To receive an overview of the staff changes, service impact and response to the budget reductions proposed under the Croydon Renewal Plan.
The Programme Director for Children’s Improvement and Interim Director of Education introduced the report/ Members were asked to note Children’s Centre Consultation and the model adopted had been signed off by Cabinet. It was envisaged that the model would be deliverable by December 2021, subject to the tendering process.
The report also thanked the Sub-Committee for their comments in relations to the draft continuous children’s improvement plan that fed into the final plan.
In response to a question on what the new model for children’s centres meant
for the service users, officers said that whilst the budget had remained the main focus, it was understood through the consultation process the importance of children’s centres spread appropriately geographically across the borough. This new model enabled that to happen and if the centres were to continue operating as they were, there would be less services delivered at each centre.
Whoever was successful in the Tender would have to work closely with the Spokes across the borough to ensure services ran across the borough appropriately.
It was further asked what would be done to minimise the impact due to the reduced opening days and times. Officers said it was important to understand that there would be some disruption due to the budget and the centre and spokes model. As a Council clear performance indicators would be set detailing the expectations and this would be conveyed to whoever was successful in the tender and would be used to monitor performance and impact of the new model and what needs to be delivered statutorily.
An expansion of the areas of improvement as directed by the Ofsted feedback was requested. Officers said that this was a focused visit and the department was aware of which areas Ofsted would concentrate on, in this instance it was the ‘front door’ of the service. A mini inspection took place with the full ILACs inspection. The headline findings despite the challenges was encouraging.
The three areas of social work practice identified for improvement, had been identified by senior leadership improvement were reflected in the continuous children’s improvement plan.
Discussions took place on the cost of UASC which remained an area of concern for the LA. A letter was sent to central government highlighting the LA’s position and concern. Following this, a response was received that an exceptional one off £2.35 million forecast budget gap payment would be provided and there would be an expectation for the Council to continue to manage within its means.
In response to a question on what Croydon’s stance on the potential increase of unaccompanied asylum seeking children as a result of the current situation in Afghanistan, officers said this was a fast moving situation. There was a London wide response in place. Croydon already had a number of unaccompanied children under 18 and care leavers in its care system already. There is no position of any children coming into Croydon’s care.
A Member asked what was being done to ensure that direct payments care packages were cost effective and move as many over where appropriate. Officers said that weekly meetings took place to reviews care packages and it was important that families were able to exercise control as much as possible on decision making on their needs. There had been a recent overhaul of the financial systems in place and also developing of a dynamic purchasing system was in place to ensure that families get the best value for money from provision. Every care package for every child had been reviewed to ensure the best service for all the children and broadening the reach of services that families were able to utilise their direct payments for.
In response to a question on what was being done to manage the dedicated schools grant deficit, officers said that this was always an area of priority. The management plan has been brought before all relevant parties and there was clear direction of travel to manage spending in high needs. Through the management plan different models were being worked on, in particular through the SEN plan and focus which would lead to a reduction on overspend by ensuring meeting needs appropriately.
The Chair thanked officers for their responses to questions