Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 24 November 2022 10.00 am

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

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Charlotte Blanch (Clifton Diocese) and the Ambassadors for Vulnerable Children and Young People.


Declarations of interest

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


Cllr Andrew Miller declared an interest as a foster carer for Gloucestershire County Council (GCC).


Cllr Beki Hoyland declared an interest as a mentor for the Young Girls Project.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 113 KB

The Committee is asked to approve the minutes of the meeting held on the 22nd September 2022. 


The minutes of the meeting held on 22 September 2022 were approved.


Annual Safeguarding Report pdf icon PDF 3 MB

The Committee is asked to receive the report. 


Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services, introduced the Annual Safeguarding Report, which provided an overview of the progress made by the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership (GSCP) between April 2021 and March 2022 under Working Together 2018.


Attention was drawn to the list of national guidance and publications included in the report which had influenced the work of the GSCP, including the Allan Wood Review and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.


Members noted that the Executive of the GSCP comprised of Marion Andrew Evans, representing the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Craig Holden, representing Gloucestershire Constabulary, Chris Spencer, representing GCC, and Kirsten Harrison, representing schools.


It was understood that engagement with the GSCP across partners was strong, and that partners had invested significant funds to the Partnership.


Dave Jones, Business Manager for the Executive Safeguarding Support Unit, provided further details on the work of the GSCP, which included reviewing the role of the Business Manager; progressing multi-agency training and practice development, which was showing significant growth; developing a multi-agency Significant Incident Notification (SIN) Decision Procedure; reviewing the Section 175/157 Education Act Safeguarding Assurances audit; and improving the S11 Audit to include a young person’s panel as part of the commitment to developing the voice of the child.


Members were advised that Mark Power had been appointed as the new Independent Scrutineer in April 2022.


It was recognised that the inclusion of the CCG, Constabulary and the Local Authority on the Executive of the GSCP improved knowledge across the Partnership and ensured a shared duty for safeguarding across partners. Additionally, there had been robust engagement across all partners in audits and activities undertaken by GSCP sub-groups.


The Committee was informed of the Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews and Child Death Reviews undertaken between April 2021 and March 2022.


One member queried how the GSCP worked alongside other partnerships in the south-west. In response, it was explained that since the Government had removed any fixed approach to running safeguarding partnerships in 2018, Gloucestershire was unique in the south-west by having a single geographical footprint for the CCG, the Constabulary and the Local Authority, which made direct comparisons with other areas difficult. However, business units across the south-west did liaise on safeguarding reviews, key themes and duties. Additionally, Gloucestershire liaised with colleagues nationally, such as by attending seminars on national themes.


There was a query relating to the difficulties of social care recruitment. In response, officers acknowledged the difficulties with recruitment in this area nationally. It was understood that 33 percent of social workers in Gloucestershire were agency staff. GCC had developed a number of incentives to improve recruitment in this area, including financial incentives, career progression opportunities and training offers.


It was also noted that Gloucestershire Constabulary commitment to the Partnership was currently unstable due to a shortage of staff. Additionally, the numbers of designated doctors and nurses were currently below the statutory limit.


It was noted that the Committee would be considering an item on the recruitment and retention of social workers at  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.


Children's Services IT Update pdf icon PDF 48 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report.


Karl Grocock, Assistant Director of Digital and ICT, presented the update report on Children’s Services ICT. The Committee had requested at their last meeting that a report be provided at this meeting to include specific and definite actions for Children’s Services ICT.


Members were informed that feedback from staff in Children’s Services was that ICT was improving and that systems were performing at an acceptable level, although there was still further work to be done.


Staff could access articles online about using ICT, and a pulse survey was planned for January for further feedback, followed by the establishment of more formal user groups.


It was noted that improvements to the Council’s network had now been completed across all sites, and that the continued rollout of Microsoft 365 would improve efficiency going forward. Liquidlogic had been upgraded to version 16, and it was planned for Liguidlogic to host the system for the Council in the future.


Improvements had been made in terms of the numbers of ICT incidents over the past three months. Improvements had also been made relating to the provision of new starter equipment.


Members were also advised that work towards a refreshed digital and ICT strategy 2023-2027 was ongoing. The road map for that strategy would be shared with Committee members for their information.


One member expressed their disappointment that the report did not include an action plan setting out the plans, expected outcomes and timescales for improvements to Children’s Services ICT.


The Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years explained that there was a more detailed plan that could be shared with the Committee. He added that he regularly met with senior officers to discuss the issue of Children’s Service’s ICT.


Chris Spencer also recognised the impact that ICT issues had on staff morale and was reassured that improvements had been delivered.


A query was asked regarding the rollout of the upgraded Liquidlogic system for staff. In response, Karl Grocock explained that the rollout had been delayed until early 2023 to avoid overloading staff with the changes to Liquidlogic at the same time as learning to use Microsoft 365.


One member asked what equipment new starters received and whether social workers had to write up their notes whilst out on visits. In response, it was explained that staff could record their notes using Bluetooth and then could download these following their visits when back in the office or at home.


The member queried whether staff had the ICT skills to be able to use ICT in this way. In response, officers acknowledged that staff had varying levels of ICT skills, however a range of training materials were available on Service Now.


Steve Mawson, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director for Corporate Resources apologised that the ICT improvement plan had not been presented at this meeting. He highlighted, however, the potential duplication of work by this Committee considering the plan, as it was the responsibility of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.


CFSC Work Plan pdf icon PDF 62 KB

The Committee is asked to note the work plan and suggest any items for future consideration. 


At its next meeting on 12 January 2023, the Committee would receive, in addition to the regular update reports:

-       a report on the Children’s Services ICT Improvement Plan, including specific projects and timescales;

-       a verbal update on the Trevone House investigation;

-       a briefing note on the recommissioning of children and family centres;

-       a briefing paper on academies;

-       an update on school attendance;

-       a report on the Sufficiency Strategy; and

-       an update on the recruitment and retention of Children’s Services Staff.


The following items would be added to the agenda for the March 2023 meeting:

-       a full report on the Trevone House investigation; and

-       a report on models for early intervention.


The following items would be added to the agenda for the July 2023 meeting:

-       a report looking into NEET care leavers and those not in suitable accommodation; and

-       a report on further education, to include perspectives from further education principals.