The report was presented by Janet Simon.
Referring to page 50, the Vice-Chair noted the target figure for fostering households and commented that the figure was optimistic and asked why this was the target figure. Janet Simon answered that the impact of Covid had impact on the target figure last year but the service was now looking to recruit new foster households. She said that the figure was optimistic but possible with the recent council tax exemption.
The Chair asked what the current number of foster households were and commented that the target figure was optimistic. She asked for an update in future reports. Janet Simon said that she did not have the current figure on hand but that the service was halfway to the targeted figure. She explained that the proposals in the report was for the next financial year.
Referring to paragraph 3.2, Councillor Watson noted that the Council statutory duties were now rated as Good from the recent Ofsted inspection and asked why the service was changing its services now. She also sought clarification on a relationship approach. Janet Simon explained that the four strategic areas of the service would remain in place and that the plan was to bring services together in house to enable the Council to deliver a more streamlined service from one place. She referred to paragraph 3.10 which detailed the internal and external services provided. This would ensure that families received a complete service. In regards to a relationship approach, Janet Simon explained that this meant a team that would work closely with a family to deliver a more efficient service and with one point of contact for the family.
The Chair sought clarification on the difference between the operating model and the current structure. She asked why the changes had not taken place two years before. Janet Simon answered that two years ago, the service had other priorities following the Ofsted inspection which included safeguarding children and managing social workers’ caseloads. These were now in place and the service was now looking at how services could be enhanced. She stated that the proposals in the report were proposals only and could change through the consultation process.
The Chair asked whether the proposals would expand caseloads for social workers and what was an unacceptable number of caseloads. Officers explained that there were no plans to increase caseloads and that there were spans of control in place before the Ofsted ‘Good’ rating was given. An acceptable number of caseloads was up to six which would ensure the quality of social work carried out would be good.
The Chair asked what services would be impacted by the proposals and clarity on the number of posts at risk of redundancy. Officers explained that there was a total of 22 posts at risk with a maximum of 13 redundancies. Staff at risk of redundancy would be offered the vacant posts as mentioned in the previous report. None of the posts would impact upon the Council’s ability to carry out its statutory duties, spans of control in social work or social workers’ caseloads. The posts were in the consultation process and was a combination of posts from qualified and unqualified posts but not from the Early Help Team as it was important this team continued to operate.
Councillor Watson asked how much savings would be made from the proposals and if there were a high number of agency social workers in the service. She commented that there would be savings made from the vacant posts held as the funding for those were still available and could have been used elsewhere in the service. She asked whether there would voluntary redundancies. Officers were unable to confirm how much savings would be made as the proposals were not confirmed yet. The service did not have a high level of agency staff and where there was previously, this was at 15 – 16% which was low for social care. The managers in social care were predominantly permanent. Officers stated that the vacant posts were covered by agency staff or temporary staff and that permanent staff would be offered these posts if they were redeployed. Staff were able to take voluntary redundancy if that was their preferred option.
Councillor Snell sought confirmation that the proposals would not put the Council at risk of performing its statutory duties; would not impact on the children using these services; would not impact upon staff delivering these services; and that the service would continue to operate at a good level. Sheila murphy confirmed yes to all this.
1.1 That Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the proposals identified to contribute to savings to offset the funding gap.
1.2 This report to this committee seeks
specific comment on the relevant items which fall within its remit
and which requires further member scrutiny prior to final cabinet
decisions being made on the relevant items.
The Chair proposed a new recommendation, which read:
‘To recommend that Cabinet do not move forward with these savings which would essentially risk the ability of Children's Services to adequately safeguard children and young people.’
This was seconded by Councillor Watson. A vote was held. There were two votes in favour (Councillors Muldowney and Watson), and four votes against (Councillors Akinbohun, Anderson, Thandi, and Snell). Therefore the proposed recommendation was not agreed.