  The Head of Quality & Safeguarding explained that Cornwall had some of the highest indicators of deprivation and difficulty, yet they were also one of the lowest funded children services nationally.  He noted they were in a very unusual position, as they were one of the most efficient and highly performing authorities nationally, as they had constructed an early help system that was front loaded and the emphasis strategically was on early health, early intervention and prevention. 


27.6  It was noted that Cornwall’s model involved early help teams, who worked intensively with families depending on the level of need or risk and the help remained continuous for the family for the duration of the episode.  The Head of Quality & Safeguarding recognised it appeared to be a very economical model, even though their system was under increasing pressure and agreed to being an update report to the Committee’s March 2023 meeting.  (Action -RE & CS)


27.7  It was also requested that the Bright Spots Survey Results be presented at the March meeting for discussion.


27.8  During the discussion, members questioned primary school exclusions, as it appeared the figures had increased significantly.  The DoE explains there had been a drop in the number of secondary school exclusion but the service had seen a rise in the primary sector.  She felt this was part of a complex picture around special educational needs and the capacity of special needs places.  The DoE explained that alternative provision, the inclusion of special educational needs and primary exclusions could be dealt with jointly as they interlinked.  It was agreed that a member briefing session be arranged sooner rather  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.