Agenda item

Service Impact and Budget Update

To receive an overview of the staff changes, service impact and response to the budget reductions proposed under the Croydon Renewal Plan.

(To follow)



The Executive Director of Children Families and Education introduced the item and the following was highlighted:


·         The Education Directorate and strong community of diverse schools who work together very well and will be key going forward in response post pandemic was commendable.

·         The quality of social work practice due to introduction of the systemic model of practice which was vital in improving the Ofsted judgement from inadequate to good had made significant difference to the service which was demonstrated through ongoing case audits.

·         There were still areas of weakness with increased vacancy rates in frontline services and management which was being addressed through ongoing work with HR department.

·         The Leaving care team which was judged as requiring improvement remained an area of priority.

·         Maintaining the budget remained a challenge.

·         An upcoming Ofsted visit would cause a lot of work and anxiety for staff and would require a lot of resources.


Members had the opportunity to ask questions.


Assurance was sought on the governance of the delivery plan and it was asked what Scrutiny’s role was in the process. Officers said that they worked to ensure that the information provided was the same as presented to others such as Cabinet and the Improvement Board in order to maintain proportionality. The governance of performance framework and management sat within existing frameworks with savings projects for different areas of the service embedded in the current structure.


A Member further challenged that the delivery plan which was good in terms of overview sets out a number of issues, primarily the oversight of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee was not mentioned. This would give an indication that there was no role for Scrutiny and this was unacceptable given that the role of other committees had been mentioned in the Plan.  Officers acknowledged the challenge and said that there was more work to be done to finalise how Scrutiny and governance of the overall plan would fit together. This was a live plan and some details had changed since the report was written. The Executive Director added that Scrutiny did indeed have a vital role.


It was asked what level of engagement took place with children and families in formulating the Plan as it was important that reports reflected the voice of service users and that the Council was listening and engaging with its residents. Officers said that children and families were involved in putting together the key principles of the systemic practice which had fed into the Delivery Plan.


A question was asked what processes followed when a family or young person had criticism of an aspect of the service. Officers said that as part of audit processes, built conversations between children and carers were recorded and evaluated as part of the quality assurance process. The thematic learning enabled issues to be raised and dealt with and as audits were conducted by managers, if serious problems were highlighted, they were escalated through senior line management. There was some ongoing thoughts and conversations taking place as to how to involve corporate parenting into the process to sit alongside work from the youth engagement team, outreach work and the complaints process which all feed into the audit process.


In response to a question of whether there was a reduction on finances for Children in Need due to financial pressures of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). Officers said that there were controllable and uncontrollable elements of finance for UASC. There was no control in the numbers that presented to Croydon but the Council was able to manage the efficiency of commissioning of placements and review of care package for these children. The details presented in the report was to distinguish between uncontrollable cost drivers not controllable within the parameters of the Plan.

It was added that it was clear that Croydon had been providing a good service for UASC but this had resulted on additional pressures and the external funding received from the DfE and Home office was not sufficient. This however had not impacted on the quality of services for local children and there was constant lobbying and negotiation taking place to receive proportionate remuneration to support UASC.


The Chair thanked officers for their engagement with the sub-committee.


Request for info

The Bright Sparks survey which details the experiences of young people to be circulated


The Sub-Committee came to the following conclusions

1.    It was very concerning that the role of Scrutiny was not included in the assurance process of the draft Children Families and Education Improvement Plan 2021-24

2.    It was disappointing that the Children’s Improvement Board work programme had been developed without consultation with the Sub-Committee or GPAC on its own work programme in order to avoid duplication

3.    The Plan was well written and robust but some of the language used was ambiguous. It was important that officers be mindful of the language used which could leant to unintended interpretation.


The Sub-Committee recommended that

1.    The Draft Children, Families and Education Delivery Plan 2021-24 be reviewed to ensure appropriate acknowledgement and inclusion of Scrutiny in its governance and assurance mechanisms.

2.    The Plan to be circulated to all Councillors  with a briefing note that explains the challenges and for all other department to follow this lead when writing the plan for their service


Supporting documents: