Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
Declarations of interest
Please see note (a) at the end of agenda.
Councillor Miller declared he was an approved foster carer.
The Committee is asked to approve to the minutes of the previous meeting.
That the minutes of the 26th May 2022 were approved as a correct record.
The Committee is asked to note the report.
For supporting information the Adoption Barometer UK Executive Summary can be viewed:
30.1 The Director of Partnerships & Strategy presented the report in detail and provided the Committee with an overview of the Adoption West (AW) joint scrutiny panel and its relationship with Adoption West.
30.2 It was noted the Director of Partnerships & Strategy (DPS) was the Chair of the AW Board and the Chair of CFSC was also a member of the AW Joint Scrutiny Panel. He explained there were different volumes of work in each of the localities covered by AW and the adoption activity detail was contained within the report.
30.3 Members were informed that the volume of adopted families were now greater than ever before and AW was making headway in terms of placing siblings and harder to place children. It was explained that a new identity, especially for a young person, in a new family had the potential to cause tensions and that had to be managed carefully.
30.4 A member advised the Committee that she was aware of a case, that had taken over two years, she felt it was a slow process but felt reassured that the situation was improving. It was noted that were now more prospective parents than there were children and the opportunity to foster children was also available.
30.5 The DPS explained that the pandemic had moved the adoption process to a virtual platform and not face to face, which in many cases had led to a breakdown in the process. It was noted there was a proposal to restructure AW in order to map the locality’s more effectively and the focus had shifted slightly to find adopters for sibling groups. Officers added that adoption was a long process and intrusive process and it often deterred potential adopters. Members appreciated that it took time to find the right parents for the child/children.
30.6 Members felt that many children remained in the system for longer than necessary, although they recognised the metrics in placing the right child with the right family. In response to a question, it was noted that Government didn’t retain a high level of detail in terms of adoptions but the data was held locally.
The Committee is asked to consider and note the report.
31.1 The Director of Education (DoE) presented the Committee with a detailed presentation. She explained that SEND services continued to be under pressure owing to sustained demand and service level expectations across the sector as the number of EHCPs continued to rise and are above trends from previous years. It was reported that the net increase in plans supported by the High Needs budget was 420. This was 70 plans above the same time in the previous year. This rise, plus an increased number of Post 16 and further education placements was creating additional pressure on the High Needs budget. It was reported that the current forecast showed an in-year deficit of £4.1m compared to the planned £3.5m overspend.
31.2 The DfE published its Education White Paper and Green SEND Paper in March 2022 and the consultation will close on the 22nd July 2022. The SEND paper focused on outcomes for children and young people with SEND and those in alternative provision settings.
31.3 Members questioned the meaning of the term ‘alternative provision’. They felt it was a huge concept and wondered what was the direction of travel. The DoE explained it referred to any provision that was not within a school setting. The vision for the LA’s Alternative Provision schools was to develop a coherent service that served the county as a whole, supporting those children/young people who weren’t in mainstream education. Alternative provision was also a term used to describe was provision/services offered by independent and private providers.
31.4 There has been some concern raised over unregulated providers and the Authority was working with the regulator, Ofsted, to provide some oversight and intervention in order to keep service users safe where provisions were unregulated and that the rules on their use were followed. Officers were looking to review the LA’s directory of alternative provision to provide greater safeguarding assurances as regards registration with Ofsted and compliance with legal use. It was noted that an update on alternative provision would be presented to the September Committee meeting.
31.5 Members were surprised at who could establish themselves as an alternative provider and this gave some cause for concern. The DoE reiterated the existence of the directory and the work in train; she explained that the due diligence responsibility sat with the school commissioning the placement for a child or young person.
31.6 Members welcomed the report and found the content interesting. They were interested to know if Government had lowered the thresholds for SEN, hence the increase in numbers. The DoE explained there was no formal shift in thresholds, although since the pandemic alongside the longer term shifts in parental attitudes from the 2014 Reforms, there had been a shift in parents’ perceptions and understanding which had been a contributory factor in the increased requests to assess for an EHCP. It was suggested prior to the 2014 reforms there was a stigma attached to what was then called a statement, but they had now been replaced by EHCPs, it ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
32.1 The Director of Children’s Safeguarding presented the Improvement Plan in detail and advised the Committee that the plan included specific actions in response to the five formal recommendations made within the inspection report, alongside a wider programme of improvement in support of the development of consistently good services. Members were informed that the plan was in essence the road recovery and sustainable good services by ensuring consistency for all children in Gloucestershire.
32.2 It was anticipated that the Plan would eradicate delay, delivery timely and skilled intervention and deliver sustainable outcomes for children and young people. The officer explained there were social and economic challenges and the demand for services had increased by 30% since the pandemic.
32.3 Members recognised the increased in organised crime in terms of gangs, drugs, etc. and pressures on the system. This was further compounded by numerous other factors as we emerged from lockdown, such as workforce turnover, the number of vacancies and the increased costs versus the demand.
32.3 The Committee noted that the plan had been devised with Heads of Services and Partner agencies but the plan was very much owned by the service. The focus was very much on the practical improvements. The Director wished to thank Clarisse Forgues for her efforts in developing the key actions and metrics in the plan. Officers were committed to earlier intervention, planning and delivery.
32.4 It was explained that the Executive Director of Corporate Resources would chair the new improvement Board and a DfE representative would continue to sit on the Board, as they still retained and advisory role as the Authority still remained in a DfE category of support and supervision. Officer reminded members it was essential to support and invest in Children’s Services in order to make good progress sustainable. Members were advised that the first meeting of the Board would take place on the 28th July 2022.
32.5 The Director of Children’s Safeguarding felt it was a unique time given the Social Care Review, the white and green education papers and the reviews following child murders of Star and Arthur reported widely in the media. She added it was necessary to build resilient families and communities through positive change and the detailed improvement plan would help to support that journey.
32.6 Members welcomed the new style of Improvement Plan and felt it was a good user friendly format. During the discussion, members questioned the red warnings and wondered what were the immediate problems facing the service. The Director explained that the priorities were to stabilise the workforce, while recruiting and retaining staff, as it was not possible to deliver the service without them. Therefore, it was a relentless focus that set the context.
32.7 The Committee were informed that Police, Education and Health all had input in an effort to build a constructive plan across the partnership agencies, as it was essential to get it right for the children and young people of Gloucestershire.
32.8 The development of family hubs ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
The Committee is asked to consider and note the work plan.
During the discussion, members requested the following items be included on the work plan:
- Recruitment & Retention of Children Services staff (Social Workers, etc)
- Briefing paper on academies as part of the levelling up agenda, in relation to schools in deprived areas and secondary education failings.
- Regional Director be invited to attend a meeting to give an update on what they were doing in terms of failing academies.
- Training around the scrutiny process in relation to Children’s Services.
The Committee agreed that in order to make the best use of time, any questions in relation to the Improvement Plan be submitted prior to the meeting. The revised work plan would be circulated to Members in due course.