Agenda and draft minutes

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 9 January 2020 6.30pm

Venue: Civic Suite - Level 2, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham ME4 4TR

Contact: Teri Reynolds, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

530.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Ahmed and Opara and from Akinola Edun (Parent Governor Representative) and Clive Mailing (Roman Catholic Church representative).

531.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 250 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 3 December 2019. 

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 3 December was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct.

532.

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. 

Minutes:

The Chairman explained that he had accepted the Report to the Minister of State for children and families on ways forward for Children’s Services in Medway as urgent in order for the Committee’s comments to be forwarded to Cabinet when they consider the report on Tuesday 14 January 2020.  The report had been added to the agenda as a late item as it had not been available at the time of despatch.

 

The Chairman explained that this item, for which it was necessary to exclude the press and public because the report was confidential at the time of the meeting, would be considered by the Committee first, ahead of the rest of the items on the agenda, which were then taken in order.

533.

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping pdf icon PDF 212 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.

 

Minutes:

Disclosable pecuniary interests

 

There were none.

 

Other significant interests (OSIs)

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

Councillor Cooper declared that she was a governor at Rivermead School. 

 

534.

Outcomes of consultation on proposals to restructure Alternative Provision in Medway pdf icon PDF 417 KB

This report outlines the outcomes of the consultation on the Council’s proposals to restructure Alternative Provision in Medway. The Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee is asked to consider the report and make comment for inclusion within the Outcomes of Consultation report to Cabinet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Programme Lead – School Organisation and Capital Services introduced the report which provided the outcomes of the consultation on the Council’s proposals to restructure Alternative Provision (AP) in Medway.  He explained that the proposals were to address some of the recommendations in the 2018 AP review, which was attached at Appendix 5 to the report. There had been 158 responses to the consultation, with the majority supportive of a Centre of Excellence but with differing views in how that might be established.

 

The Executive Headteacher of the Inspiring Change Multi Academy Trust (ICMAT) then addressed the Committee, explaining that the Rowans AP was part of the ICMAT and was rated ‘outstanding’ and achieved positive outcomes.  She also explained about the development of The Beeches, an AP free school which, when open, would offer early intervention support for children at Key Stage 1, 2 and 3.  It would provide outreach support in mainstream schools to prevent exclusions and would be focused on reintegrating pupils back in to mainstream when appropriate and ready to do so. She gave examples of national projects and programmes The Rowans was involved in, which included working with the Department for Education.  She welcomed a policy change in AP which would provide a cohesive, joined up approach, which she felt was needed to move AP forward.

 

Three people representing Will Adams AP then addressed the Committee.  Firstly, an ex-student spoke about his experience at Will Adams.  He explained that at 15 years old, he had a diagnosis of ADHD and anger management difficulties and had received multiple mainstream exclusions.  He was involved in drugs, violence and crime and his parents, school and the police were struggling to find a solution to help him.  He was then placed at Will Adams AP and he found the quiet, relaxed, close knit environment one in which he could thrive.  He attended school every day and was willing to learn, eventually becoming Head Student.  He was now 20, happy, healthy and with an ambition to join the Royal Engineers.  He thanked Will Adams AP for turning his life and the life of others, around.

 

Secondly, a parent of two students at Will Adams explained how it had helped her children.  She explained that both her children, who both had a diagnosis of ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder, had attended mainstream school and because they were high-functioning, they had not met the criteria for an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Their mainstream school had tried to put strategies in place for both children but these had been unsuccessful.  Her son was expelled after reacting to bullying behaviour that he had been experiencing for over three years and was moved to Will Adams where he received the right support, with access to in-school counselling and settled very well.  Her daughter subsequently joined Will Adams and although she presented with challenging and aggressive behaviour on starting, this was managed well by the school as staff were well trained in this and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 534.

535.

Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) Annual Report 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 149 KB

The purpose of this report is to present the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) Annual Report 2018-19 to the Committee. The MSCB Independent Chair publishes an annual report describing how agencies in Medway have worked together through the year and how effective the arrangements are in Medway to keep children and young people safe from harm, abuse or neglect. The report summarises the work undertaken in 2018-19 and the replacement of the MSCB with the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) which transitioned from September 2019.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adults introduced the report and explained that both the Independent Chair and the Vice-Chair of the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) were both unavailable to attend the meeting.  The report was the last annual report from the Board, which had been replaced by the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) in September 2019 and would continue to report to this Committee.

 

Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:

 

·           Improving approach to keep children safe – reference was made to section 1.6 of the annual report which related to the outcome of audits showing that there needed to be a better approach to keep children safe. The Director explained that training was being provided on this issue, which was a priority for the MSCP going forward.

 

·           Engaging with the community and voluntary sector – officers confirmed that Medway Voluntary Action had been part of the Board and were engaged with the MSCP going forward and work would be ongoing with them to reach a wider range of community and voluntary sector organisations.

 

·           Increase in children subject to a child protection plan – questions were raised about the rise in children subject to a child protection plan (CPP).  Officers explained that this could relate to a better identification of risk by social work staff although it was also not unusual to see a rise where a local authority has received an inadequate Ofsted judgement.  It was also confirmed that the numbers in Medway were on par with national averages and when compared with statistical neighbours.

 

·           Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) – concern was raised that lessons had not been learned from the serious case review into incidents at the STC, which had recently been judged to be inadequate.  Officers confirmed that the judgement related to fundamental issues within the STC, which partner agencies had difficulty in influencing but confirmed that this was a priority that the authority was working in strong partnership on, particularly taking forward when the STC closes to reopen as a secure school.

 

·           Identification of Private Fostering Arrangements – the concern at 3.34 of the report relating to reduction in notifications of new private fostering arrangements was referred to and officers assured Members this was an area of focus for the MSCP to raise awareness around private fostering.

 

·           Increase in children subject to a child protection plan – questions were raised about the rise in children subject to a child protection plan (CPP).  Officers explained that this could relate to a better identification of risk by social work staff although it was also not unusual to see a rise where a local authority has received an inadequate Ofsted judgement.  It was also confirmed that the numbers in Medway were slightly higher than national averages and when compared with statistical neighbours.

 

·           The Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)’s awareness of the performance of children’s social care – in response to questions about whether the Board anticipated the recent Ofsted judgement,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 535.

536.

Review of the Old Vicarage Children's Home Provision pdf icon PDF 452 KB

This report provides information relating to the Old Vicarage Children’s Home for young people experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties, and its sustainability in the current economic climate. The report provides the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee with feedback from the public consultation relating to the proposed closure of the provision. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adult Services, introduced the report which provided information on the feedback from public consultation in relation to the proposed closure of the Old Vicarage Children’s Home.  He confirmed that plans were in place for the young people currently residing in the Old Vicarage, who would be transitioning in any event as they were all approaching adulthood.  He explained that in recent years it had become increasingly difficult to place or sustain placements of young people in the Old Vicarage as it was not able to meet the needs of the increasing number of young people with complex needs.  It was therefore considered most appropriate for the Council to use the opportunity to reinvest the resource in a way to support more young people and particularly in “edge of care” arrangements to help support children and their families which in turn would result in fewer children coming into care.

 

Councillor Etheridge then addressed the Committee as Ward Member.  He welcomed the public consultation but stated that he had not been consulted as Ward Member.  He raised concerns about closing the facility, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted and the impact this would have on the young people in the facility and on the availability of placements if the provision closed.

 

Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:

 

·           Staffing – concern was raised about Medway losing the staff at the provision who had excellent skill sets and could have been retained if the process had been conducted differently, for example with more detailed discussions and ideas about what new provision would be, before consultation.  Officers confirmed that redeployment exercises were in place for the staff and where possible the staff were being placed in other services within the Council, such as the Youth Service and Early Help, as examples.

 

·           Reduction in availability to place children – officers responded to concerns that by closing the provision this would increase pressure on placements for young people.  They explained that evidence demonstrated there was adequate provision available to place children and that very often, children could not be placed at the Old Vicarage because their needs were too complex and they could not therefore be supported at the provision, which was why the provision had been running under capacity for some time.

 

·           Impact on current residents – officers confirmed that all young people currently residing at the Old Vicarage would be moving on by March 2020 in any event because they were all at or approaching 18 years of age and were therefore transitioning into adulthood. All of the young people had good arrangements in place and some of the residents had already transitioned, with all of them being supported to transition to their new arrangements by the end of January.

 

·           Losing a provision rated ‘outstanding’ – the Interim Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care explained she had much experience in residential care and that it was possible for a residential home to receive  ...  view the full minutes text for item 536.

537.

Kent, Bexley and Medway Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) pdf icon PDF 239 KB

The Department for Education (DFE) has mandated that all local authorities must be delivering their adoption services through a regional arrangement by April 2020. The minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi MP issued a letter to Medway and Councils across the country in February 2019, confirming the Government’s expectation for all Local Authorities to be part of a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) by 2020. For any authority who fails to do this, the Government have the legal power to direct Local Authority adoption services to another RAA. This report sets out the summary of the business case for the regionalisation of adoption services across Kent, Bexley and Medway. Members are asked to consider the report and for comments to Cabinet for its consideration of this report on 14 January 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Interim Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care, introduced the report which set out the summary of the business case for the reorganisation of adoption services across Kent, Bexley and Medway.  She explained how the arrangements would benefit Medway children, in terms of improving timescales of placement and improving the access to adopters, particularly as Medway had fewer adopters, unlike the other two local authorities.

 

In response to questions about the structure of the RAA model, the Interim Assistant Director explained that there were various models being adopted across the country but in this case the preference across all three local authorities had been to retain staff, which had been based on the outcome of staff consultation, therefore the partnership model had been progressed.

 

In response to a question about accountability, officers confirmed that the statutory responsibility remained with the Director of Children’s Services of each local authority and reporting through overview and scrutiny and Cabinet would continue to all three local authorities.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report and forwarded its comments to the Cabinet.

538.

Annual Adoption Report pdf icon PDF 262 KB

This report provides theChildren and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the Adoption Agency’s Annual Report. This annual reports covers adoption performance during this period and provides an update on the work of the team. This report also includes information about the progress made towards Medway forming a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) with Kent County Council and the London Borough of Bexley, which is also covered in more detail in a separate report on this agenda.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Interim Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care, introduced the Annual Adoption Report which covered adoption performance during 2018-2019 and provided an update on the work of the team. With reference to the graph at 5.3.8 of the report, she confirmed that the number of adopters approved was often less than the adopters matched to Medway children because in some cases children were matched with adopters who were not registered with Medway.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report.

539.

Annual Fostering Report pdf icon PDF 363 KB

The Annual Report for the Fostering Service sets out the work completed over the last year, how in-house fostering services have met the needs of Medway’s looked after children and establishes the work which should be undertaken in the coming year. 

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Interim Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care, introduced the Annual Fostering Report which set out the work completed over the last year and how the service had met the needs of Medway’s looked after children.  She explained that the recruitment of new foster carers continued to be a challenge, which was a national issue.  She also reported that 7-8% of looked after children had been in more than three placements in one year, some considerably more and focus on this issue was therefore key. 

 

Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:

 

·           Improving in-house capacity – officers added that Medway would be working with a Partner in Practice to learn from best practice and improve its fostering service, particularly in relation to the recruitment of foster carers and equipping in-house foster carers to support more challenging placements. Foster carers were also being provided with restorative justice and trauma training to help support more complex looked after children and also to help prevent placement breakdown.  It was emphasised that getting placement matches right at the beginning was key to ensure the best outcomes of the young person placed.

 

·           Staff vacancies – officers confirmed that agreement had been given to cover the vacancies within the service via agency support and this was underpinned by a range of recruitment drivers, such as ‘step up to social work’ and ‘return to social work’ and supporting newly qualified social workers.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report.

540.

Sufficiency Report 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 182 KB

The purpose of the report is to update members of the Committee on the annual refresh of the statutory Sufficiency Report.  The purpose of this Sufficiency Report, set out at Appendix 1 to this report, is to detail how Medway Council, through working with all its partner agencies, will meet the placement needs of current and future Children in Care and Care Leavers, and improve their outcomes in light of our understanding of their needs and current provision.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Partnership Commissioning Programme Lead for Looked After Children introduced the report which provided the Committee with the annual refresh of the Statutory Sufficiency Report, which detailed how the Council, working with partners, would meet placement needs to current and future children in care and care leavers.  She explained that the number of children and young people in care was stable but there had been an increase in the number requiring complex or bespoke care packages due to additional needs.

 

The Committee welcomed the detail in the report which included case studies that helped Members understand the complexity of the issues.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report.

541.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 157 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:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Democratic Services Officer introduced the report which updated the Committee on its work programme.

 

Reference was made to a request that had been made in another comment about attributing names to comments on Committee minutes.  The Democratic Services Officer confirmed advice would be provided from the Head of Democratic Services to the Member that had requested this.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed the work programme as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, accepting the proposed changes which were highlighted in italic text within the appendix.

542.

Exclusion of the Press and Public pdf icon PDF 77 KB

This report summarises the content of agenda item 14, which contains confidential information within the meaning of s.100A(3)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 – information given to the Council by a government department on terms (however expressed) which forbid its public disclosure at this time.

Minutes:

The Committee agreed to exclude the press and public during consideration of item 14 (Report to the Minister of State for Children and Families on ways forward for Children’s Services in Medway) because consideration of this matter in public would disclose information which was confidential within the meaning of section 100A(3)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972. This information had been given to the Council by the Department for Education on terms which forbid its public disclosure.

543.

Report from the Minister of State for Children and Families on ways forward for Children's Services in Medway

This report sets out the report from the Minister of State for Children and Families on ways forward for Children’s Services in Medway and the statutory direction to Medway Council.

 

This item was not available at the time of despatch with the main agenda. The Chairman of the Committee is of the opinion that it should be considered at this meeting as a matter of urgency as permitted under section 100B of the Local Government Act 1972 to enable the Committee to consider this item and forward any comments to the Cabinet when it considers the report at its meeting on 14 January 2020.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adults Services introduced the Commissioner for Children’s Social Care in Medway who had been appointed by the Department for Education in September 2019, following Ofsted’s inspection of the local authority’s Children’s Services, which had judged the service as inadequate.

 

The Commissioner then introduced her report, which had been prepared for the Minister of State for Children and Families, on the ways forward for Medway. It was explained that the report should have been published by the Government, however due to delays cause by the General Election in December, the report and Statutory Direction, was not due to be published until noon on Friday 10 January 2020 and was therefore embargoed until publication took place.

 

The Commissioner explained that the report and statutory direction included a number of required actions which would address the concerns of the Commissioner and the Minister, of Medway’s capacity to deliver progress but also to sustain it and emphasised that sustainability of improvement was as important as the improvement itself.  She also commented on the issue of pace at Medway which she explained was difficult to measure because of the lack of an Action Plan to sit alongside the Children and Young People’s Plan. 

 

The Commissioner also made reference to the role of Members and scrutiny which she explained needed strengthening.  She felt all Members needed access to more and improved training around children’s services to enrich their ability to effectively carry out their role as Councillors, representing residents, being corporate parents to looked after children or being scrutiny committee members.  She emphasised the role of scrutiny in monitoring and challenging and explained it had a role in overseeing the improvement journey as much as the Improvement Board.

 

Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:

 

·           Member engagement and training – comment was made that Councillors from all political parties needed to engage in scrutiny more effectively.  In terms of member training, the Director of People – Children and Adults confirmed that work was underway with Democratic Services to set up a training package which would be developed with support from the Local Government Association and the Centre for Public Scrutiny.  It was hoped the first session would take place around late January and would provide Members with dashboard information, which was also presented to Improvement Board and would help Members focus on how to use the information to effectively and robustly challenge.  The Commissioner added that it would need to include finding ways that Members could hear from service users and front line staff to reality check and fully appreciate situations that staff respond to.  It was also confirmed that training package would be extended to all Committee Members, not just Councillors.

 

·           Process – following queries about the process and accountability, the Commissioner explained that she would carry out a review report in six and twelve months, which would judge to what extent the Council has addressed actions in a timely way.  She added  ...  view the full minutes text for item 543.