Meeting documents

Scrutiny Children & Young People Sub-Committee
Tuesday, 14th March, 2017

Children & Young People Scrutiny Sub-Committee Minutes

Tuesday 14th March 2017
6:30 p.m.
The Council Chamber at the town hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX

Attendance Details


Councillor S Bennett, Councillor M Bird, Councillor J Buttinger, Councillor S Fitzsimons, Councillor M Henson, Councillor B Khan, Councillor A Rendle

Cllr Sherwan Chowdhury
Apologies for absence:
Apologies were received from Cllr Mario Creatura, James Collins, Dave Harvey and Elaine Jones.

Cllr Margaret Bird stood in for Cllr Mario Creatura.

Item Item/Resolution

The minutes were agreed.


RESOLVED THAT: the minutes of the meeting held on 7 February 2017 be signed as a correct record.








The following officers were in attendance for this item:
- Barbara Peacock, Executive Director (People)
- Ian Lewis, Director, Child and Family Early Intervention and Children
Social Care

The Director outlined the new vision for Children's services which is as follows:

‘Children and young people in Croydon will be safe, healthy, happy and will aspire to be the best they can be. The future is theirs. ‘


Members were given an overview of the key priorities in the division's improvement plan:
- Early help services
- Assessments
- Performance management
- The use of data
- Engaging children and young people


They were pleased to hear that the division's application to the innovation fund had reached the second stage.


Questioned about the role of the police in safeguarding children and young people, the Executive Director stated that this agency was engaging well with the council on issues such as child sexual exploitation, gangs and missing children. Joint work is also taking place on clarifying the two agencies' respective roles in addressing risks.


Members were advised that the division had initiated a review of Section 20 cases and that managers were ensuring that a plan was set up for each of these cases. In answer to a question, officers explained that the challenge they faced was the rise in the number of care procedures.

Officers were questioned on the sharp increase in assessment cases. Officers explained that they had actually decreased from 800 to 600 in the last two months.


Questioned on the turnover of staff, officers explained that the borough had once been the worst performing in London, but that turnover of permanent staff had now fallen to 15% per year.


Members questioned officers on the work of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). They were advised that this partnership group had no backlog and that cases were dealt with promptly despite the high number of contacts, about 5000-6000 per quarter. Performance monitoring has also improved with a new suite of Key Performance Indicators.


Members asked whether telephone lines to the MASH were always manned or whether there was sometimes a delay in responses to callers, many of whom were school staff reporting safeguarding risks. They were given assurances that the MASH had a sufficient number of operators and that callers were responded to directly. Indeed, feedback from head teachers regarding the work of the MASH was improving.


Members discussed access to child and adolescent mental health services. They were reminded that these services had recently received additional funding, including resources from NHS England to implement the borough's transformation plan. As a result, more children and young people in Croydon were getting access to mental health services. Officers added that Looked After Children received specially commissioned mental health services, with a much shorter waiting time before accessing them.

Members discussed missing children. Officers acknowledged that Croydon had one of the highest numbers of missing children in the capital. Officers monitor developments through daily missing children reports to children's social care staff, six weekly summary reports, regular "missing children's panel" meetings and "return home interviews". Unfortunately, 50% of children and young people decline to take part in such interviews on their return.


Asked how they could find out why the children went missing if they refused to take part in a return home interview, officers explained that social workers were skilled at communicating with children and persevered in their efforts to ascertain the causes of absences even if this was not through a formal "return home interview".


The Director explained that many children and young people going missing were placed in Croydon by other local authorities after involvement in child sexual exploitation, gangs and other issues, with a view to protecting them from such risks in future.


Members discussed adoption figures in the borough and were advised that the capital performed somewhat worse than the rest of the country in this respect. Officers explained that it was hoped this would be addressed through the new regionalisation approach. At the moment, 33 local authorities are recruiting adopters independently from the same pool. Regionalisation aims to carry out the recruitment more systematically. So far, 26 local authorities have formally signed up to participate in these arrangements while 2 others, located on the edge of the capital, have chosen not to.


Officers highlighted two areas which needed improvement:
- engagement with children and young people
- providing help to children in need at the right time


The Chair of Scrutiny offered to contribute to discussions on improving the engagement of children and young people. The Executive Director welcomed this offer. She announced that a new director post had been created which included a youth engagement responsibility, and that the officer recruited to the new post had been tasked with establishing a youth engagement strategy. She added that Scrutiny might contribute their ideas to this work.


The Committee stated that it was impressed with the work carried out on children's social care and thanked officers for their fulsome replies to their questions.


The following officers were in attendance for this item:
• Barbara Peacock, Executive Director (People)
• Alison Farmer, Head of 0 to 25 SEN and Disability

The recently appointed Head of 0 to 25 SEN and Disability gave a presentation on the service. This included information on the following:
- The drivers for change, which included new legislation, increasing demand, financial constraints and the outcome of the SEND Local Area Inspection.
- The growing demand for SEND services in Croydon, with autism spectrum disorders, moderate learning difficulties and Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties being the most common primary needs
- The 4 key outcomes the service is working to bring about
- Progress made so far to integrate the 0-25 SEND service
- Risks and issues


Cllr Maddie Henson announced a declaration of interest in view of her involvement in Speech and Language Therapy.


Members thanked the officer for her presentation and commented on the primary needs list, stating that there are likely to be significant co-morbidities. The Head of the new service stated that there was a very well documented trend that young people with speech and language problems often also had Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties.


Members reported that primary schools anecdotally provided more support to children with special needs in the school setting, and that reduced support at a secondary level led to a spike in Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in the early years of secondary school. In response to a member request, officers undertook to send further information on the numbers of EHCPs in primary and secondary school in the last 12 months.


Members were advised that many EHCPs were set up early in the lives of children with complex needs. However, officers were now seeing a new trend of applications for young people aged 16 and above, who were anxious about the forthcoming transfer to adult services. Unfortunately, some of these applications were rejected if the applicant was not progressing onto further education. The officer added that if the educational outcomes of a young person were successfully achieved at the age of 19, he/she did not require an EHCP to the age of 25. Instead, a programme of activities was organised for the individual, which could include steps to achieve employment.


Members highlighted the anxiety of parents as their SEND children approached adulthood and support was about to change. They stressed that better communications needed to take place to give parents assurances about a smooth transfer to adult services and continued services and support.


The officer stated that Croydon needed to improve capacity for its post 16 provision, particularly for most challenging ASD and complex needs cases, and that it should endeavour to provide more local services for these individuals. She added that Croydon was a net "exporter" of post-16 cases to other boroughs. She suggested that there was a need for lower level skills training and that St Giles school and Croydon College could work together to develop a programme for young people with complex needs. To improve the prospects of young people with complex needs, a bid with a focus on employment and skills had been submitted for 120-150 children in the borough.

The Head of the 0 to 25 SEN and Disability service was thanked for her answers to Members' questions.


Members agreed that the work programme for the following year needed to be more strategic, with less topics and more in-depth scrutiny.


The out of hours service and new schools were suggested as possible topics for the following year's work programme. Officers also put forward the regionalisation of adoption as an item for pre-decision scrutiny but warned that the timeline was out of the committee's control. It was suggested that this could constitute a topic for a mini-review.


The Chair thanked the sub-committee and officers for their contributions to Scrutiny over this municipal year.

The meeting ended at 8.47 p.m.