Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 3 March 2022 6.30pm

Venue: St George's Centre, Pembroke Road, Chatham Maritime, Chatham ME4 4UH. View directions

Contact: Stephanie Davis, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence was received from Cllrs Cooper, Stamp and Thorne.


Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 341 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 6 January 2021.


The record of the meeting held on 6 January 2022 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct


Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances

The Chairman will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he/she has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report. 


There were none.


The Chairman welcomed Victoria Aspin, Teacher Representative and Lenny Williams, the Church of England Diocese representative who join the Committee as Co-opted Members.


Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping pdf icon PDF 471 KB

Members are invited to disclose any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct. Guidance on this is set out in agenda item 4.



Disclosable pecuniary interests


There were none.


Other significant interests (OSIs)


There were none.



Other interests


In relation to item 5, Councillor Opara disclosed that her business had been involved with and benefitted from the Kickstart scheme. Her business has a partnership with CXK.



Attendance of Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools pdf icon PDF 264 KB

This report details the areas covered by the Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools for the period from April 2021 until March 2022. In the case of education services, it covers the academic year 2020-2021 and activity during that year and then the first half of the current school year.





Councillor Martin Potter, Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools was in attendance and took questions from the Committee.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


  • Workforce – a question was raised on what measures had been taken to ensure that the teaching workforce on term time only contracts received the settlements they deserved through the annual pay award. The Portfolio Holder said that negotiations with the GMB was ongoing, and an agreement had been reached with Unison. It was important to maintain political agreement on issues as complex as pay.


It was highlighted that Medway Council was not engaging in training of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and it was asked what impact this would have on retention of staff. It was alluded that this may (might) have had an impact on the number of NQTs that successfully completed their induction in 2020/21. The Portfolio Holder said that Medway had no provision in place as a training provider as they would have to partner with a university to ensure availability of expertise for delivery of training programmes. 


  • Schools COVID Recovery – in response to a question on what steps were being taken to stabilise the workforce post COVID, the Portfolio Holder stated that the Council continued to work closely in partnership with headteachers and school leaders to discuss issues and provide support.


  • COVID Recovery Spend – it was asked what was being done by schools on COVID recovery extra provision for pupils. The Portfolio Holder said that the decision on utilisation of the additional catch-up funding was left to individual schools. One of the schemes that was currently in place was a Medway wide literacy scheme to address issues with literacy which had been identified as a national cause for concern. The outcome of schools working together and sharing best practice through a system led programme that was not directed by the Council was yet to materialise but the work to date was encouraging.


  • Assessments – in response to concerns raised regarding assessments in primary schools which had not taken place since the pandemic, the Portfolio Holder assured members that the focus and aspiration were to return as soon as permittable to a stage of resuming assessments as the data currently in use was 2019 data which was extremely out of date.


  • Mental Health Practitioners – in response to a question on the impact the eight mental health practitioners that were being trained and would be based at schools across Medway would have, the Portfolio Holder said that it was too soon to provide a detailed answer. The possibilities were however welcomed, and it was encouraging that practitioners would be based in schools at the frontline working directly with teachers and providing support to children and young people.


  • School Transport – it was challenged that responsibility for payment of school transport to the temporary Maritime Academy site in Stoke should not lie with the Council and responsibility should lie with the Department for Education in this instance. The Portfolio  ...  view the full minutes text for item 714.


Attendance of Portfolio Holder for Children's Services (Lead Member) pdf icon PDF 246 KB

This annual report provides an account of the role of the Lead Member for Children’s Services as identified in the Department for Education Statutory Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) and the Lead Member for Children’s Services (LMCS) (DfE 2012). This report details the areas covered by the Lead Member for Children’s Services and covers the period from February 2022 until March 2023.





Councillor Josie Iles, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services was in attendance and took questions from the Committee.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


  • Children’s Improvement Plan – it was asked what assurance could be given of the department’s ability to sustain the improvements made to date now that it was no longer subject to monitoring of Special Education and Disabilities (SEND). The Portfolio Holder stated that whilst sufficient progress had been achieved which resulted in no longer being subject to monitoring visits, they would continue to receive support as well as appropriate challenge where necessary. It would be an ongoing process through various work streams to sustain progress such as sustained support to the parents’ and carers’ forum and continued review of practices.


  • High Needs Block Deficit – it was challenged that the Committee had been assured six months ago through a detailed report on tackling the high needs deficit and was now being advised that this could not be resolved. It was asked what was being done to hold the department to account on the Ten-year recovery plan. The Portfolio Holder stated that the report was clear that the forecast did not turn out as expected, was being reviewed and would form part of the SEND Strategy that would be presented to the Committee at its next meeting. Officers added that the report detailed why the high needs recovery plan would not meet its forecast targets. The service continued to experience pressure such as increased specialist provision which incurred high costs as well as increased children with EHC plans. The expected percentage in growth in High Needs funding over the next 10 years would be significantly lower than forecasted, and the current plan would not revolve the deficit issue in 10 years. To maintain the current plans forecast, annual growth would need to be reduced by 50% and this was not a viable option.


  • Data - it was highlighted that one of the concerns of the Ofsted monitoring visits in 2021 and in the latest report was that the electronic reporting system introduced in April 2021 was not accurately recording data and the Portfolio Holder was asked how confident she was in its accuracies. The Portfolio Holder stated that as far as she was aware the data was accurate and had to be looked at alongside the commentary provided which explained any variances. Officers added that the issue with data was complex. A new system was put in place in April 2021 and the introduction of the forms with the practice model which mapped through the system meant that the system would need to be reworked and mapped for a considerable amount of time to ensure its efficiency and accuracy. If data presented with any anomalies, they were addressed as they were recognised, and changes were built into the system as appropriate. Ofsted used a different reporting tool and the data tool they used at the time of inspection highlighted some inaccuracies. The data team was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 715.


Medway Youth Justice Plan 2022-24 pdf icon PDF 236 KB

This plan (attached at Appendix 1) is a completely new plan (as opposed to the ‘Refreshed’ Plan submitted last year. The Format of the plan follows guidance and headings provided by the national Youth Justice Board in April 2021, detailing best practice in the Youth Justice Plans completion.


Additional documents:




The Youth Offending Team Manager introduced the report which set out priorities and arrangements for the next two years to ensure continued delivery of the Youth Justice Partnership across Medway.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


A comment was made that following a visit to the service and learning more about the work that was being carried out, the priorities around issues with identity were striking. The work being done to support young people in understanding social context and forging their own identity amidst deep issues of social anxiety was commendable.


  • Budget - it was commented that the budget for the service had increased significantly but the number of young people being supported remained relatively low.  The officer stated that the cohort of young people supported was fluid. At present 70 young people were being supported. All of them had extremely complex and challenging needs hence the increase in the budget.


  • Data - concern was raised at the data presented which was 12 months old and it was questioned how records and tracking could be maintained with data sets that were out of date. The officer stated that the re-offending data was produced by the Youth Justice Board which had a complex system of gathering and tracking data from the National data set. The issue with data was a concern for all partners and was a regular topic of discussion at the local level.


  • Female Offenders – in response to questions regarding the lack of targeted support for female offenders despite a request for a Girls’ Strategy at the time of inspection and a lack of intervention for girls in alternative pathways away from crime, the officer acknowledged that most of the intervention in place was targeted towards male offenders. Whilst instances of reoffending in the female population were low, it was agreed that more intervention and a responsive approach to tackle female offending or reoffending was needed.


  • LGBT – the lack of representation of intervention for LBGT offenders in the report was referenced and the officer acknowledged this and said that the National data tool did not capture data by LGBT offenders, this had been raised with the inspectorate.


  • Referrals – in response to a question on what the solution should be to address a lack of referrals when the police took no further action against a young person, the officer said that low referral rates were an issue that the partnership board closely monitored. The service was trying to identify why the police had a low referral rate and find ways to build relationships and encourage them to refer when they were not taking action against young people.





  1. The Committee noted the report.


  1. The Committee recommended the Cabinet to recommend Full Council to approve the Medway Youth Justice Partnership Strategic Plan 2022 – 2024 attached at Appendix 1 to the report, including its priorities and themes and details of its consultation process (attached at Appendices 1 and 2 to the Strategic Plan).



Children's Service Improvement Update pdf icon PDF 194 KB

This report provides a progress update on children’s improvement activity with specific reference to progress made against the Children’s Improvement Plan, developed in response to the Ofsted report following the inspection in July 2019, when the service was graded Inadequate. Three Ofsted Monitoring Visits have taken place in May 2020, July 2021 and January 2022

Additional documents:


The Assistant Director Children’s Social Care introduced the report which provided a progress update on children’s improvement activity with specific reference to progress made against the Children’s Improvement Plan.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


Members praised the positive progress that had been made by the service as evidenced in the Ofsted letter that was published on 1 March 2022 and all staff were thanked for their hard work, commitment, and dedication to improving outcomes for children, young people, and families of Medway. It was important for staff to recognise and celebrate their success.


  • Recruitment - in response to concerns on the impact of recruitment on the early intervention improvement priorities, the officer said that an action plan was in place to mitigate issues experienced in recruitment. Recruitment in social care remained a problem that was not limited to social worker posts and the impact meant that families had to wait longer for assessment which was why the service was focused on short term intervention work, and partnership work, in particular with schools to mitigate the issues experienced as a result of recruitment.


The officer added that there was significant investment in the principle social work team, with investment on the development of staff by exploring ways to best support officers currently in post.


The recruitment market for social work posts remained significantly challenging despite investment and appropriate renumeration. There needed to be a stronger National drive by the Department for Education to tackle nationwide problems with recruitment of social workers.


  • Staff Reference Group – in response to a question on the frequency of meetings, types of issues raised and how they were addressed, the officer said that group sessions occurred frequently. Staff used the forum to openly discuss and raise a different range of concerns and a quarterly event was being set up by the leadership team to evidence the actions taken against the concerns highlighted by staff.


  • Quality Assurance – it was asked how often audit of cases took place and the officer responded that the service had a monthly audit programme in place. In addition, this was supplemented with a random comprehensive sampling of different cases. If data determined that records needed to be looked at further, sample audits would be carried out. The department had recently secured funds for extra audit capacity.


In response to a question of clarification about the six month review process, the officer stated that this was an independent review of a child’s plan which took place with the child’s family and explored permanence outcomes. According to the inspectors, this could be done better by exploring outcome at the outset of the child’s plan. This comment had been taken on board alongside all the other comments and what could be done better to improve the service.


  • Eden House – Members were informed that Eden house, a home for children with complex needs with a capacity for four children was now open with three young people in residence. The children all  ...  view the full minutes text for item 717.


Council Plan Performance Monitoring Report and Risk Register Quarter 3 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 216 KB

Medway’s Council Plan 2021/22 sets out the Council’s three priorities. This report and appendices summarise how we performed in Q3 2021/22 on the delivery of these priorities and the two priorities relevant for this Committee: People and Growth.  This report also presents the Q3 2021/22 review of strategic risks.


Additional documents:


The report which summarised the Council’s performance against delivery of its priorities was introduced and Members raised several questions and comments which included:


A concern regarding the mechanics behind the changes in targets was highlighted in particular regarding Ilacs 7. The comments made were noted by the Director of People who stated that there was nuance associated with that target.


  • Risk – it was asked when the risk for the 10-year High Needs Block Deficit Strategy downgrade occurred. The officer said the risk report was updated in January 2022   when the risk was downgraded as part of the high needs review and intervention that would be put in place. The full details would be shared as part of the full SEND Strategy report that would be presented at the next meeting of the Committee 


  • Attendance in schools – concern was raised that 1 in 4 secondary school pupils in Medway was persistently absent. Officers clarified that persistence absence was absence below 90%, the data presented had not been updated since the last quarter and was data for terms 1-4 of 2020/2021 during the height of the pandemic. Medway had a higher percentage of absence related to COVID compared to National average. A fuller report would be provided once after term 4’s data release were made available. Internal monitoring of attendance occurred through data provided by schools by choice and the data showed that Medway’s current attendance was below National Average.


  • Breast Feeding Target – targets were affected by the pandemic and NHS staff; and it was asked what further information in respect of peer support work could be provided as the trends appeared to be worsening. The officer said the indicator was red for Quarter 3 largely due to the impact of COVID across staffing across all NHS organisations. Quarter 4 could also remain red but should reduce back to green by Quarter 5. There were other measures and a summary of those figures would be provided to the Committee as a briefing. It was difficult to determine the driver behind the impact as this was still being explored to identify if there were a cohort of children with lower rates of breastfeeding which would highlight the reasons behind the impact.


  • Healthy Weight Summit – it was asked how the healthy eating and cooking programmes could be extended across the community. The officer said a range of courses took place at different locations and he would come back to Members about capacity to run other courses in other places.


  • Cyber Security - this remained an area of great concern and should remain a priority. It was asked that a training session be organised to which officers agreed.





The Committee noted the report.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 180 KB

This item advises Members of the current work programme and allows the Committee to adjust it in the light of latest priorities, issues and circumstances. It gives Members the opportunity to shape and direct the Committee’s activities over the year.

Additional documents:


The Democratic Services Officer introduced the report and drew the Committee’s attention to the upcoming Local Government Association Training that would take place on 22 March 2022. Members were reminded to notify democratic services of their availability to attend the training day.


A Member requested that an item be brought at a future meeting on workforce and recruitment planning for in- depth scrutiny. This was agreed by the Chairman, Members of the Committee and Officers.





  1. The Committee agreed the work programme as set out at Appendix 1 to the report.


  1. The Committee agreed that a paper be brought to a future meeting on workforce and recruitment.