Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 12 July 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 Brian Robinson declared a personal interest as a Foster Carer.



Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 82 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 17 May 2018 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



Ofsted Improvement Letter pdf icon PDF 274 KB


26.1     The committee was pleased to note that the letter indicated that there was some improvement in practice. It is however important to note that the letter also indicated that there was still variable practice across teams and, in effect, the quality of the service you received could depend on the locality in which you lived.


26.2     The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed the committee that he felt that it was important to be cautious. Whilst there was continuous improvement this was fragile. He stated that he felt that the letter understated the challenging position the council was in with regard to recruitment and retention. The council was overly reliant on newly qualified social workers and this brought with it a degree of risk. The committee was informed that a robust training programme was in place across the social work teams to improve and develop good practice.


26.3     Within the context of recruitment and retention it was important to note that market forces played a significant role. The current market worked for the experienced social worker, not the local authority. The council’s neighbouring authorities were in the same position as Gloucestershire, trying to recover from poor Ofsted outcomes; and each local authority was doing what it could to attract experienced social workers to them.


26.4     In response to questions the DCS gave a detailed update on the activity, led by corporate HR, to recruit and retain social workers; and the increased use of technology (eg. video conferencing) to improve and support process. He also explained the longer term plans related to ‘growing our own’ social workers. A particular aspect of this work would be the creation of an Academy to be linked to one of the universities, which would provide training opportunities, masterclasses etc; this approach was working well in Cumbria. Discussions were also underway with the universities with regard to creating an apprenticeship route into social work.


26.5     The DCS stated that it was important to be clear that the bottom line was that if Ofsted were to undertake a full inspection now the council’s rating would be the same.


26.6     Committee members ask for clarification on budget/resource issues. The DCS informed members that, in terms of overall funding, the council was now on a comparable level to other councils. He stated that the issue should not be about a lack of resource but about how effectively resources were deployed. He explained that each agency social worker cost the authority £15k more than one directly employed by the council and that currently 120 agency workers were in place in the council. The council was also managing some high cost placements which were already predicting an overspend. It was explained that the whole process of how the council commissioned these places needed to be looked at carefully. Many of these placements were made in an unplanned way, on an emergency basis. It was a complex picture, but it was all related to how cases were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.


Improvement Board Update pdf icon PDF 81 KB


27.1     The committee agreed that having discussed the improvement aspects during the Ofsted Letter agenda item, during this agenda item it would focus its attention on the new management arrangements for the Improvement Board.


27.2     The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed members that John Goldup, who had been chairing the Improvement Board since July 2017, had informed the Improvement Board that his contract with the Department for Education (DfE) for the work he has been doing in Gloucestershire finished at the end of May 2018. The DfE had informed the Council that they would not re-appoint a chair.


27.3     At its meeting on 23 May 2018 the Improvement Board had agreed the following actions: -

Ø  Carry-on with an Improvement Board

Ø  Recruit an independent chair for the Improvement Board

Ø  The Improvement Board will meet every 2 months

Ø  Set up a quarterly Chief Officers meetings with Health and the Police (this group will be responsible for multi-agency safeguarding and will be tasked with developing the future shape of the Safeguarding Board)

Ø  Review the route to feedback to DfE as Essex will take a bigger role.


27.4     The DCS informed the committee that the DfE have approved this new model. An Independent Chair has been identified and will attend the next Improvement Board meeting which is on 24 July 2018.



Quality Assurance Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 148 KB


28.1     The Head of Quality, Children and Young People, informed the committee that work was currently in place to reflect on, and take stock, of whether the audit process was having an impact, in essence was it delivering on the ‘so what’ question. She stated that there were a couple of processes which could be delivered ‘smarter’. The process was on track to have delivered double the number of audits in August 2018. Before accelerating the numbers it would be important to ensure that the process was consistent and that those areas of ‘not good’ quality have been addressed. 


28.2     The committee was informed that a significant factor coming through the audit process was the critical nature of relationship based practice. The audit process has also identified that the purpose of visits made by social workers to our children was not always clear, and therefore the impact on the child/young person was not clear.


28.3     Reflecting on his personal experience as a foster carer the Chairman stated that it often felt that nothing came of issues discussed during visits from the social worker; and his foster child was very concerned about what was written about them. In response the Head of Quality acknowledged that it was clear that the voice of the child/young person was not always coming through.


28.4     The Ambassador for Vulnerable Children and People informed the committee that the Ambassadors were aware that there was improvement in how services involved young people, but that there was more to do, and that the Children in Care Council could be better utilised in this respect. The committee was also informed of the work undertaken by the Ambassadors through the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) Roadshows on the language used about children and young people in their personal file. This demonstrated how services could be quick to judge and label children and young people, and to remember that they were people first and shouldn’t be seen as cases, numbers or subjects. The Head of Quality, Children and Young People, informed members that it has been noticed that there has been an increase in the number of young people coming back to look at their file; how and what is recorded was paramount for these young people.


28.5     The committee was informed that officers were working with the council’s improvement partner Essex County Council on the audit process.


Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report pdf icon PDF 2 MB


29.1     Dave McCallum, Independent Chair of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) informed the committee that the role of local safeguarding children boards was to ensure that what was done locally to safeguard children was both well-coordinated and effective. He could not currently say that the safeguarding system in Gloucestershire was fully effective or that there was consistently good coordination across partner agencies. He stated that the challenges faced by the county council were also faced, in varying degrees, by partner agencies. Mr McCallum was clear that the responsibility for the drift and delay in strategy discussions was not just with the council but also other partners; and that there needed to be continued improvement into ensuring that actions were having a positive impact on the child/young person.


29.2     Mr McCallum informed the committee that during this year it had been necessary for him to be critical to most agencies as very few have an effective performance monitoring framework in place to inform them on how they were performing with regard to safeguarding our children, or an effective internal quality assurance process allowing them to intrusively monitor the quality of that work. He stated that this council was well ahead of other agencies in this regard. He assured the committee that when necessary he escalated his concerns to the senior leadership of the organisation.


29.3     The committee was aware that Gloucestershire Police had also received a challenging report on safeguarding children in 2017. The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed members that the latest report from HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services) was more positive, and that amongst other actions taken to redress this position the Police had appointed 5 new officers to work on safeguarding. It was also noted that a Police Officer now worked alongside the social care teams at the ‘front door’.


29.4     A committee member shared his concerns that the Police did not seem to understand the impact on a child/young person of spending a night in a cell. In following this through with the Police he had been assured that there was a policy, but on speaking to front line officers they did not seem to know the process and seemed to think that they could not ring the duty line. Mr McCallum stated that this was why he wanted every agency involved in safeguarding to consider its role, and have a monitoring process in place. He questioned whether the Police reported on how often and for how long children/young people were detained in the cells overnight.


29.5     The DCS informed the committee that he thought that the quarterly meeting with Health, the council and the Police (as discussed in the Improvement board agenda item) would enable strategic discussions regarding safeguarding and would be purposeful. He agreed that no child should spend the night in the cells and through these meetings he would be able to challenge the Assistant Chief Constable on the work of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Revenue Monitoring pdf icon PDF 98 KB

Additional documents:


30.1     The Business Finance Partner gave a detailed presentation drawing members attention to the overspends, and the actions in place and plans to address them.


30.2     The committee was reminded that there was currently a consultation on the High Needs Budget.


30.3     The committee noted the report.



Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 171 KB


31.1     The Director of Children’s Service’s (DCS) informed the committee that whilst some areas had improved overall there was a dip in performance. He attributed most of this to the implementation of the new operating model in March 2018. A particular concern was the number of re-referrals; just under a third of children referred in April 2018 had previously been referred. He stated that we needed to get to a position where the case was dealt with once and well so that there was no need for a re-referral.


31.2     Members questioned the Quarter 3 figure for the percentage of children who were placed with the in-house fostering service as it seemed significantly out of kilter with previous quarters and quarter 4. It was agreed that the DCS would look into this.

ACTION:        Chris Spencer


31.3     The committee also debated the challenges relating to the poor performance relating to some of the schools in Gloucestershire, and how the responsibility for most of these schools lay with the Regional Schools Commissioner. Particular concerns were for some schools in the Forest of Dean, and in Gloucester. The DCS informed members that he would be discussing his concerns regarding the schools in Gloucester with the G15 group of schools. Members felt that there could be a leadership role for the committee in this regard.


31.4     Some frustration was also expressed that the data was not the most current and the presentation of performance data was not helpful. The committee was informed that similar concerns had been raised at the recent meeting of the Health and Care Scrutiny Committee. It was suggested that a review of the performance management framework would be helpful.