Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 22 September 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Web ex meeting. View directions

No. Item


Declarations of interest

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


Councillor Miller advised the Committee he would withdraw from the meeting for agenda item 7 (Fostering Update), as he was a Foster Carer for GCC. 


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 112 KB

The Committee is asked to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.   


That the minutes of Thursday 14th July 2022 were approved as a correct record. 


Alternative Provision - Current Position and Development Plans linked to the SEND Green paper content & Direction of Travel pdf icon PDF 1 MB

The Committee is asked to note the update report.


The Head of Education Strategy and Inclusion (HoESI) provided the committee with an in-depth presentation on the progress of Alternate Provision (AP) and outlined the continued activity to support the improvement across the county.


              The Committee were informed there was a significant increase in demand for AP placements and there was a high threshold.  The Committee were advised there was often a misinterpretation of AP, as the aim was to provide support to children who were unable to access mainstream education, with a view of returning to mainstream education. 


              Members noted AP was available in LA maintained commissioned schools in the locality, those being Stroud/Cheltenham and Gloucester/Forest.  In addition, there was an academy free school which operated near Tewkesbury and provided support in the locality and was used for early intervention purposes and was commissioned by schools directly. 


              It was explained the Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) focused on mental/physical health issues and supported over a 100 children who were unable to access mainstream education.  The demand for this service had been increasing and was a high level tier 3 referral, in order to access this type of provision. 


              The Committee were advised there were a range of community providers that offered different services from equine therapy to tailored mentoring.  It was explained that not all providers were registered with Ofsted, but there were many types of high quality providers that could offer short respite support across the county and many schools utilised this provision.  Officers explained that the term unregistered providers were on occasion regarded as an area of focus given its unregistered nature but there wasn't necessarily an issue with that type of provision.


              The HoESI advised the Committee that the service was on a development journey and there was a definite case for change.  Members were referred to the variation in the quality of provision and accepted the thresholds for support was often too high and lacked a focus on early intervention.  It was recognised there was now a Government focus on the use of AP and the national policy focus moving forward. 


              The Committee were advised that a significant amount work had been undertaken to address the issues and as a result the quality of LA provision had improved and was now rated good in all areas by Ofsted, which was a big step forward in terms of quality of provision. 


              The HoESI made the Committee aware that the service had consolidated LA provision into two schools and there was significant investment from the Capital Team and Property Services in all the outdoor and indoor learning environments.  In addition, a new primary provision had been opened at Rutherford House in Gloucester, that provided support for up to 35 children.   


              The service now aimed to offer a new early intervention and the pupil funding would be used more flexibly to support those who were at risk of exclusion through partnership working.  It was explained the service was actively doing more outreach work with mainstream placements  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.


Family Hubs - Where are we in the process pdf icon PDF 199 KB

To update the Committee on the Family Hubs model in Gloucestershire.

Additional documents:


Wendy Williams, Assistant Director for Integrated Children and Families Commissioning presented the report in detail.  It was explained that Cabinet approval was given in July 2021 to vary the current contracts to extend the end date of the targeted services (in the 16 Children Centre's).  This was to allow GCC time to reshape and engage with the purpose of considering an offer around developing an integrated service to children and families in Gloucestershire.


It was explained that the Family Hub model had emerged nationally as an effective integrated model which was being encouraged by various policy initiatives.    This had prompted the Integrated Children and Families Commissioning Hub, to explore the future of Children and Family Centre’s as part of a potential key ingredient to support the creation of Family Hubs, whereby they were reimagined as community bases for families with children aged 0-19 and up to the age 25 with SEND.


In August 2022 there was a further variation to existing contracts with current providers for a further 3 months until the 30th June 2023, for the provision of targeted family support services within Children and Family Centres in Gloucestershire.  The variation would allow further community and voluntary sector engagement, to reduce any barriers in creating consortium bids and allow reflection upon the implications of the independent review of children’s social care.


Members were advised that there had been a reduction in services nationally and this was now a wide scoping offer that meant services needed to be reconfigured.  A considerable amount of work had been undertaken to look at the buildings and capacity issues. 


The Committee welcomed the report and thought the concept of a one stop shop for 0-25 year olds and families was an enormous remit, and would require a rebranding launch across the County.  The Assistant Director informed committee that they were working with corporate colleagues on the rebranding project and were part of the South West Family Hub Programme which shared information and learning experiences. 


Officer's appreciated member's views and explained there was a three-year incremental programme to deliver the whole Gloucestershire offer.   In addition, a work force strategy was being devised to look at training and development across the board and there would be no reduction in the workforce. 


The Director of Partnerships & Strategy explained there was a challenge of overlap and duplication and the focus was currently on tier 1 & 2, however in the long term the focus would be on tiers 1 - 4, in order to deliver a seamless service and would seek to build a strong coalition across the partners, this would be encapsulated by a matrix of risk management.  Members welcomed the approach of partnership working. 


The Director of Children's Safeguarding & Care advised committee that the design and implementation was at a critical point in Gloucestershire and it was not an option to have children with greater needs being left unattended. 


Members added that children's centres were previously successful before they were disintegrated and often what goes around,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.


Continuous Improvement Board Update pdf icon PDF 147 KB

The Committee is asked to note the update report. 


The Committee noted the report.


Fostering Update pdf icon PDF 67 KB

To update Children and Families Scrutiny Committee on the Fostering Service Annual Report 2021/22

Additional documents:


At this juncture, Cllr Miller withdrew from the meeting and Cllr Evans chaired the meeting.   


Ann James, Director of Children's Safeguarding and Care advised the Committee that the Authority had a statutory duty to provide a safe fostering service. 


Tammy Wheatley, Head of Service gave a detailed presentation and explained the operational environment covered by the report was extremely challenging due to a combination of factors, including the profound and enduring impact of Covid on both the service and current prospects foster carers and a sustained growth in the numbers of children in care in the county. 


It was reported overall, the service had responded proactively and effectively to those challenges, with a sustained focus on ensuring that foster carers were supported and enabled to provide good quality care for children and young people in the county.


It was noted the recruitment and retention of Foster Carers had been challenging, with a reduction of 19 in the number of available fostering households, from 204 to 185 by March 2022. It was accepted this was due in part to the impact of Covid on prospective and current carers, it also reflected the work undertaken by the service to review inactive capacity and ensure that the number of approved households accurately reflected available places.


The HoS wished to thank all foster carers for their continued support and for providing home education especially during challenging times.   


Members were informed that the proportion of children placed with in-house foster carers had been more or less sustained at 69% and the target was 80%, with 20% placed with independent foster care agencies.  The key focus of the service was to increase the pool of available in-house foster carers going forward. The Committee were pleased to note good utilisation of in-house foster care capacity had been sustained at 85%, which was in line with target.


The service had also enhanced its utilisation of Liquid Logic in generating its performance data to ensure it was robust and accurate, enabling leadership to have a comprehensive appreciation and firm grip on key aspects of performance.  


The HoS explained that engagement with foster carers and children had been sustained and gradually evolved from on-line to face to face, as the impact and restrictions of Covid had been relaxed.


The Committee were advised that the team were actively developing the service for the benefit of children and young people, and were dealing with new arrivals of unsupported children from Ukraine, etc. 


It was noted the service was making significant improvements, with the continued support of the Senior Management Team.     


Members wondered how the Authority could persuade foster carers to move to GCC as a foster caring agency.  It was explained there were a high number of foster agencies in Gloucestershire and many foster carers weren't aware that GCC offered the service, as some people believe the level of funding is higher through an agency.  The aim was for GCC to be the foster agency of choice in Gloucestershire. 


Officers were working  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.


Please send in questions on the following agenda items by the end of day on Monday 12th September 2022


Improvement Plan pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Additional documents:


The  Committee noted the report.


Performance Report pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Additional documents:


The  Committee noted the report.


Quality Assurance Framework pdf icon PDF 576 KB


The  Committee noted the report.


Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:


The  Committee noted the report.


Work Plan pdf icon PDF 61 KB


At this point, the Cllr Miller joined the meeting. 


The Committee discussed the work plan and suggested the following be included for future discussions:

·         Members were frustrated with the various conflicting reports concerning IT and requested the update in November include specific and definite actions. 

·         Members requested the previous and current version of the improvement plan be presented to the November meeting, so members could compare and seek explanation for any delays.

·         The Committee requested an update and review on Trevone House be presented to the January meeting.  Members were interested to know the status of Trevone House 2, and any future plans. 

·          A member briefing session on fostering would be held, a foster carer and young ambassadors could be involved in the presentation  to give members a deep dive/insight. 

·         Members agreed to delegate the work plan in the to the Chair/Vice Chair.  


During the discussion, some members felt some of the reports were lenghty and felt that a hyperlink to the full report could be included on the agenda and short summary reports would be beneficial.  Members welcomed this approach.