Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 5 March 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - 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.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 94 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 16 January 2020 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


HMIP Inspection Report Youth Offending Service: Action Plan pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:


3.1       The Head of Service, Youth Justice and Community Teams, presented the report. They informed the committee that the rating was disappointing, not only because the council had been only one point away from a good rating, but because the report demonstrated that good and outstanding work had been identified during the inspection.


3.2       It was noted that the reason for the overall rating related to category 3 of the inspection: Out of Court Disposals. The Head of Service stated that the main factor here was the dissonance between the inspection framework and the Children First initiative; this was disappointing given the low recidivism rate in Gloucestershire (5.7%). In response to a question it was explained that the current framework did not distinguish between the traditional approach to out of court disposals and initiatives such as Children First. The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed members that if they had to say was the judgement right they would have to say ‘yes’, but only within the context that the judgement was made using a framework that was out of date.


3.3       The DCS informed the committee that they had contacted the Chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to discuss the council’s concerns and challenge the inspection outcomes. His concerns were supported by the Leader and Chief Executive of the council who had also written to the Chair of the YJB to present their concerns. They had also shared their concerns with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS). The DCS also informed the committee that they felt that there had been a tension between the YJB and the regulator (this was a longstanding issue), but there was now an ongoing debate between the HMIP and the YJB to resolve the issues relating to the out of court disposals inspection category. The committee was reminded that the Children First initiative had received a commendation in the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards Restorative Approaches category (November 2019).


3.4       The committee was informed that a number of other youth offending services had also ‘pushed back’ on their inspection outcome.


3.5       In response to questions the Head of Service was clear that it was not a case of ‘having our head in the sand’. Children First was making a real difference to the lives of young people, successfully diverting them away from the youth justice system. The Head of Service acknowledged that the service had not got it right in one of the cases looked at during the inspection. The Improvement Plan acknowledged the recommendations made by the Inspectors and the committee agreed that it would follow up on progress against the Improvement Plan in 6 months.


3.6       It was also explained that Children First has the ACEs checklist embedded in the system, and that everyone involved has received ACEs training. Whilst a trauma informed approach was an integral part of practice the service was always looking at how this could be improved/developed.


3.7  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Joint Additional Needs Strategy pdf icon PDF 686 KB

The committee to receive a presentation.


4.1       The Director of Education and the Head of Service for Children with Additional Needs gave a detailed presentation of what was planned/in place to support and improve outcomes for vulnerable children. (The presentation slides were uploaded to the council’s website and included in the minute book.)


4.2       The presentation was clear that against a backdrop of increasing independence, schools autonomy and reduction of council control of schools the three key roles for the council in education were: -

Ø    That high quality places were available in the right places that met the aspirations of families and which reflect the continuum of need,

Ø    To improve outcomes for vulnerable children and those with additional needs,

Ø    To champion the needs of children and young people so that there was an inclusive learning system for all.


4.3       The presentation detailed the council’s approach and the required outcomes. It was also explained how the Additional Needs Strategy connected into the core strategies (school improvement, SEND commissioning, high needs, post 16 and place planning). The approaches included a ‘team around the school’, embedding ACEs/trauma informed approached into systems, and establishing a Future Me Ambassador group.


4.4       The committee was informed that the cost pressures were significant. A £10m overspend for 2019/2020 was forecast; the in-year position was already at £6m. The reasons for this were discussed and included that we now seeing an earlier identification of needs, and the high number of children with an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) coming into the system - an increase of circa 350 per year; 224 of these cases being in specialist placements. Expansion of special school placements was underway and a new special school would be in place in 2021; the new school would also help to reduce the number of out of county placements. Additional funding challenges related to the fact that young people with SEND would now be supported until the age of 25.


4.5       It was explained that although the number of exclusions overall were starting to reduce, it was important to note that a greater proportion of those excluded have SEND, and that in the primary sector 100% of exclusions were children with SEND. More children with SEND were also being taken out of school and educated at home; parents did not have to report to the local authority that they are home educating, or why. 


4.6       In response to questions the position relating to the Communication and Interaction Centres was explained. It was also agreed that committee members would visit these settings in order to gain a greater understanding of the work undertaken.


4.7       The committee was informed that the Inclusion Charter would support and inform a consistent approach across all settings. However it was important to note that there were challenges around inclusion; it was hoped that the shift in the Ofsted Inspection Framework to look at the outcomes for vulnerable pupils would make a difference in this regard. The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Revenue Monitoring pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Additional documents:


5.1       The Finance Business Partner presented the report drawing attention to, end explaining the reasons for, the significant overspend. As in previous reports external placements were identified as a significant pressure; so far in this financial year there have been 340 external placements provided.


5.2       The committee was informed that the over-spend against external placements would result in the Meeting the Challenge (MTC) savings not being achieved and also the home to school transport saving of £0.15 million. It was expected that home to school transport costs would continue to increase. This related to the need to retender some routes (where the provider has terminated the agreement) and there have also been changes to entitlements.


5.3       In response to a question the Director of Corporate Resources explained that the cost of external placements was more to do with the complexity of the cases rather than challenges in the market. They also explained that we were not a massive outlier with regard to the numbers of children in our care. It was also stated that it would be oversimplifying the situation to say that there was a failure in the market; this was also a national issue. It was about holding your nerve, getting improvements in practice and better strategies in place; knowing what we needed to do. The Director also detailed the process for how the budget was set.


5.4       The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) stated that the situation with regard to external placements was in part a failure by the council to manage the market. The Sufficiency Strategy and the development of Trevone House would support improvements in this area and most importantly look to improve the quality of support to our children in care.


5.5       In response to questions the DCS explained that the high needs and unregulated placement panels reviewed cases on a monthly basis to identify whether placements were delivering value for money and met the needs of the individual. In response to concerns committee members were assured that the child’s best interests were the primary consideration.


5.6       The committee agreed that it was important to ensure the right balance between being responsible with tax payers money and ensuring that our children in care were properly supported. The DCS explained that there was still some work to be done with social workers  to instil better financial awareness, and discussed a recent case to illustrate this point.



Committee Workplan pdf icon PDF 68 KB


The committee noted the workplan.