Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 4th December, 2018 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions

Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

24.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on Insert dateInsert year.

Minutes:

The Parent Governor Representative referred to the second paragraph on page 8 of the agenda and stated that she did not work in a school. The sentence would be amended as follows:

 

“The Parent Governor Representative 1 explained Ofsted visits within her school and queried whether the service felt they were in a position of never achieving a ‘good’ rating as the rating moved with each visit.”

 

The minutes from the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 9 October 2018 were approved subject to the changes made.

25.

Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

26.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

The Church of England Representative declared a non-pecuniary interest on agenda item 12 as she was the Chair of the Music Club.

 

Councillor Redsell

27.

Youth Cabinet Update

Minutes:

The Youth Cabinet had been busy in their preparation of their conference ‘Youth Con’ which would be taking place on 13 December 2018 at High House Production Park in Purfleet. They were also working on a workshop called ‘Funky Finance’ and was working with partners to complete the ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot.

 

Councillor Redsell asked the Youth Cabinet to elaborate on the details of the ‘Funky Finance’ workshop. The Youth Cabinet Representative 1 explained the workshop covered the meaning of money and the cost of living expenses. Within the workshop, there was a game for participants in which money had to be balanced over a 12 month period to help them understand taxes and expenses. In response, Councillor Redsell mentioned a similar activity that had taken place when she had been Mayor and welcomed the idea as youths did not have finance subjects in their school curriculum.

 

 

28.

Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report 2017 - 2018 pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Presented by the Local Safeguarding Children Board’s (LSCB) Vice-Chair, the annual report for 2017/18 reflected the priorities set within the LSCB Business Plan for 2017/18, the progress achieved and areas for further development during 2018/19.

 

The report concluded that LSCB’s priorities for 2018/19 were:

 

·         To continue to develop a Board fit for change with the introduction of a Strategic Group to oversee the changes to the new safeguarding arrangements.

 

·         To support the development of the changes in outcomes of the refreshed early help provision of the Brighter Futures programme.

 

·         To support the implementation and roll out of Signs of Safety and Graded Care Profile 2 processes.

 

·         To develop our workforce to be more effective in safeguarding.

 

The LSCB ended by saying that this type of report would be delivered one last time before it changed to reflect the new safeguarding arrangements in the future.

 

Referring to the ‘Schools’ section on page 35 of the agenda, the Church of England Representative queried the methods the LSCB used to encourage schools to participate in the termly Safeguarding Leads Meeting for Schools and Academies. The Corporate Director explained the meetings were held with schools to communicate with each other in terms of safeguarding accountability. There were also annual meetings held with schools regarding performance and safeguarding issues. Adding on to this, the LSCB Vice-Chair said education representatives attended meetings on a quarterly basis with LSCB and these representatives would feedback to their cohorts of schools.

 

The Church of England Representative went on to ask about the ‘additional business processes’ mentioned on page 36, third paragraph under Learning and Improvement Programme. Explaining this referred to the strengthening of processes, the LSCB Vice-Chair said the business team were placed on training programmes which were audited through the Board.

 

Pointing out the graph for Multi Agency Training on page 37, Councillor Redsell questioned why attendance appeared low. The LSCB Vice-Chair answered there were areas that required strengthening but the graph had not captured the full picture of safeguarding. It did not clearly reflect attendance numbers and the training that had been delivered through primary care forums. The process would need to be reconsidered in the next year so the results would give a clearer picture.

 

Under LAC reviews on page 32, Councillor Anderson queried the 84% given and asked if this was an increase or decrease on previous years. The Corporate Director explained 84% was not the expected number for performance and the ideal number would be between 90 – 95% which would mean a good performance. This was an area that the service was improving in and children in care were expected to have reviews every 6 months.

 

Councillor Redsell asked the Corporate Director if meetings should take place more often rather than every 6 months. Explaining that this was the minimum statutory requirement, the Corporate Director went on to say that it applied to the first year. Once there was a change of child care placement, the child care plan would need to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Schools Funding Formula 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Management Accountant which outlined the new national funding formula from 2018/19 by the Department for Education (DfE). From consultations with the Thurrock Schools Forum, it was agreed that Thurrock schools would move towards the National Funding formula but maintain some localisation to support schools in this transition period. Local discretion may end in 2021 when the full funding formula was expected to be implemented.

 

The Parent Governor Representative questioned if the Thurrock funding formula was sustainable when compared against the national funding formula due to the amount of the money. The Management Accountant answered that the same amount of money was distributed but a different formula had been used so that each school would be impacted differently. Thurrock’s formula would target money to schools with additional educational needs to ensure they received the much needed resources to raise standards. This was on par with the national funding formula. The formula would be able to be delivered within its funding allocation as there was a mechanism in place that would only distribute the money that was available.

 

In response, the Parent Governor Representative sought further clarification if this would be sustainable going forward due to the significant difference in the figures. Referring to appendix A, the Management Accountant explained that the figure within the Schools Block Formula showed the same amount of money distributed but the only difference was the formula used. He went on to say that the report asked for the basic principles to be agreed as a different outcome could be formulated with new data that would be available in mid-December 2018. The new data would be from a school census that had taken place in October 2018.

 

Referring to page 49, paragraph 7.2, the Chair sought clarification on ‘maintain some localisation’ during the transition period. Pointing out the National Funding Formula (NFF) 2019/20 column in appendix A, the Management Accountant explained that the idea was to not distribute the £1.4 million for the free school meals but instead to build it in as protection so the amount that schools could use per pupil was reduced. This would give schools time to adjust to the reduction funding and implement change which would then enable them to better manage the resources they would have in the next year.

 

The Chair asked if the schools had agreed to the suggested formula to which the Management Accountant answered that the schools had agreed. Consultations had taken place with Schools Forum and the formula had been presented as the safer option. The Chair went on to ask who had the power to make the decision on the school formula. Explaining that it was Cabinet, the Management Accountant went on to say that school were consulted beforehand. Cabinet would also be aware of the recommendations from Schools Forum.

 

As the report was going onto Cabinet in the next week, 12 December 2018, the Chair asked why the report was going so soon after the Children’s Services Overview  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Youth Offending Service Report pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Operations Manager for Youth Offending Service (YOS) which outlined the current performance levels of the YOS. There were highlights on the work the YOS had been undertaking that included gang crime, knife prevention and child exploitation.

 

Councillor Redsell declared a non-pecuniary interest as she sat on the Essex Police and Fire Crime Panel. She mentioned using the YOS on previous occasions and suggested that councillors should be made aware of the services the YOS could offer. The Operations Manager for YOS said they were involved with community based projects in which they supervised young people to undertake. There had been good work carried out with past offenders who were making reparations. On reparations, the Chair queried if the YOS worked with probation officers to which the Operations Manager for YOS answered that the YOS worked with vulnerable young people and not adult offenders.

 

The Church of England Representative congratulated the YOS on the low re-offending figures. She went on to question how the YOS selected their providers to work with. The Operations Manager for YOS replied that schools would approach the YOS as the YOS did not choose. At the start of each academic year, the YOS would send an offer out to secondary schools on issues they could help with such as grooming and gangs. This was part of the Essex Police and Fire Crime Commissioner (PFCC) bid (a partner agency that funded the YOS) which was undertaking prevention work to place these issues as part of the national curriculum.

 

Welcoming the prevention work idea, the Church of England Representative queried if this would be available to primary schools. She had heard of knives found in primary schools as well. In response, the Operations Manager for YOS said the YOS was involved in a project on transition from primary to secondary school. However, care had to be taken on phrasing words to young children due to peer pressure.

 

The Youth Cabinet Representative 2 thanked the Operations Manager for YOS for attending a recent Youth Cabinet meeting. Referring to page 59, paragraph 2.11, he asked how the successes of programmes were measured. In reply, the Operations Manager of YOS said feedback would usually be sought from the local community. Also with reparations, it would help the young person to feel a part of the community and for them to give back to the community.

 

Referring to paragraph 2.18 on page 60, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 queried if there were plans to expand the programmes. With a firm ‘yes’ in response, the Operations Manager of YOS explained it was part of the PFCC bid as mentioned earlier. There was also training given on issues such as gangs and the YOS’ offer of help was also available to the community on such issues. He went on to encourage the Committee to recommend the YOS to anyone within their community and portfolios who would benefit from the YOS.

 

Going on to congratulate the YOS on the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Children and Young People's Emotional, Wellbeing and Mental Health - Schools Wellbeing Service pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Introduced by the Senior Public Health Programme Manager, the report highlighted the progress made so far on the School Wellbeing Service (SWS). The proposal was for the School Wellbeing Service to develop its work within each school based on its existing provisions. The ethos was to create a mentally healthy school environment in each school.

 

Stating the importance of mental health, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 was also pleased to see funding for the SWS from several sources. Referring to paragraph 3.5 on page 70 where it was stated the current service was not suitable for low level mental health issues; the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 queried if SWS would resolve this. The Senior Public Health Programme Manager explained the SWS would identify the needs through each school’s self-assessments and then co-ordinate the support required. The SWS was expected to have knowledge of all services across the Borough and allocate accordingly.

 

Continuing on, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 questioned the pathways into the SWS once a need was identified. Answering that the pathways were an operational detail to smooth out, the Senior Public Health Programme Manager hoped the SWS would provide the support to meet identified needs. The Youth Cabinet Representative 2 went on to ask clarification on the meaning of 1.5 School Wellbeing Worker to which the Senior Public Health Programme Manager answered 1 full time whole time equivalent worker and .5 was half time.

 

The Church of England Representative welcomed the report and stated the importance of mental health. There were some schools that were already good at identifying needs and in making referrals but did not have the services available. She expressed concern on the 6.5 WTE suggested as there was not enough facilities for mental health support so she could not understand how 6.5 WTE would make any difference.

 

Referring to ‘employing an educational psychologist and developing systems of working’ on paragraph 3.4 on page 70, the Church of England Representative questioned who would be working together. She expressed further concern on the need for mental health services in Thurrock schools. Explaining that mental health was a national concern, the Corporate Director explained the rationale behind the SWS was to shift the culture and thinking of mental health. Schools were not receiving the service needed but service providers were still doing well. However, the need for mental health services was being driven by the Mental Health Summit.

 

Regarding the 6.5 WTE, the Corporate Director said this would give a broader impact of the SWS. A number of schools had their own set of initiatives on mental health and the next step was how this could be brought together so the service would be working with schools. The service was trying to change to incorporate better mental health services into their system which may end up with ideas that may or may not work but the service had the ambition and drive to ensure the SWS would work.

 

On counselling, the Chair asked if this would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Update on the Free School Programme pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Minutes:

Presented by the Corporate Director, the report gave an update on the 3 new schools which were Osborne Trust, South East Essex and Treetops. The land for the schools had been acquired and the head of terms had been agreed. The next stage was for the schools to go through the planning process.

 

Welcoming the plan of the 3 new schools, the Church of England Representative was also pleased to hear of the extension of Thameside Academy. She went on to question whether the levels of pollution had been assessed and if other risk assessments had been carried out. The Corporate Director replied no risk assessment had been carried out yet but the land chosen was the only areas available to build on due to the red lines of the Lower Thames Crossing proposal.

 

As the schools would be within Councillor Redsell’s ward, she declared a non-pecuniary interest in the item. She went on to say that her residents may petition against a new school in the ward due to the congestion of roads with buses. There was already a school and a rugby club within her ward which already caused congestion on roads within its surrounding area. Sympathising with this, the Corporate Director agreed that placing a school into an already congested area was not straightforward. However, it was for the Council to provide schools by law and it was a complex process when acquiring a new school as there were planning applications and mitigations to consider. The schools were very much needed but the service could try to influence.

 

The Chair queried if the temporary accommodation for the schools would still be built regardless of actions taken by residents and whether other options of available land would be explored. The Corporate Director explained that all options of available land had already been explored. If there had been no available land to build on, the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) would not have agreed to the temporary accommodation of the school. The process had begun back in 2016 to find available land.

 

Councillor Redsell commented that there had been other available land but the Lower Thames Crossing proposal had taken these. She went on to mention congestion problems on the A13 due to children being taken to school via this route.

 

As a resident of one of the affected wards, the Parent Governor Representative thought the acquirement of new schools were great but was concerned that residents were not informed about the infrastructure. She supported the new schools as there was a need for these despite being affected by the placement of Treetops. However, safeguarding issues should be looked at in the surrounding areas of the new schools e.g. safe crossings.

 

The Committee further discussed the need for new schools and the problems posed for residents in the areas regarding congestion. The Chair asked that the report be brought back to the Committee as an update on 12 February 2019.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.1       That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Children's Social Care Performance pdf icon PDF 138 KB

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Corporate Director and gave an overview on:

 

·         Children Looked After (CLA) that were consistently in the region of 300 in Thurrock;

·         Increased demand in the number of referrals; and

·         The reduction in the number of children on child protection plans and was in line with comparator groups.

 

An outline was also given on Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) which had increased to 44 due to the breakup of a camp in Calais in the previous year. However, these UASC would eventually be moved around the eastern region based on agreement terms. This was the service’s biggest challenge due to the significant cost to Thurrock in holding UASC.

 

On UASC, Councillor Redsell commented that some were not children and asked what processes were in place to reunite them back home with their families. In reply, the Corporate Director said UASC that were found to be not children would usually end up staying. The service would work with the Home Officer on these cases and ensure these people would go into employment, education or training as long as they headed down a positive route. Councillor Redsell went on to ask if the UASC were reunited with their parents. Explaining that there was no contact information, the Corporate Director went on to say that relatives could appear to claim the child. In these circumstances, the appropriate checks would be carried out to verify the identity of the person claiming the child. This was done to prevent trafficking.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.11 on page 106, Councillor Anderson pointed out that the figures showed incidences of missing children but there was no context on the length of time a child was missing for. Stating that some missing incidences were short, the Corporate Director said carers were advised to report all incidences. The Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Co-ordinator would analyse the patterns and scrutinise these cases in multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings. The Corporate Director said a report on CSE and action plans on missing children would be brought to the Committee on 12 February 2019 which would give more details.

 

The Chair referred to page 108, paragraph 4.1 and queried the position of the action plan following on from the Ofsted inspection. Explaining that the action plan looked at quality assurances, the Corporate Director said each manager audited cases every 6 months in terms of purposefulness and cons. There were also practice workshops in place and ongoing training was provided. The service was commissioning work on advocacy and children in care but they would need to work with families as some parents may feel threatened since they were the natural advocates for their children.

 

Continuing on, the Corporate Director referred to workload pressures and said there had been more incoming work in the system and the service had just created an Edge of Care team that looked to reduce the number of children coming into care. There was also the SWS and if effective, there was expectation that there workload  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

Fees & Charges Pricing Strategy 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 94 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Presented by the Corporate Director, the report highlighted changes to nursery charges and Grangewater fees which had risen with inflation.

 

The Church of England Representative sought clarification on recommendation 1.2. Explaining that Fees and Charges reports were similar, the Corporate Director said these all passed through Overview and Scrutiny before arriving at Cabinet. Some of the fees within the report did not necessarily apply to Children’s Services but would apply to other departments within the Council. These enabled Directors to vary the charges if required.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.1       That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the revised fees and charges proposals including those no longer applicable

 

1.2       That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted that director delegated authority will be sought via Cabinet to allow Fees & Charges to be varied within a financial year in response to commercial requirements

35.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 49 KB

Minutes:

The following reports were added to the work programme for the 12 February 2019 meeting:

 

·         Children’s Centres Update

·         Learning Outcomes and Action Plan

·         Update on the Free School Programme

·         Child Sexual Exploitation and Missing Children

 

An update on the School Wellbeing Service would be brought back to the Committee in the next municipal year.