Agenda item

Plan for the new the Board and new improvement plan

To receive a verbal update on the plan for the new Board and refreshed improvement plan. 


23.1  The DCS informed the Committee that the new draft improvement plan was being devised and scrutiny would have the opportunity to look at the new plan in due course.  He proceeded to explain that the service was now in a very different stage of development, as children services where we no longer subject to intervention.  The DCS recognised that it had been an exhausting journey undergoing mini inspections ever quarter and focused DfE visits but it had been worth the effort to bring about a positive change to the service. 


23.2  Members were advised that the Improvement Board was also of the view that it now necessary to refresh and rebrand the Board, in order to face the new challenge of achieving a ‘good’ Ofsted rating.  It was noted the Authority had been recently graded as ‘in support and supervision’ which was an official category and a DfE advisor was still assigned to the Authority. 


23.3 It was noted the DCS had been tasked with a consultation process with board members, about the shape and configuration of the improvement board going forward.  The findings were yet to be collated and no decisions as yet had been made, and further discussions were due to take place with the Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years. 


23.4  The DCS advised based on the feedback received an independent chair was no longer required.  Although he wished to add that Andrew Ireland had served the board very well as an independent chair, as he was previously a Director of Children Services in Kent, who had undergone the same experience with Ofsted and had helped to get Kent from inadequate to good.  It was noted that Andrew had been very supportive of the Authority and his efforts were greatly appreciated. 


23.5  The DCS suggested the responses had indicated that the Deputy Chief Executive (DCE), who was also the Finance Executive Director and Head of Resources would be an ideal candidate, as Children’s Services were closely linked to the quality of support from corporate central services.  It was noted that it was a recommendation of the Ofsted report that corporately something needed to be done with the IT service, as this was a continued frustration to frontline workers and the service continued to lose workers because of IT failures. 


23.6  The DCS recognised it was a real barrier to the improvement journey and it was important to stabilise the system moving forward.  As the DCE had direct responsibility for IT, it would undoubtedly help to speed the process up as he was very supportive of Children’s Services and he understood what intervention meant both financially and in terms of quality of service. 


23.7  Members were reminded there were still some substantive problems that needed to be addressed, for example placement stability and staffing issues, the DCS felt with the assistance of the Executive Director of Corporate Resources these issues could be overcome. 



23.8  The DCS described the composition of the new board in detail, which would hopefully include representatives from the police authority, health, head teachers and the voluntary sector should be invited to join.  He felt it was time to broaden the agenda going forward and new terms of reference would need to be devised.


23.9  He advised the committee there was no desire for cross party representation on the board.  As the responses indicated that scrutiny should be sufficient for that purpose, and the board’s plan would be reported to scrutiny on a regular basis. 


23.10 The Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding and Early Years explained the service was now moving forward and the improvement plan was being developed.  He agreed that the plan should be presented to scrutiny as it was essential to change the focus to look forward and her agreed that a wider body of people would be beneficial and make the Board more flexible in its approach. 


23.11  Some members raised concerns at the suggestion of having a senior officer as the Chair, they felt the position should be Independent of the Authority.  In terms of the Improvement Board relationship with scrutiny, the committee felt it was necessary to clarify the roles were and they felt there should be cross party representation on the board.   


23.12  The Cabinet Member took on board the points raised and understood the concerns but felt if the Chair’s role was facilitated by a senior officer then there was consistency and he agreed there should be cross party representation on the Board. 


23.13  Members were notified that Ofsted’s view in terms of achieving a good rating, meant that the Authority needed to be good at partnership working. He added that the final details of the Improvement Board were yet to be discussed with Cabinet, however he personally felt that the idea of having somebody who had control and understanding of finance and of corporate bodies could prove to be a successful combination on the journey to good.  The DCS reiterated that no decisions in terms of the Board had been made as yet. 


23.14  The Committee appeared to be of a view that the nature of the board should widen the partnership as it would play an important role in delivering a sustainable good service.  Members recognised the fundamental difference, that partners were part of the solution.