Agenda and minutes

Additional Meeting, Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Friday 7 June 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

No. Item


Declarations of interest

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


No declarations of interest were received.


Ofsted Improvement Letter (from 30 April/1 May 2019 Monitoring Visit) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:


25.1     Cllr Richard Boyles, Cabinet Member Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years, informed the committee that progress was being made, but not at the pace that was needed. There were still weaknesses in teams, particularly in Safeguarding and Assessment, due to the level of churn. It had also been difficult appointing people into management positions. To give context to this challenge the committee was informed that in the Cirencester and Stroud teams only one social worker was a permanent member of staff with the bulk of the teams being comprised of agency workers.


25.2     Some members of the committee felt that the press release that the council had published in response to the Ofsted letter did not represent the reality of what Ofsted was saying. They felt that it was important to be more honest and open with the public and not misrepresent the council’s position to the public. There was also a concern as to the support given to the young person to help them understand that the council’s failure was neither their fault nor their responsibility.


25.3     In response Cllr Boyles stated that it was important to reflect both sides when releasing a press release. He felt that the council was self aware and understood the challenges. Ofsted was clear in identifying what the council needed to do to improve; he respected Ofsted’s role, and agreed that the level of churn was too high and that what was needed was a stable workforce.


25.4     The Director of Partnerships and Strategy acknowledged the concerns with regard to the workforce stability of social worker support to children and young people, but did feel that the continuity of care for the individual was improving, and members could expect performance to continue to improve if the workforce plans develop as expected.


25.5     The Director acknowledged that the variably in practice and quality needed to reduce and that the service needed to up the pace of improvement. He reminded the committee that the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) had only been in place for a year, and questioned whether enough had been done in the first year post inspection.


25.6     The Chair of the Gloucestershire Improvement Board informed the committee that the issue now was that measures had been put in place demonstrating that the council has the capability to make changes, but it now needed to demonstrate continuity. The level of churn was not helpful; in his experience churn was the most significant issue.


25.7     In response to questions relating to the impact of the churn on the number of social workers that could become involved with a child the Director explained that the level of churn was not evenly distributed across children’s services; it was more prevalent in the safeguarding and assessment teams. This has had an impact on the number/timeliness of visits to children and young people. One of the Ambassadors for Vulnerable Children and Young People informed the committee that this was not good enough and that our  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.


Improvement Partner - Quarterly Performance Review Report pdf icon PDF 62 KB


26.1     The Director Partnerships and Strategy gave a full presentation of the report. He stated that the report demonstrated that there was consensus between the council’s Improvement Partner and Ofsted. The committee were also informed that the council would soon be working with Hampshire County Council, which had an outstanding rating from Ofsted, on inspection preparation (Hampshire County Council has recently been inspected by Ofsted).


26.2     A member drew attention to paragraph 1.5 of the report where it stated that ‘there was still anxiety and defensive practice in the system’. They questioned the use of the word ‘defensive’ in this context. The Director explained that this could play out in different ways, for example, by being overly intrusive in the family setting. He also stated that in his view there was not a clear and succinct articulation of our values; that social workers were working with a set of tools but with no overall operational framework/practice model, although work to progress this was underway. Members agreed that it was important that practitioners had a clear and defined process to work to.  Members agreed that they would want to be kept up to date with progress in this area.


Improvement Board Update pdf icon PDF 97 KB


27.1     The Chair of the Improvement Board gave a detailed presentation of his report.  He assured the committee that he triangulated information between the frontline and the SLT. He explained that when he last met with the Improvement Board the Accelerated Improvement Plan had only just been implemented and he was expecting that this would deliver more traction in the system. He stated that the quality of the work undertaken by the Ambassadors for Vulnerable Children and Young People was a huge plus for the county. He acknowledged the impact of the level of churn on the system and that there would always necessarily be a time lag on performance data. He advised the committee that if the council addressed all the actions outlined in paragraph 4.7 of the report then the outcome of the next Ofsted inspection would be a success.


27.2     Members of the committee reiterated their concerns with regard to the quality and audit process. They questioned whether comments and concerns raised regularly at committee meetings were being fed back into the process; they did not want to keep repeating themselves. The Chair of the Improvement Board stated that the fundamental purpose of a case file audit was to measure the progress and quality of the work, identify gaps and put things right. He shared his concern that remedial actions were not addressed quickly enough.


27.3     In response to members concerns regarding the timeliness of performance reports to committee the Director informed members that officers were working to ensure that the committee would always receive the most up to date data possible. However the data validation process meant that there would necessarily be some delay.


27.4     Members were clear that the learning from the audit process should be shared across teams and hoped that this was happening. The Director agreed and did want to ensure that there was learning across teams.


27.5     Members reiterated their frustrations with audits and that actions were not being followed up promptly. They were also concerned that it seemed that there was a backlog of cases. The Chair of the Improvement Board informed members that he was not saying that there was a backlog but that there were a lot of referrals coming into the system that needed to be processed. He felt that the legacy of past poor performance was still there, and he felt was likely to be there for some time.


27.6     In response to questions the Chair of the Improvement Board informed members that he did meet with team managers, and felt that they were aligned with the improvement journey, and were doing their best to bring focus and order. He explained that there had been a lot of change in this cohort and that this was having an impact.


Third Party Review (LGA and People Too) Report pdf icon PDF 710 KB


28.1     The Director Partnerships and Strategy explained the context to the commissioning of this report. He informed the committee that as the report had originally been drafted in January 2019 many of its recommendations had been progressed. Officers were looking to see whether there was anything in this report that was not already included in the improvement plans, and would provide an update to a future meeting.

            ACTION:        Andy Dempsey



Quality Assurance Framework: Progress Update Report pdf icon PDF 155 KB


29.1     The Director Partnerships and Strategy presented the report and assured the committee that the issues raised by members were fed back to teams. He acknowledged that actions were not being followed up as quickly as he would like. He explained that the audit tool was ponderous; people were finding it to be a real ‘slog’, and this was potentially impacting on quality and the number of returns; the audit tool needed to be refined.


29.2     With regard to activity against actions the committee was informed that the Head of Quality and Safeguarding (Children and Young People) was putting in place a panel to address this matter. It was important that there was more management grip to drive forward the improvement.


29.3     Some members commented that early on in the process they were assured that identified issues were being addressed, but did not feel that this had actually happened. Although the process had been reformed it did not appear to have got any better. The Director informed the committee that in his view things had improved. He felt that standards were higher, but that dealing with the legacy issues had been challenging. He acknowledged that in the longer term what was required was sustainable and meaningful change. He did not agree with the view that the process was fundamentally flawed, but did agree that the audit tool needed to be refined. The Chair of the Improvement Board commented that it was important to focus more on the quality of the outcomes than be overly focused on the process.


29.4     The Director felt that the council was self aware; it was clear that the completion rate needed to be improved, and that follow up on actions improved. He emphasised that Ofsted had not recommended that the council should make any changes to the process.


Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 405 KB


30.1     The Director Partnerships and Strategy presented the report. He explained that officers were working to produce a report that worked for all audiences. The report was structured such that it followed the child’s journey. The Director informed members that performance was improving in some critical areas.


30.2     Concern was expressed with regard to performance relating to missing children and child sexual exploitation (CSE). The Director agreed that members were right to be concerned. There had been a dip in performance recently and it would be important to understand why. He informed the committee that the Over 11 service were leading on this issue.


30.3     The high level of use of section 20 orders was noted by members; this had previously been highlighted as an issue. The Director indicated that this implied something about our practice. Officers were working with the Legal team on this matter; there was also a session on this issue at the Social Work Academy this week.


Revenue Monitoring pdf icon PDF 101 KB

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31.1     The Finance Business Partner presented the report and highlighted that trends continued in the same direction as previously reported, the underlying reasons, and the actions in place to address the position. Pressures against the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) remained.


31.2     The committee continued to be concerned about the pressures on the budget, in particular the overspend relating to high cost placements. Members were aware of the activity in place to address this position, eg. the high cost panel. It was agreed that it was hoped that when Trevone House became operational that this would have a positive impact on the budget position.


31.3     The committee agreed that it would need to continue to monitor this situation.