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Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence from any members of the Committee.
Councillor Alisa Flemming gave her apologies and Councillor Shafi Khan was in attendance in her absence.
Paul O’Connel and Dave Harvey gave their apologies.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 18 September 2018 as an accurate record.
The minutes of the meeting held on 18 September 2019 were approved and signed as a accurate record.
Disclosures of interest
In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.
There was none
Urgent Business (if any)
To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.
There was none.
The Complaints Manager presented the report which outlined the volume of statutory complaints received across Children’s services for the period of July- September 2018.
The Sub-Committee learned that Stage 1 complaints increased by 54% in comparison to the previous year’s Quarter 2 performance, however this may be partly attributed to incorrect logging in previous years. Responses to Stage 1 complaints within statutory timeframe rose by 11% in comparison to the previous year. There was a 10% increase in the percentage of upheld complaints against the previous year’s performance.
Learning and Action Plans to be implemented within the service in Quarter 3 included the following:
•Clear and regular communication with service users.
•Appropriate management of cases, with administrative duties to be kept up to date.
•Improvement of performance reports, assessment and meetings.
•Appointment of a new permanent Head of Service for Quality Assurance and Safeguarding, with a review of the implementation of the Quality Assurance Framework being undertaken.
•Partnership working between the Complaints Manager and the Head of Quality Assurance on the implementation of these actions
The Chair thanked officers for the report.
The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
i. The Sub-Committee noted the content of the report
ii. That this was the first quarterly report following the Annual Report that had been considered at the Sub-Committee meeting on 18 September and reassurance could be taken that the report demonstrated that the issues relating to the volume of complaints had been clearly recognised. Officers were clearly working on compliance and the Sub- Committee looked forward to seeing further progress made on improvements in future reports.
iii. That comparison figures against other boroughs needed to be made evident in future reports.
iv. That the Sub-Committee was encouraged by the plans in place to collate thematic analysis of complaints received and would welcome the receipt at future meetings of applied learning from the information gathered.
To receive the reviewed Children’s Improvement Plan which outlines the actions to be taken in 2018/19 to address the weaknesses identified by Ofsted in 2017.
The Programme Director introduced the report which provided details of the reviewed and refreshed improvement plan one year into the improvement journey.
This review had taken plan in order to drive forward identified priorities at an increased pace and respond to feedback from the monitoring visits that had taken place following the Ofsted Inspection and published report in September 2017.
The Plan outlined the actions to be taken in 2018/19 and included the following:
•Sharper focus on narrow set of priorities.
•Improvement on management and practice.
•Improved partnership working.
•Strengthening of corporate support services.
•New internal governance arrangement.
•Creation of a culture of shared ownership and social work values.
•New programme reporting arrangements in line with Strengthening Families model.
•Attraction and retention of a skilled committed workforce.
In response to a question about where management oversight was focused in order to share practices with each other, officers stated that there was a month by month audit of completion of supervision. It was acknowledged that there was a need to focus on quality and impact of management oversight which Ofsted referred to seeing some evidence of but concluded that it needed to be more effective and consistent.
As a follow up it was questioned whether the dissemination of good practice was evident and how to understand what this looked like. Officers replied that the challenge by Ofsted was that they disagreed with some of the outcomes presented. This highlighted the importance of a regular audit process with the requirement for oversight to be more transparent and visible. The directive from the last monitoring visit was that effectiveness must be evident by the next monitoring visit in February 2019.
Questions were raised on the management of staffing levels, managing newly qualified social workers and the ability to persuade good locums to convert to permanent contracts. Officers advised that staffing levels varied between the teams. Significant additional resources had been put into the service, with recruitment and retention remaining a priority. Across the teams there were 1800 cases at the end of July 2018, this was now down to 760. The aspiration was for caseloads of 20 per social worker and this was now being achieved. It was emphasised that in order to persuade locums to convert the offer must be good, and support in place as well as manageable caseloads.
It was questioned how Priority 7 of the improvement plan ‘Creating a culture of shared ownership and social work values’ would be monitored. Officers responded that this priority was in line with the Councils focus on organisational culture and was formed out of recommendations by the Staff Reference Group. There was an emphasis on talking with and listening to staff who had voiced their desire to be part of a high performing authority. Improvements would be monitored though regular formal feedback opportunities, an annual survey, quarterly checks, staff conferences as well as attention to staff wellbeing. Direct feedback would be the key to achieving the set outcomes for the priority.
It was ... view the full minutes text for item 34/18
To receive a summary of the activities and findings of Children’s Social Care Practice Week.
The Interim Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care presented the report which recapitulated the findings of Practice Week, held every six month as outlined in the Quality Assurance Framework.
The Sub-Committee was informed that the theme for the most recent Practice Week was children under 12 years of age in care for 12 month and over, those that had left care and corporate parenting responsibilities.
42 cases were audited by senior managers with the following finding:
•Improvement in quality of decision making although noted to not be timely or well recorded.
•Improvement in effectiveness in review and challenge.
•Improvement in permanency planning although there were some delays in implementation noted.
•Evidence of good partnership in permanency and fostering and adoption service with carers well supported.
•Practitioners had good relationships with child and carers
•Good partnership working.
•Inconsistency in quality of care plans, with discrepancies in quality against outcomes with limited detail on evidence of work that went into achieving outcomes.
•In adoption work identification of placement and long term fostering arrangements needed to be more robust.
•There were some evidence of productive and imaginative life story work but there were inconsistencies in the quality of life story work practice by some social workers.
•Management oversight and supervision remained an area of concern with a lack of regular supervision identified.
•More consistency on sharing of practice and the narrative of tracked cases required.
In response to a query about the reasons behind the difference in outcomes for a child in care less than three months than that of longer term cases, officers stated that different measures were used for each group.
The importance of life story work was noted, observed to be an area that required improvement and the steps taken to maintain consistency in standards was questioned. Officers acknowledged that this was an area of priority but it was also an area where targeted learning and training was required. In order to develop the skills required to produce good life story work resources would be put in to address the gaps identified. Additionally senior management needed to be more robust in checking that life story work had been completed prior to adoption orders being made.
It was questioned how well social workers understood the importance of parallel planning, preparation of more than one outcome for a child that comes into care in order to avoid drift and delay. Officers confirmed that this was a key message following the Ofsted monitoring visit and that assessments with stronger analysis of risks must be produced. Evidence of intervention was not robust and duality of plans were not as consistent as needed to be. As a result further resources in terms of training and development as well as regular audits and supervision were being implemented in this area.
The Chair thanked officers for their response to questions.
The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
i. The Sub-Committee welcomed the opportunity to receive the detailed report on the activities of Practice ... view the full minutes text for item 35/18
The Head of 0-25 SEN and Disability presented the report which covered four aspects of Croydon’s work with Special Education Needs (SEN) children. One of the elements was the development of the SEN Strategy which was in its draft stage and would be out for consultation from the 3rd of December until mid-January 2019. The consultation programme would include engagement with parents and young people in different settings.
The Strategy, which was being developed following engagement with young people and their families, covered 4 key areas that had been identified as requiring improvement. These were the following:
•Early identification of children with SEN
•Response time and engagement
•Effective partnership working
•Pathways for Post 16 into adulthood and local provision
The report also covered the performance and changes to the 0-25 SEN service following the restructure and a focus on statutory duties for two teams of Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) co-ordinators for young people aged 0-11 and 11-25. The change had been made to enable transition planning into adulthood at an earlier stage. There had been an increase of EHCP coordinators to the team in order to reduce caseloads and a senior practitioner employed to focus on peer support as well as quality assurance. A business relations team had been employed to develop and improve relationships with schools.
The performance of the team was included in the report which showed 90% of ECHP completed within timeframes in 2017. There had been an increase in ECHP since January 2018 when there were 2600 plans to an increase of over 300 new plans in the last seven months. This increase will have an impact on the number of plans completed within timescale, the results of which will be reported in January 2019.
The report also focussed on funding, which remained challenging for high needs children. The projected overspend in that area this year was £5.2mil which was similar to the previous year, with an accumulated overspend projected at approximately £15mil by the end of 2019. There was in place a five year strategy to reduce the overspend which included local provision and less reliance on the independent sector, better pathways for post 16, a focus on inclusion for SEN children in mainstream schools and increased numbers of needs to be met within these schools.
The Chair highlighted the importance of the means by which Councillors and Members of the Sub-Committee could supply comment and recommendations as part of the consultation process.
It was questioned whether parents would have the opportunity to feed back as part of the consultation and what assurances were in place to ensure that these voices would be heard. Officers advised that there would be sessions held at various locations in the borough in both special schools as well as mainstream schools. The dates of the meetings would be published, parent partnerships would be involved in co-ordinating the forum groups. Members were encouraged to share suggestions and in particular ideas on the transition of post 16 provision.
The Chair ... view the full minutes text for item 36/18
To receive a summary/comparison of the performance of children and young people in Croydon Local Authority maintained schools and academies for the academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The Chair wanted it noted that this item was mis-titled as the Sub-Committee would be looking at the audited performance of schools at the next meeting on 5 February 2019. The main focus of this item was on exclusions and children missing in education.
The Head of Education Standards Safeguarding and Inclusion introduced the report and directed Members to two main highlights. The Sub-Committee noted that it was difficult for the department to provide conclusive overarching comparative data on performance due the fluctuation in performance in different areas periodically for maintained schools and academies, as well as the fact that there was a distinctively smaller number of maintained secondary schools in comparison to academies in the borough.
In terms of permanent exclusions, Croydon schools compared favourably nationally in primary and secondary level with strong engagement by schools in the fair access process which reduced the number of permanent exclusions. Figures showed that 71% of referrals that went to the Fair Access Panels secured places at alternative mainstream schools. Secondary fixed term exclusions were above the national average whilst primary school figures were below average. Elective Home Education figures show a disproportionate figure in the numbers for academies. It was important to note that it was difficult to provide an overarching reasons for this as figures showed that one academy has 10 referral in the period.
There had been a rise in the figures for children missing from education due to a change in the regulations that came into effect in 2016 that required local authority and academies to record any pupils coming off the school roll.
It was queried whether there had been any further exploration of the particular themes emerging from one of the main reasons behind elective home education, which was dissatisfaction in the system. Officers advised that it was difficult to quantify the reasons why people were dissatisfied with the education system as this was individual to the parent. It also could not be specifically attributed to either academies or maintained schools.
The Chair commented that he had visited different schools and spoken extensively about the issues of children in danger of exclusions and explored the processes of Fair Access Panels for both primary and secondary schools. Concerns were expressed around the robustness of the process in primary schools in comparison to secondary schools. Primary schools have recognised there are issues with inconsistency and were working to make their processes more robust. In terms of exclusions, levels were high in some schools and low in others, which led to concerns regarding the variation. Information on children sent to Pupil Referral Units (PRU) was also needed in order to understand the totality of the picture.
The Executive Head of Harris Schools commented that in terms of the data provided on the fair access protocol, it may be helpful to look at the data over a number of years in order to form an understanding of what was meant by referrals and offers. The data does not show ... view the full minutes text for item 37/18
What Difference has this meeting made to Croydon's Children
To discuss the finding of this meeting and the expectations for Croydon’s Children.
The Sub-Committee Members felt that officers understood the importance and requirement for full information to be contained in reports or circulated separately ahead of each meeting. Reports did not always reflect what was required or expected and this will be challenged where necessary. Challenge will be made to officers on how they will convince Members about changes to organisational culture.
To note the work programme for the remainder of the 2018/19 municipal year.
It was agreed for a Task and Finish group to be set up to collate data and evidence on the off rolling of pupils in Croydon schools and for findings to be reported to the Sub-Committee at its meeting on 12 March 2019
The Sub-Committee agreed the additional items to meetings for the remainder of the municipal year.