Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 18 May 2023 10.00 am

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

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 144 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 9th March 2023.

Additional documents:


2.1 The minutes of the meeting held 9th March 2023 were agreed by the Committee.


Declarations of Interest

Members of the Committee are invited to declare any pecuniary or personal interests relating to specific matters on the agenda.


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


3.1 Cllr Andrew Miller declared an interest as a foster carer for Gloucestershire County Council. It had been agreed that he would step out of the room for the fostering section of item 5 and that Cllr Ben Evans would take over as chair for that period.

3.2 Cllr Rebekah Hoyland declared an interest as a mentor for young women and girls.



Inclusion Strategy pdf icon PDF 240 KB

To consider the attached Inclusion Strategy and Service Update and provide feedback.


4.1 Philip Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development, presented the report on the inclusion strategy. It was explained that a considerable volume of children and young people required support and it was incredibly difficult to deliver that support with the resources available to Children’s Services. It was also explained that a lot of the current support was at the point of crisis and the intention in the strategy was to focus on proactive early intervention to avoid exclusion where possible. The officer contextualised Gloucestershire County Council’s inclusion strategy within the wider context of the Government’s strategy which focused on supporting mainstream school inclusion and increasing parental confidence that mainstream schools could provide adequate support for children that had been considered for exclusion. Several key activities were underway in Gloucestershire to support mainstream inclusion. There was a particular need to identify more accurately who needed support most and it was explained that Local Inclusion Partnerships were there to support schools within a district or borough to give more targeted support across a local area.

4.2 A member asked how many cases of non-attendance had resulted in fines. It was explained that cautions were given before fines, and that information regarding non-attendance and fines could be circulated to committee members.

ACTION – Philip Haslett to share fine data with DSU for circulation.

4.3 In response to a question around parents withdrawing children with SEND (special educational needs and disability) from mainstream schools, it was explained that more families were pushing for specialist education for children with SEND and that there were packages to support children if there were issues around school transfers. It was also explained that tribunals found in the parents’ favour in 97% of cases and the strategy’s preventative approach was aiming to reduce the number of cases that resulted in tribunal.  It was noted that this was particularly important given tribunal costs, success rates and the breakdown in relations that occurred by the time a tribunal was resorted to. It was also noted that the national policy was not being sufficiently resourced to match the ambitions it laid out and that this was likely to give families higher expectations than could be achieved.

4.4 A member asked about cases where parents wanted their children at school but the children were refusing. The officer explained that those scenarios were increasingly caused by mental health problems. It was explained that the Hospital Education Service was available to support in those cases and specialist mental health programmes were commissioned for severe non-attenders. These programmes focused on mentoring and guiding children back into education. There was strong multi-agency support to make sure that the different reasons for non-attendance could be targeted.

4.5 A member asked about school subscription rates to restorative practise. It was explained that 113 schools were signed up in some way and 4 of those were actively engaged secondary schools. It was explained that work was being done to encourage further engagement from secondary schools and evidencing the benefits  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Fostering/Adoption Update pdf icon PDF 494 KB

To consider the attached update on Fostering and Adoption (including an update on marketing and communications).

Additional documents:


5.1 Tammy Wheatley and Karen Etheridge, Head of Service for Permanence (Children’s Services) and Marketing and Communications Officer (Fostering Service) respectively, gave this presentation on adoption and fostering in Gloucestershire. It was explained that the working relationship with Adoption West was very positive. It was explained that Gloucestershire was the best performing Local Authority in relation to early permanence placements within the Adoption West partnership. It was also noted that Gloucestershire did not have an elected member representing the County at the Adoption West Scrutiny Panel.

Tammy Wheatley to share the most recent Adoption West Scrutiny Panel minutes to DSU for circulation.

CFOSC are asked to identify an elected member to join the Adoption West Panel.

5.2 It was explained that the Covid-19 pandemic had not significantly impacted adoption timeliness within Gloucestershire with the adoption assessment process for parents typically taking up to 6 months. The officer stressed that there had been significant success placing groups of 3 siblings within one family which was very difficult to achieve nationally. Overall timeliness for adoption was good in Gloucestershire. Introduction to adopters had slowed down, but this was a purposeful decision due to new data suggesting it was important not to rush this stage. It was also noted that more children were living with their adopted family but had not yet been adopted. This seemed to be due to a delay in granting adoption orders as typically a few adoption hearings took place before the adoption order could be given – this was largely due to opposition from birth parents.

5.3 A member asked how many children in Gloucestershire were matched for adoption outside of Adoption West. It was explained that most children were placed through Adoption West. If there were no matches for a child within Adoption West, then a national search for adoption parents would begin with the agreement of GCC. This could happen, for example, in the case of a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) child who could be better matched with a family elsewhere in the country where there were more BAME parents available. In those cases, GCC would pay the local authority that the child was placed within. This relationship was reciprocal such that if GCC took a child from another local authority, GCC would be paid for that service.

5.4 In response to a question about Adoption West social workers, it was explained that Adoption West was co-owned by Gloucestershire and the other local authorities in Adoption West, but that Adoption West social workers did not contribute to the total number of Gloucestershire County Council social workers.

5.5 A member asked whether prospective adoptive families were encouraged to foster in the interim. It was explained that they could be encouraged to do early permanence but would not be encouraged to do general fostering as that could complicate the fostering process for the child.

5.6 In response to a question about the 2023/24 recruitment strategy plan, it was explained that this was still with Adoption West  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Sufficiency Strategy Report pdf icon PDF 108 KB

To consider the attached Sufficiency Strategy Report, assess the strategy’s content and provide feedback.

Additional documents:


6.1 Ann James, Director of Children’s Services, presented the sufficiency strategy report. It was explained that Gloucestershire’s sufficiency strategy was in line with statute, regional work and planning for the Southwest. The national picture was that the growth in homes available had not kept up with growth in demand. It was reported that roughly 30% of children in care were placed outside of Gloucestershire because of insufficient provision and the strategy was designed to tackle that. It was also explained that Gloucestershire was not meeting national targets set for taking in asylum seeking children and young people.

6.2 The plan had been developed with the support of Oxford Brookes University and was influenced by the views of children in care and carers. There was a focus in the strategy on prevention by providing the appropriate support to birth families and reducing the demand for care later in life.

6.3 The strategy had been approved by the 25th January 2023 Cabinet meeting. A recent funding bid to the Department for Education had been successful and that would part-fund the development of children’s homes and supported accommodation in the county. A second, more recent successful funding bid would enable the creation of a ‘Staying Close Hub’ in Gloucester to provide drop-in and outreach support for young people moving on from care. A further significant part of the strategy would be the development of supported lodgings for care leavers. Staff had been appointed to run that project, carers were in place to support it and a marketing campaign was ready to go.

6.3 A member asked for more information about the 36 different providers listed as working with Children’s Services. The officer explained that it was preferable to keep children in care within GCC rather than with external providers to enable children to live locally and achieve value for money. The expectation was that the creation of more GCC provision would increase choice and reduce reliance on the external providers. It was recognised, however, that a mixed market was important and that further engagement with key providers was important to improve relations and child outcomes.

6.4 A member asked about the relationship between Gloucestershire taking in a significant number of young people and adults with disabilities whilst also sending young people from Gloucestershire out of county. The officer explained that the hope behind the strategy was to provide locally for more children who needed to be in care.

6.5 It was suggested to bring this item to the work plan for a future meeting when the Cabinet Member could attend and give a strategic overview.

6.6 A member raised the concept of universal access to parental training to help maintain birth families and asked whether that could be included in the strategy. It was suggested this could be included in a discussion at a later meeting about family hubs.



IT Digital Initiatives Presentation/Update pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To receive an update on IT digital initiatives.

Additional documents:


7.1 Mandy Quayle, Director for People and Digital Services, gave an overview of the report. Since last speaking to the Committee in January there had been some setbacks, but, largely positive progress on the roadmap. Feedback from staff in the ICT Q&A held the previous week was useful and feedback from staff around service desk support had also been largely positive with the average time for resolutions being 1-2 days. The officer did however highlight that there were still isolated pockets of IT difficulties that were causing frustration for staff and these would take time to work through.

7.2 A member asked when the benefits of changing the hosting of liquid logic would be seen. The officer explained that the system received a much needed update and that moving away from liquid logic being hosted on GCC’s infrastructure would improve resilience and mean that there was a single provider who would be responsible for resolving problems when they arose. This would increase accountability. Hosting was on track to go live in July.

7.3 A member requested to see the feedback from Children’s Services user groups at a future Committee meeting.



Performance Report pdf icon PDF 99 KB

To note the attached performance report. Members are encouraged to please send any questions in advance by the end of the day on Monday 15th May 2023.

Additional documents:


8.1 The Committee noted the report.


Quality Assurance Framework pdf icon PDF 484 KB

To note the attached report on the Quality Assurance Framework. Members are encouraged to please send any questions in advance by the end of the day on Monday 15th May 2023.



9.1 Robert England, Head of Quality and Safeguarding in Children’s Services, responded to a question about audit action timeframes and successful completion within timeframes. The officer explained that the team had worked through a significant amount of the backlog of audit actions, but there were still a number of actions that were outstanding. The officer suggested that it could be worth considering a revision of the indicator around audit actions to give a better reflection of performance.

9.2 The Chair suggested that it could be worth introducing a practise of agreeing timeframe targets with the person responsible for the audit action and benchmarking performance against that agreed timeframe, rather than applying a blanket 1 month target.

9.3 A member asked whether the audit backlog was due to performance within particular teams and suggested it might be worth scrutinising individual team performance at a later date. The officer emphasised that practise was improving and that an analysis on teams was possible and could be brought to the Committee at a later date.

Robert England/ Claire Lawton to bring specific teams information to a future report.



Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To note the attached Revenue Monitoring Report. Members are encouraged to please send any questions in advance by the end of the day on Monday 15th May 2023.

Additional documents:


10.1 The Committee noted this report.


Work Plan pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To review the Committee work plan and suggest items for consideration at future meetings.


11.1 Several items were discussed for addition to the work plan:

-          Scoping for a report on work on preventing Child Abuse and Exploitation

-          Children’s Services Providers – a report on the 36 companies that work with GCC

-          IT review for children’s services

-          Annual Safeguarding Report

-          Review on care for disabled children

-          Report on universal support available for ‘how to be a parent’ for expecting parents and parents of young children

-          Autism Strategy


DSU and officers to arrange specific meeting dates for these items.

DSU to liaise with Mandy Quayle for the timing of the IT Pulse Survey.



Future Meetings

To note the dates of meetings for 2023 (all meetings to start at 10am):


13th July 2023

14th September 2023

9th November 2023


12.1 The Committee noted the future meeting dates.