Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 23 July 2020 6.30pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting

Contact: Teri Reynolds, Democratic Services Officer 

Media

Items
No. Item

118.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

During this period, it was informally agreed between the two political groups, due the Coronavirus pandemic, to run Medway Council meetings with a reduced number of participants. This was to reduce risk, comply with Government guidance and enable more efficient meetings. Therefore, the apologies given reflects that informal agreement of reduced participants.

 

Apologies were received from Councillors Ahmed, Carr, Cooper, Sylvia Griffin and Howcroft-Scott, Michelle Dewar (Medway Parent and Carer Forum) and David Lane (Parent Governor representative).

119.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 110 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 2 June 2020.

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 2 June 2020 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct, subject to the following wording being added to under apologies for absence (minute no. 13)

 

“During this period, it was informally agreed between the two political groups, due the Coronavirus pandemic, to run Medway Council meetings with a reduced number of participants. This was to reduce risk, comply with Government guidance and enable more efficient meetings. Therefore, the apologies given reflects that informal agreement of reduced participants.”

120.

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:

There were none.

121.

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.

 

Minutes:

Disclosable pecuniary interests

 

There were none.

 

Other significant interests (OSIs)

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

Councillor Opara declared that Item 8 of the agenda (Council Plan Monitoring and Risk Register Q4/End of Year 2019/20) referred to children not in education, employment or training (NEETs).  She explained that although she ran a training company in Medway that worked with NEETs, it did not make direct reference to her company and she was therefore able to remain in the room and participate in the discussion on that item.

122.

Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) Update Report pdf icon PDF 179 KB

The purpose of the report is to update the committee on the work of the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) during 2019-20 and to provide members with an update on the MSCP Strategic Plan and Business Plan 2020-22.

 

The report has been written in accordance with the joint protocol between strategic partnerships in Medway. The MSCP Annual Report 2019- 20 will follow later in the year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adult Services, the current Chair of the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) introduced the report, highlighting to the Committee the MSCP’s five priority areas. He then Introduced the Independent Scrutineer, who explained his role in relation to the partnership and the work he was doing to build evidence of the partnership’s impact. He also highlighted the importance of each agency’s strategic documents being joined up in approach and how messages should be communicated down the whole safeguarding system.

 

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

 

·       Staff development – in response to a question about what staff development activities had taken place as a response to the serious case review relating to Faith, set out at paragraph 3.5 of the report, officers explained that wider development training opportunities had been explored and all agencies were asked to complete a self assessment audit in relation to their readiness to identify risks relating to child abuse.

 

·       Impact – in response to a question about the impact on the experiences of children and families in Medway, it was explained that more evidence would be available in the MSCP’s annual report, which would be presented to the Committee later in the year.

 

·       Domestic abuse – officers welcomed the suggestion of an in-depth report in relation to domestic abuse, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the impact this had on vulnerable children and how partner agencies were responding. Comment was also made that when domestic abuse issues were reported, they would not always meet the threshold for social care intervention and officers confirmed they were looking at how they could log such cases.

 

·       Partner contributions – officers explained that the financial contributions of all the partner agencies listed at paragraph 1.3 of the report, would be included in the annual report. It was confirmed that the local authority contributed the largest amount of funding.

 

·       Separation of roles – it was queried whether reporting directly from the chair and from the Independent Scrutineer should be kept separate rather than being incorporated in the same report. Officers undertook to explore this with the Partnership's Executive. The Independent Scrutineer confirmed he acted as a constructive critical friend, bringing challenge to the system.

 

·       Business Plan – Officers undertook to provide the Committee with the MSCP Business Plan Including its RAG ratings every six months.

 

·       Engagement – The Director of People undertook to include the Medway Parent and Carers Forum in its wider engagement events as a partnership and would ensure that foster carers were also included.

 

·       Work with schools – In response to a question about the role of schools in relation to safeguarding, officers explained that PCSOs and police officers were working directly with schools and in addition, there had been a recent successful bid for the funding of mental health practitioners who would work directly in schools. Furthermore, communication between schools and Early Help had been improved, particularly as the community was beginning to come  ...  view the full minutes text for item 122.

123.

HMIP Inspection of Youth Offending Team (YOT) pdf icon PDF 270 KB

This report is to update Members on the outcomes of the HMIP inspection of the Youth Offending Team (YOT), that took place during 24 to 28 February 2020, and which was published on 4 June 2020. Overall, Medway YOT was rated as: ‘Requires improvement’. This rating has been determined by HMIP following their assessment of the YOT in three specific areas of its work, referred to as ‘domains’.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Head of Service for Partnership Commissioning, Resources and Youth Justice introduced the report which updated the Committee on the outcome of the HMIP inspection of the Youth Offending Team (YOT), which had rated the YOT as ‘requires improvement’. He highlighted areas identified as strengths and weakness and referred Members to the Improvement Plan, set out at Appendix B to the report.

 

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

 

·       Inconsistency in quality of practice – in response to a question about how this was being addressed, officers confirmed that a new reoffending toolkit had been introduced which was working well, together with an improved audit tool.

 

·       Supporting children in custody – officers confirmed that children in custody were now being given more priority and additional support to address the concerns raised in the inspection. Children were now assessed at the very start of entering custody and their pathway or support mapped.

 

·       Resources – in response to a question about resources, officers confirmed that the budget was a pooled budget between the Local Authority and strategic partners. Funding had also recently been awarded to work with young people at risk of offending, particularly those receiving education at alternative provision placements.

 

·       Staff recruitment and retention – officers confirmed that performance in this area was good, with low turnover rates and progression opportunities available.

 

·       No further actions – reference was made to the lack of signposting/ referring to the YOT by the Police when taking no further action, even after a number of incidents involving a young person. Officers confirmed that this had been raised and work was underway to improve this to ensure the YOT intervened at the earliest, appropriate moment.

 

·       YOT and girls - in response to a question about girls involvement with the YOT, officers explained numbers hadn’t particularly increased but the type of crime had significantly changed in recent years, with 50% now involved in crime of a serious nature (for example, violence against another person).

 

·       Children placed in Medway from out of area – in response to a question it was confirmed that young people placed within Medway from out of area became the responsibility of Medway YOT.

 

·       Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups – in response to a question officers confirmed that young people from BAME groups were not over represented within Medway YOT.

 

·       Children not in education, employment or training (NEETs) – officers confirmed that children who were NEET were a real focus for the YOT as they accounted for over 50% of the YOT cohort. The team were working with the Youth Service, Department for Work and Pensions and the Princes Trust Programme, as well as a number of other community and voluntary organisations, to explore opportunities to engage NEETs.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report.

 

(Councillors Johnson, Osborne and Chrissy Stamp requested that their votes in favour of the decision be recorded).

124.

Covid-19 Impact and Response pdf icon PDF 140 KB

This report provides further information as to the Council’s response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global pandemic, within the remit of this Committee.

 

It also further outlines the approach in the coming weeks as priorities around the Council’s response alter to reflect the partial lifting of the lockdown and reopen schools.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adult Services introduced the report which provided detail on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the response by services within the directorate. He reassured the Committee that officers had continued to progress at pace with the Council’s children’s services improvement journey and highlighted the improved relationship with schools as a particular positive outcome.

 

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

 

·       Return to school in September – in response to concerns raised about how the return of children and young people to school in September would be managed and what lessons had been learned from the period of school closures, officers explained that there was a sense the pandemic re-positioned the role of the local authority in areas such as Medway where there were a substantial number of academies, in that all schools had worked with the Council in partnership to work through Government advice together and co-produce plans and strategies in response. Officers reiterated that the risks relating to Covid-19 and children attending schools was very small but the risks to children who did not attend school was much greater and could have significant long term consequences. Officers commended colleagues within education for the commitment they had made to ensuring children had access to learning opportunities throughout this period and in particular, for the efforts they were making to prepare for the full return in September.

 

·       Mental wellbeing – it was suggested that a report be considered at a future meeting with information about how Medway’s children and young people have coped with the pandemic and the impact it and lockdown measures had had on their development and mental health.

 

·       Use of technology – officers confirmed that adolescents in particular had welcomed the increase use of digital technology to communicate with social workers and the use of the Mind of My Own app would be strengthened going forward. Officers added that over 700 young people had been provided with devices to assist them in their studies. It was also recognised that some service users had missed their face to face interaction with practitioners and that going forward services would be delivered with a blend of digital and face to face contact.

 

·       Medway Test – in response to questions about the Medway Test arrangements for 2020, officers explained that they had delayed the test dates to the full extent of the potential range within the overall timelines as the Department for Education had not been willing to delay admission deadlines.

 

·       School attendance – in response to a question about how schools and the Local Authority would support parents and families to ensure pupil attendance was high, officers confirmed they would avoid fining families wherever possible and support families in building their confidence in sending children to school at the start of the new academic year. However, it was believed that attendance would be much improved in September across all year groups. 

 

·       School transport – concern was raised about  ...  view the full minutes text for item 124.

125.

Council Plan Performance Monitoring Report and Risk Register Quarter 4 and End of Year 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 203 KB

Medway’s Council Plan 2016/21 sets out the Council’s three priorities. This report and appendices summarise how we performed in Q4 2019/20 on the delivery of the two priorities relevant for this Committee: supporting Medway’s people to realise their potential and maximising regeneration and economic growth.

 

Rather than the planned Q4 review of the Corporate Risk Register, this report instead sets out how the Council’s response to Covid-19 has been controlled using the principals and tools of the Risk Management Strategy

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Director of People – Children and Adult Services introduced the report which updated the Committee on performance in the fourth quarter of 2019/20 against priorities within the Council Plan.

 

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

 

·       Childhood obesity – concern was raised in relation to obesity and an example was given of the selling of fast food and vending machine food in leisure centres. Officers acknowledged that childhood obesity required a whole system approach and confirmed that a Whole Systems Obesity specialist was being appointed to take forward workstreams to address issues across the board. It was also asked how childhood weight was monitored to know how well strategies to address childhood obesity were working. Officers confirmed that the measures taken were national measures but the whole system approach would help address obesity in terms of generational impact, lifestyle choices for whole families and creating opportunities through regeneration for families to be active.

 

·       GCSE results for looked after – it was requested that this information be reported to Members confidentially, as this was data that was not able to be published in the public domain because of the small numbers of young people it related to.

 

·       Unfilled social worker posts – concern was raised as to this not being reported, the reason indicated in the report being that the information had not been supplied by Human Resources. Officers confirmed they were unsure of the reasons for this but suggested a report to a future meeting of the Committee on social worker recruitment and retention strategies, as part of the children’s services improvement journey.

 

·       Children not in education, employment or training (NEETs) – reference was made to NEETs and the impact of the loss in training providers and action needed. It was suggested that an update on this be provided to the Committee via a briefing note. Officers added that the number of children whose destination is unknown was currently too high and so extra resources were being put in to track their activity.

 

·       Risk register – It was asked if the risk register would be updated in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Officers confirmed that this was being reviewed at a corporate level and additional Covid-19 elements would need to be addressed.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report and requested a report on the workforce development strategies relating to social worker recruitment and retention and requested a briefing note updating Members on the action being taken to address children who were not in education, employment or training.

 

(Councillors Johnson, Osborne and Chrissy Stamp requested that their votes in favour of the decision be recorded).

126.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 131 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. She also informed Members that there would be a training event on Thursday 6 August for Members in relation to models of working, values and culture of practice, led by Medway’s Principal Social Worker. She also confirmed that it was hoped the Early Help Task Group would commence in late August.

 

Comment was made in relation to the scrutiny of the dashboard data, which was provided to the Committee on a monthly basis and discussed in depth with Members at bi-monthly data workshops, and it was suggested this should perhaps be attached to main committee agendas, although accepting this would potentially need to be kept confidential as some of the information related to small cohorts of children. The Democratic Services Officer explained that the purpose of the provision of the dashboard data and the data workshops was to improve Members understanding of issues and risks to enable them to ask more informed questions when scrutinising council plan monitoring performance or other reports relevant to the data in main committee meetings. In addition, it would help the Committee to shape its work programme to scrutinise more deeply the issues causing them particular concern.

 

Reference was also made to the list of items on the work programme which were yet to be scheduled and officers undertook to identify dates for these items and also whether any could be converted into briefing notes, as opposed to reports at main Committee.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee noted the report and the actions by officers to address the outstanding items on the work programme.

 

(Councillors Johnson, Osborne and Chrissy Stamp requested their votes in favour of the decision be recorded).