Venue: Committee Room 2, CO3, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, RM17 6SL
Contact: Rhiannon Whiteley, Senior Democratic Services Officer Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk
To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 8 February 2022.
The minutes of the Children Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 8th February 2022 were approved as a true and correct record of the meeting.
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. To agree any relevant briefing notes submitted to the Committee.
There were no items of urgent business.
Declaration of Interests
No interests were declared.
A written report was provided.
The LSCP Business Manager introduced the report.
The Parent Governor representative asked who had been invited to attend the A Safe Place to Play conference in July 2022.
The LSCP Business Manager confirmed that sports organisations in the Borough had been invited such as sports and dance clubs. Professionals such as the Community Safety Partnership, the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) and Essex Police had also been invited to give talks.
Councillor Worrall queried whether incidents of neglect were rising or decreasing and asked what is being done to reduce neglect. Councillor Worrall also asked how the numbers in Thurrock compared to other neighbouring authorities.
The Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care and Early Help confirmed that Child in Need numbers have reduced and in comparison to our statistical neighbours in the region our numbers are comparable and actually slightly below. She confirmed they are doing a lot of work around Early Help and Think Family’s service to make sure they are engaging families much earlier to reduce the incidents of neglect. Child Protection numbers remain fairly steady.
Councillor Worrall referred to the Shae and Ashley Local Health Review and noted that 2 of the 14 actions have been completed and asked when all the actions will be completed by.
The LSCP Business Manager confirmed that they are working through the other actions, there are timescales for when an action should be completed by and this is monitored.
Councillor Panjala asked about the number of cases involving violence and vulnerability in Thurrock and asked what is being done to tackle this including through their work with SET (Southend, Essex and Thurrock).
The LSCP Business Manager confirmed she was unable to confirm the numbers of cases at the meeting today however, through their joint work with SET they do discuss the number of cases and they look at what they can do to tackle these issues collectively as well as locally.
Councillor Panjala raised the issue of whether working with neighbourhood watch could help support to reduce crime.
The LSCP Business Manager confirmed that the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership work closely with the Community Safety Partnership who do a lot of work with the neighbourhood watch service and she would be happy to contact her counterpart in CSP to reach out and do some work with the Neighbourhood watch service too.
The Independent Chairperson & Scrutineer Thurrock LSCP added that in relation to the issue of neglect, early intervention is key to preventing neglect before it gets to the point where a child needs to go on a Child Protection Plan and their partners and health colleagues are also a key part of that. In relation to Child Protection Plan numbers, they are steady and they benchmark in terms of comparison to their statistical neighbours and nationally very well.
Councillor Snell referred to the findings from the National Child Safeguarding Reviews on Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and asked if we are confident that in Thurrock we are doing what ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help introduced the report.
The Chair referred to the Care Review and the recommended investment of £76 million pounds to recruit 9000 more foster carers over 3 years, the Chair noted that Thurrock have already started an ambitious foster care recruitment policy and questioned whether this would affect their targets in any way.
The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help stated that investment in funding for the recruitment of foster carers is always welcome and explained that the recruitment of foster carers is a national issue. The Review makes recommendations about the use of family members and trying to use them first and she explained that we know children will often drift back to their families as they get older. It is being looked at how kinship carers can get the same support as stranger foster carers. It might be that we can increase our kinship carers alongside our foster carers. The feeling within the report is that lots of people want to be foster carers and if more is done to support them then we will get more foster carers. The renumeration in Thurrock to foster carers is very good, it is reviewed regularly, and it is in line with agency foster carers. Thurrock foster carers council tax is paid and they are supported through supervising social workers and therapists.
Councillor Coxshall referred to the unregulated care placements for under 18’s and questioned how many we use in Thurrock currently and how the recommendation to rule out unregulated placements for under 18’s will affect Thurrock.
The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help confirmed that currently we have two young people in an unregistered placement. It is always a last resort, they are reviewed regularly, Ofsted are informed and increased visits to these placements are completed. The priority is always to place a child in foster care, if this is not possible then they will look at a Residential placement and they will always try creative ways to make a placement work.
The Corporate Director for Children’s Services explained that in the Care Review they are suggesting supported accommodation for over 16’s will need to be regulated and provide “care”. Some older young people don’t want to be in a care arrangement and supported accommodation is allowed under the current legislation. Thurrock has quite a few children in supported accommodation and that would be a big shift which would be resource intensive as it would probably mean fees would increase so those placements can comply with the regulations that Ofsted require and they will probably need more staff. The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help added that some young people would struggle with that level of intensity.
Councillor Panjala queried what is the current position on the recruitment and retention of social workers.
The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help confirmed that there is a consistent supply of permanent ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The report was introduced by the Assistant Director for Education and Skills.
In relation to the Schools White Paper and the proposed measure that schools will offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours a week by September 2023, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that having spoken to Schools most of them are already offering this in one way or another already.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills also referred to the proposed measure that by 2030 all schools will be part of a strong multi-academy trust and commented that Thurrock has a number of multi-academy trusts but also has some stand-alone Academy’s. The Assistant Director for Education and Skills noted that the stand-alone Academy’s are happy in how they currently operate and they are all currently rated as ‘Good’. The Assistant Director for Education and Skills and Corporate Director of Children’s Social Care have met with their stand-alone academy schools already and are due to meet with them again in a few weeks to talk them through this.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills Access referred to the plan for funded training for a senior mental health lead, she explained that the School Mental Health Wellbeing Service has been in operation for two and a half years and Thurrock have almost led the way with some of this work.
Moving on to the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills commented that in her opinion it is positive that SEND and Alternative Provision will be included under one framework as many children in Alternative Provision have got a range of SEND requirements. They announced the framework yesterday and therefore the Assistant Director for Education and Skills has not had the opportunity to go through this yet.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills updated the Committee that they have managed to secure the resources to move forward with the plan for an online portal and hopefully it will create a digital solution for people to review their plans.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills noted in relation to The Skills and Post 16 Education Act Thurrock have been very positive in improving skills development. A possible challenge to ensuring adults have maths skills to progress in career opportunities is that schools are struggling to recruit maths teachers and she therefore confirmed that Thurrock are looking at how they can build capacity locally in this regard.
In relation to the Working together to improve school attendance guidance, the Assistant Director for Education and Skills informed the Committee that they hold fortnightly meetings regarding children who are missing education and confirmed that they are monitoring and tracking those children.
Councillor Coxshall commented that Thurrock should be proud of what they can offer as a skills hub and we should be promoting it. He has seen friends pushed down education pathways and for one friend it has taken him 5 years to get his life back on track.
Councillor Worrall ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The report was introduced by the Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help.
The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care and Early Help explained that as a receiving Authority for unaccompanied asylum seeker children Thurrock often has higher levels of care leavers than other Local Authority’s as they often come into the system around 16 -17 years old.
Adoption numbers are starting to go up following lots of delays in court proceedings as a result of Covid.
The Chair was pleased to note that the number of children subject to a Child Protection Plan was below our statistical neighbours as well as the national average and thanked the Team.
Councillor Worrall queried the figure that 50.6% of care leavers aged 19-21 were in part or full-time education, employment or training and questioned why 50% of care leavers are not doing any of these.
The Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care and Early Help responded that a year ago the number was at 41.4 % as some of the care leavers really struggled through Covid to access education and employment. She confirmed they are being creative to support young people back into education.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills explained that they have panels meeting weekly and staff are contacting them every other day. She stated that the figure is not where they want it to be and she agreed they have a lot of opportunities in Thurrock such as the Prince’s Trust and On-track Thurrock Programme but the issue is engaging care leavers. Covid had an impact on this group of young people and a lot of them experienced mental health challenges. She commented that hopefully they will see an increase in these numbers as we come further out of the pandemic.
Councillor Worrall raised the issue of housing for young people and asked what work is being done with the local plan and highlighted that young people cannot go on the housing list if living with their parents or a responsible person.
The Assistant Director for Education and Skills confirmed that they are heavily involved with colleagues in housing to identify units to support care leavers. They currently come into the ‘Head Start’ housing scheme and they get them ready for a tenancy. She explained that you can’t just put a young person in a property without the support around it. She assured members that they are involved in the local plan.
The Corporate Director for Children’s Services stated that the Youth Cabinet are also involved in the local plan.
The Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care and Early Help explained that when looking at housing for care leavers they try to make the plans so that it is the right housing at the right time. Some young people want to stay at home so if they are in foster care that might mean a staying put arrangement. Not every person is ready to live on their own at 18.
Councillor Worrall queried if a foster ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Nothing was added to the work programme.