Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 17 May 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.


Cllr Shaun Parsons declared a personal interest as Chair of Trustees of the National Star Foundation.


Election of Vice Chairperson


It was proposed and agreed that Cllr Lesley Williams be elected as Vice Chairperson for the council year 2018/19.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 89 KB


The minutes of the meeting on Thursday 8 March 2018 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Improvement Board Update pdf icon PDF 85 KB


19.1     The Cabinet Member Children and Young People was in attendance to answer member’s questions. He informed the committee that Ofsted were currently in the council undertaking a monitoring visit and the letter from the visit would be shared with members of council when published by Ofsted.


19.2     In response to a question the Cabinet Member informed the committee that in his view the service was more stable than before, and areas of positive improvement could be seen. The recruitment process has been slimmed down, and a new salary scale launched. However, local authority neighbours were aware of this and have also made adjustments to their pay structure. The council would need to keep on top of this situation as it was important to remain competitive.


19.3     He acknowledged that there were still a significant number of agency social workers in place, but that the council did need them at present to ensure that there was consistency for our children. He informed the committee that only those social workers who were high performing and capable would be appointed.


19.4     Work was ongoing with the University of Gloucestershire to impact on the course structure and to try and encourage newly qualified social workers to stay in Gloucestershire. 


19.5     It was questioned whether decisions were by made individually by the social worker, or whether this was done jointly with the team manager. It was commented that social workers often get pilloried in the press when things go wrong and that this could put people off becoming a social worker. The Interim Assistant Improvement Director informed the committee practice was that decisions were made at team manager level or above. She also informed members that previous Ofsted reports had identified this as an area for improvement, and that a lot of work was in place to improve the process. A restorative practice approach was being used with the social work teams so that team members feel part of the improvement journey. The new operating model meant that there were now more team managers with each having six social workers reporting to them.


Quality Assurance Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 118 KB

The committee will also receive an update on the outcome of Ofsted’s monitoring visit this month.

Additional documents:


20.1     The DCS Adviser and Improvement Director took the opportunity to inform the committee of some of the verbal feedback received by Ofsted. He stressed that it was important to be clear that these comments could not be attributed to Ofsted as the letter that would be received by the council in June 2018 would be the official notification.


20.2     The Head of Quality and Safeguarding (Children and Young People) presented the report and talked in detail about the audit process. Members welcomed the level of activity on audits, and that there has been some improvement in the quality but it was clear that there was some way to go before this work became an automatic part of everyday social work practice. It was acknowledged that the council was still on an improvement journey with regard to audits, but it was felt that the majority of the service was responding positively to the improvement journey.


20.3     It was good to see that there was a clear process to follow up on actions identified through the audit process, and that where, and when, necessary these were escalated to the Interim Assistant Improvement Director. It was also good to see the proposal for the Audit Development Programme which outlined a clear approach to developing good practice.   


20.4     In response to a question it was explained that holding to account started with the audit itself. This process aimed to ensure that all practitioners knew what good practice looked like. If necessary staff could be managed through the HR process, but in the main the service would take a more holistic approach providing support through the team manager.


20.5     Some members of the committee had attended a workshop on this audit process on 30 April 2018 and took this opportunity to thank officers involved. Members in attendance had found this to be a valuable and thoughtful session giving a real insight into the process and the complexity of the cases that were being managed by our social work teams.


Revenue Monitoring pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Additional documents:


21.1     The Finance Business Partner presented the forecast of the year end revenue position as at February 2018. For non DSG (Dedicated Schools Grant) funded services this equated to an over-spend position of £9,215,000 (9.38% of budget); the overspend reduced to £6,169,000 after the vulnerable children’s reserve has been applied.


21.2     The committee was informed that the overspend related to the significant rise in children coming into care and the complexity of many of these cases; and, some individual placement costs have been exceptionally high. The committee has been concerned about the pressures on this budget for some time; in particular the pressure on the high needs budget.


21.3     The committee was informed that the Director of Children’s Services had convened a high cost placement meeting to ascertain whether there were alternative placements available, and whether current placements remained effective and were not ‘drifting’. Members were informed that the IRIS service was still not in the position to be able to provide residential provision.


21.4     It was agreed that it would be important to look at what/how the council was doing to support those children and families at the edge of care.


21.5     It was agreed that a breakdown of the Early Years DSG budget/spend would be provided for committee members.

ACTION:        Sue Hall


Permanent Exclusions Task Group pdf icon PDF 834 KB

The committee to receive the task group report ahead of it’s receipt by Cabinet on Wednesday 6 June 2018.


The report will then be received by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee (OSMC) on 13 June 2018.


22.1     Cllr Dr Andrew Miller, Chairman of the task group, presented the report highlighting the recommendations. The report would be presented to Cabinet on 6 June 2018, and Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on 13 June 2018. As there were also recommendations to the Gloucestershire Health and Wellbeing Board it would also be received there on 17 July 2018.  


22.2     The committee supported the task group report and agreed that it would pick up the points identified in the report as future work, in particular following up on the outcomes of the national inquiry into permanent exclusions. 


22.3     It was agreed that early identification and intervention were key factors in improving people’s life chances, and members agreed that it would be helpful to hear from the Gloucestershire Health and Wellbeing Board’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Panel on how it was taking this work forward.


School Exclusions - The Restorative Practice Approach pdf icon PDF 520 KB

The committee to receive a presentation. Information on Restorative Practice is available at Annex C of the Permanent Exclusions Task Group Report.


23.1     The committee was pleased to welcome the Development Manager Restorative Approach and the Lead Commissioner for Education Strategy and Development to the meeting to inform committee members on restorative practice in schools. The committee received a detailed presentation, which included videos informing on how this was working in two of Gloucestershire’s schools. (The presentation slides were uploaded to the council website and included in the minute book.)


23.2     It was explained that a restorative approach referred to a range of methods and strategies which could be used both to prevent relationship damaging incidents from happening and to resolve them if they did happen (this could include disputes between students, their families, and members of staff). It was also explained that restorative approaches enabled those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right. The committee was informed that evidence showed that restorative practice could make a positive difference, not just in reducing the number of fixed term and permanent exclusions but also in attendance.


23.3     The committee agreed that it was good to see that the number of schools taking up restorative practice was increasing, including the Robinswood Academy Trust agreeing that all schools in the Trust adopt this approach.


23.4     It was important to be aware that this was not an overnight process and took time and commitment, and resources to implement. The Schools Forum has funded an additional post to support the most complex cases, and recruitment was currently underway for volunteer facilitators. The committee was informed that decisions remained regarding the long term funding for this work, but the committee expressed the view that investment should be continued in this area given the difference that it could make to children and young people’s life chances.