Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 28 November 2019 10.00 am

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

Contact: Andrea Clarke 01452 324203 

Items
No. Item

50.

Declarations of interest

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

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

 

51.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 87 KB

The committee to receive the minutes of the meetings held on 12 September 2019 and 10 October 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

51.1     The minutes of the meetings held on 12 September and 10 October 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

51.2     Some members of the committee commented that they had not felt sufficiently assured by the response from the Chief Executive to their concerns discussed at the meeting on 10 October 2019. In response to the concerns expressed the Director of Children’s Services described the multi layered level of oversight and challenge. The Chairman noted that this issue was reflected in the Quality Assurance Report to be discussed later in the agenda.

 

51.3     With regard to minute 45.10 which discussed the suggestion that children in care were made aware of their local councillor (as corporate parent) it was agreed that this should be taken through the Corporate Parenting Board. 

ACTION:        Gill Horrobin

 

52.

Quality Assurance Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 312 KB

Minutes:

52.1     The Head of Quality Children’s Services presented the report. They highlighted that the level of ‘good’ ratings was being sustained. However there was an increase in ratings of ‘inadequate’ although it was stated that it was best to look at this data on a quarterly basis. The committee was informed that it was possible to see the impact of the Essentials training programme coming throughout this area of work. Social Workers’ ability to understand the lived experience of the child was still not always there.

 

52.2     The committee was informed that a mock inspection had been carried out on the fostering service (this process would be repeated in other service areas). This had shown that there was some variable practice, with some placements not well organised or arranged. The view was that the rating for the service was a solid ‘requires improvement’. The Director of Children’s Safeguarding would be taking forward the recommendations from this mock inspection.

 

52.3     The quality audit process had been reviewed. Not enough audits were being completed each month. There was still an insufficient number of auditors in place. Of particular importance was that it was still not clear what the impact on the individual child/young person was, or even how best to record this aspect. Although the data showed that there was a high level of participation in this process feedback indicated that some social workers did not feel part of the process; this reflected that work was still needed on the role of the moderator. A report would be received by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) discussing how to improve this process.

 

52.4     The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed the committee that quality assurance was a business critical part of the overall system, demonstrating how practice was working at the frontline. The way that the process had initially been set up was overly bureaucratic although fit for purpose at the time. The process has now moved from being somewhat judgemental to more of a development tool such that people could learn from the process.

 

52.5     Members were concerned about the morale of staff with regard to the audit process. The DCS stated that the morale around audits was improving. The DCS wanted people to learn from the experience and to see it as a constructive process.

 

52.6     Members were concerned that the report indicated that social worker’s ability to conceptualise risk and need remained an issue. The Director of Children’s Safeguarding explained that social workers were very able to identify those children and young people where the risk was obvious but that some did struggle with cases where the issues were long term. The Head of Quality stated the challenges related to where the issues were more opaque. Within their university course social workers received a lot of training around information but not so much with regard to interpretation or the ability to reflect.

 

52.7     In response to questions the DCS stated that there were a number of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.

53.

Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 502 KB

Minutes:

53.1     The Director of Children’s Safeguarding gave a detailed presentation of the report. They stated that there were areas of improvement. However we were still struggling with timeliness of visits, in some of these cases this would be related to families not wishing to engage with the council, but sometimes it would be because teams were not sending workers out soon enough. They were clear that the child must come first.

 

53.2     There continued to be concerns relating to re-referral rates; the council was out of line with its statistical neighbours. It was questioned whether this position was due to the council stepping away from the family too soon. The Director explained that it was a complex area and not easy to identify why, although it was probable that we were not working with the family long enough, or effectively enough. The Director also commented that we were not being clear enough with partners what they could do to support families.

 

53.3     In response to a question the Director explained that all referrals came through the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) and the MASH would decide the appropriate response. If it became clear that an urgent response was required then this would happen.

54.

Revenue Monitoring pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

54.1     The Business Finance Partner gave a detailed presentation of the report. In response to questions it was clarified that there were approximately 330 children/young people currently placed out of county. The costs associated with these placements were discussed. It was noted that mother and baby placements could be particularly expensive. The committee was reminded that the High Cost Panel looked at each case to ensure that there was value for money and that the placement was the right one for the individual.

 

54.2     Members were concerned that it appeared that a realistic budget was not being set for each financial year with regard to external placements. It was explained that the new Director of Corporate Resources was implementing a system whereby this would now happen.

 

54.3     It was further explained that a significant cost related to staff and explained that for some solo placements there would need to be bespoke adult carers living with the young person. It was acknowledged that Trevone House was part of the overall strategy. It was due to open in May 2020 but that for year one it had been costed such that it would not be running at full capacity; it would be important to develop this area over time.

 

54.4     The DCS also took the opportunity to explain in great detail an individual case that demonstrated the complexity of cases and why the costs could be so significant.

 

55.

Youth Strategy Task Group pdf icon PDF 3 MB

Minutes:

55.1     Cllr Lesley Williams, Chair of the task group, presented the report and thanked the members and officers involved with the work of the task group.

 

55.2     Committee members agreed with the report that it would be helpful for a mapping exercise to be undertaken in order that there is better clarity as to the provision available. Currently provision appeared to be fragmented and there was a lack of clarity as to who was providing services, and groups were working in isolation. Members also acknowledged that within current resources it was not possible to help everyone but that it was important to catch and support those children and young people ‘on the cusp’.

 

55.3     It was commented that whilst the report did indicate that there was a lot of activity in place given the issues already discussed it did not pass the ‘so what’ test. One member informed the committee that they took issue with the statement in the report ‘building upon the success of its current youth support service’.

 

55.4     It was suggested that when mapping the provision it could be helpful to overlay it onto a map of the county to easily see where the provision was and understand the geographical fragmentation. It was also suggested that it could be helpful for the mapping to overlay the areas of social deprivation.

 

55.5     Members noted that as we were in the midst of the budget process it would be important to be clear about what would be the best way to support young people. The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed the meeting that the instruction from the Cabinet Member Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years was to feed this work into the review/refresh of the Youth Service. In taking this forward the DCS would be looking to understand how to get best value for money and to target where it could have the biggest impact. They were clear that they had not received a commitment relating to additional resources. He indicated that children’s services had been well resourced over the last two years, and that there was always scope to do things more efficiently; it could be that there were synergies across services. It was, however, expected that funding would be included in the Medium Term Financial Statement for 2021/2022.

 

55.6     The DCS explained that they were the accountable body for the Youth Service, and informed members that this factor was often lost sight of. It was also explained that it was the county council’s duty to lead on this work and to galvanise the wider partnership.

 

55.7     The committee was informed that the Assistant Director for Integrated Children and Families Commissioning was leading the procurement process for the Youth Service and the Youth Offending Service – this would take place in 2020. It was noted that the contract with Prospects (now part of the Shaw Trust) had been extended to end of March 2021.

 

55.8     Members indicated that they wished to have a clearer understanding of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55.

56.

Contextualised Safeguarding pdf icon PDF 44 KB

Minutes:

56.1     The Head of Service 11 – 25 Years (Stroud and Gloucester) gave a detailed presentation of the report. They explained that the main difference was that whilst we currently focused on the safeguarding within the family, contextualised safeguarding was about the risks outside the home. This required different tools and a different approach, including engaging with different partners at Child Protection Conferences.

 

56.2     In response to a question it was explained that forced marriage would be considered when the system was more developed. A significant factor in this regard was that contextualised safeguarding looked at factors outside the family, whereas forced marriage was about factors within the family.

 

56.3     It was questioned whether this approach included faith radicalisation grooming. It was explained that there were additional interventions in place in this regard.

 

56.4     The Head of Service informed the committee that the service worked with care leavers and adult service colleagues on this approach. Members were informed that this was not just about children in care, but about all vulnerable children and young people.