Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 8 March 2018 10.00 am

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

Contact: Andrea Clarke 01452 324203 

No. Item


Declarations of interest

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


No declarations of interest were received.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 79 KB


The minutes of the meeting on Thursday 11 January 2018 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Ofsted Improvement Letter pdf icon PDF 273 KB


9.1       The letter indicated that Ofsted recognised that there has been progress in some areas, but that there remained too much variability in practice across teams, and there was still a delay in dealing with the most vulnerable children and young people. In response to questions the Cabinet Member Children and Young People, and the Interim Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed the committee that this letter had not highlighted anything that was not already known to the authority.


9.2       The committee was concerned that, in the letter, children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation were highlighted, particularly with regard to the delays in assessment and action. The Interim DCS acknowledged that this was an area where further work was needed; and that weekly checks were in place to check that there was improvement.


9.3       Members were also concerned that the written record continued to be lacking in information even though social workers continued to demonstrate that they did know their children well. It was explained that the council’s Improvement Partner (Essex County Council) had also experienced this issue and the council was able to benefit from this experience.


9.4       Committee members agreed that a significant issue was delivering and sustaining cultural change. The Interim DCS informed members that this was an extensive part of the Improvement Plan; at the heart of this was a restorative practice approach. It was explained that there was a management programme in place to improve staff supervision. This was also complemented by general engagement across the council through the staff voice activity. Feedback from staff was that they were feeling better supported by their manager and enjoying their job, and did feel that they were more able to raise concerns.


9.5       Committee members agreed that the voice of the child must be paramount throughout the council’s improvement journey. It would also be important to be able to understand/evidence that the improvement measures in place were actually making a difference at the front door, and across the social care teams.


Improvement Board Update pdf icon PDF 90 KB


10.1     It was noted that much of this work had been discussed in the Ofsted Letter item.


10.2     The committee questioned whether the recent changes in the leadership team would impact negatively on the Improvement Plan. However, the new DCS informed the committee that there was a handover period before the Interim DCS returned to her substantive post; he also informed members that he felt that there were green shoots of recovery in place, but that we could not afford to lose momentum. This aspect was also on Ofsted’s radar.


10.3     It was noted that the refresh of the Children’s Services Improvement Plan would be received by this committee in due course.


Performance Report pdf icon PDF 473 KB

To follow.

Additional documents:


11.1     The committee was informed that there continued to be an increase in demand at the front door. As of 7 March 2018 there had been a 35% increase in the number of children subject to a child protection plan in comparison to the same time period last year; this equated to 670 children which was an unprecedented number for Gloucestershire. It was noted that nationally there was also an increase in this number.


11.2     Members were informed that performance surgeries were in place with all teams to both challenge and support; and dip sampling of cases was also undertaken to gain a greater understanding of the quality of work, and a better understanding of the factors involved. It was expected that this work would improve the quality of data recorded, and improve understanding of the performance framework. Members noted that this process did not include looking at the quality of the work on individual cases, this was addressed through the Quality Assurance Framework.


11.3     The committee noted that the understanding of thresholds, across partners, continued to be a factor and this factor has been included in the recent Gloucestershire Safeguarding Board (GSCB) roadshows. Members were informed that this was also why re-referrals were higher than we would wish them to be. Decision making at the front door was a significant criticism by Ofsted and work was continuing to improve this process.


11.4     It was commented that it would be important to understand whether the council was becoming too risk adverse; and to ensure that we were focusing on the need.


11.5     The committee had a detailed discussion on the different factors involved, and how children on Child Protection Plans and Children in Need and their families would be supported. It was agreed that in order to facilitate and improve members understanding of the issues at the ‘front door’ an item on the ‘front door’ would be included on the committee’s work plan.

ACTION:        Andrea Clarke


11.6     Members were concerned that there was too much of a reliance on the parental perspective rather than that of the child/young person in assessments. The Head of Quality acknowledged this point and informed the committee that this had been identified through the quality audit work. The Interim DCS also explained that there was still work to do around practice (what good looked like) and this aspect was included in the Improvement Plan.


11.7     Additional information was requested on the improvement activity in the three secondary schools that were currently judged as requires improvement.

ACTION:        Jane Lloyd Davies


11.8     There was concern with regard to the potential for children in the justice system to be kept in a police cell overnight. A member informed the committee that he had heard that a child had been kept in a cell overnight and that this was due to the fact that as this was after 9pm the Police were unable to access emergency accommodation. The Interim DCS informed the committee that the council investigated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Quality Audit Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To follow


12.1     The Head of Quality gave a detailed presentation to the committee on the quality audit framework, and informed members that she was pleased that Ofsted had noted that there was improvement in this area of work.


12.2     She informed the committee that the number of competent auditors has increased, but more were still needed. She also explained that it was important to be able to demonstrate to social workers what good practice looked like and that there was a commitment in the quality audit framework to do this.


12.3     The committee was interested to note that as part of the essentials training programme social workers had been asked to rate themselves and that there had been a degree of over optimism as to where staff thought their knowledge and practice level was at.


12.4     The audits were showing that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that supervision was being effective; or that managers were checking that actions had been completed. This was a significant factor in ensuring that there were no delays in the support to children and young people and this process had therefore been improved. Members questioned whether the audit process had identified that there were particular teams that needed improvement. However, it was explained that the process was not identifying that there were particular teams/hubs that were ‘at fault’; rather it was the variability in practice across teams that was the issue.


12.5     In order to gain a better understanding of the process it was agreed that there would be a workshop on the quality audit process for committee members, other members of council would be welcome to attend.


Revenue Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:


13.1     The Finance Business Partner gave a detailed presentation of the report.


13.2     Members continued to be concerned with regard to the overspend against the external placement budget. It was questioned whether sufficient resources were being invested in the IRIS project, and whether we were sure that it would make a difference. The detail of the project was explained, and that although a suitable property had yet to be identified that outreach workers were in place. It was acknowledged that until the service was fully operational it would not be clear as to whether it was delivering the expected outcomes. It was agreed that it was better for children and young people to stay in county wherever possible. The DCS informed the committee that in his experience if the IRIS residential care was set up with the right elements in place it could make a difference.


13.3     It was noted that the Sufficiency Strategy would need to be received by this committee in due course.


Capital Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


14.1     The Universal Commissioning Manager (UCM) gave a detailed presentation of the report.


14.2     There was concern that there had still been no announcement from the DfE with regard to wave thirteen capital funding allocations. In response to questions the UCM explained that he felt that the DfE were aware of the frustrations and issues and that he was aware that there has been political pressure to move this position along. It was of concern that the pressure on school places in Gloucestershire was such that the council would have to draw on its own basic need funding as it could no longer afford to wait.


14.3     It was noted that the spend to target profile figures showed a lack of consistency across the years. It was questioned whether this would have had a wider impact on outcomes for children and young people. It was explained that this was not straightforward, and a more detailed understanding of the level of funding in those would be required as it was possible that there would have been other funding streams available. The DCS commented that there did not always seem to be a relationship between the level of capital available and the number of school places needed. He also commented that there used to be a good system to predict school places, but that this seemed to have been eroded over the years.


Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 58 KB

The committee to receive a presentation.

Additional documents:


15.1     The committee was pleased to welcome Wendy Williams, Interim Lead Commissioner Children and Families and Francis Gobey, Outcomes Manager Youth Support, to the meeting to inform and discuss this matter with members.  The committee received a detailed presentation on how the council supported care leavers, and the implications for the local offer of the Children and Social Work Act (2017) which included extending support, from a personal advisor (PA), up to the age of 25 for all care leavers and new corporate parenting principles. (For information the presentation slides were uploaded to the council website and included in the minute book.)


15.2     Members were informed that the new duties came into effect from April 2018. The Corporate Parenting Group has established a task group to take this work forward. The DfE has calculated the costs of the extended PA (Personal Assistant) offer based on the assumption that 40% of care leavers aged 21 to 24 will be NEET (not in education, employment or training) and in need of active support. Gloucestershire’s share was yet to be confirmed and may not cover the costs of the new duties.


15.3     In response to a question, with regard to the task group, it was explained that the Corporate Parenting Group would be contacting all partners to inform them of the multi agency group and how they could be involved. It was also explained that care leavers would also be consulted as it would be important to understand what would have made a difference to their experience.


15.4     It was clarified that this was an ‘opt out’ offer; and that even if young people had initially opted out if they changed their mind they would be able to ‘opt in’.


15.5     The committee welcomed the age extension, and agreed that the more that we could support young people the better outcomes for them in the longer term. The age extension might also offer a better opportunity to improve the transition process.