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 April 2020 until February 2021.
Members received a report providing an overview of progress on the areas within the terms of reference of this Committee and covered by the Portfolio Holder for Children Services (Lead Member). The Portfolio Holder responded to Member’s questions and comments, which included:
· Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – concern was raised about the system for parents which could be complex, lengthy and frustrating for many families. The Portfolio Holder referred to the SEND inspection revisit, which identified improvements. It was added that the Council was working with schools to develop an ‘ordinarily available’ document, which would clarify what support should be ordinarily available within schools without the need for additional resource and would be available to every child, no matter which school they attended.
· Signs of Safety practice – reference was made to the implementation of signs of safety practice and it was asked whether this would be impacted by the reopening of schools and potential increases in referrals. The Portfolio Holder confirmed that the practice was being embedded well, schools were being reassured of all the routes of support available to them and families and that the service was anticipating and preparing for a rise in referrals upon schools reopening.
· Parent and child placements – reference was made to parent and child placement breakdowns. It was explained that these placements sometimes related to a court directive to give a parent the best opportunity to develop those parenting skills and undertook to give more information on these.
· Children note in education, employment or training (NEETs) – in response to a question whether the team supporting NEETs needed to be better resourced, it was explained that the team was very effective, and the deficit was in provision itself. European funding, which had previously been accessed for NEET provision, was no longer available due to Brexit, it was hoped that some Council funding which had been allocated in the 2021/22 budget would be used to develop provision.
· Medway Virtual School – reference was made to the support the Virtual School had given to looked after children. The Portfolio Holder confirmed that many had attended school as vulnerable children and where they had undertaken remote learning they have been provided with devices so they could undertake their learning from home. She also undertook to report back on what plans the service had in place to continue monitoring when schools reopened.
· Retention of social workers – concern was raised about changes in social workers and the need for consistency, particularly with Signs of Safety practice. The Portfolio Holder confirmed that conditions for social workers had improve as had resultant retentions in the workforce which now included much more permanent members of staff compared to agency staff.
· Best practice within special schools – it was suggested that Medway share the best practice of its special schools.
The Committee thanked the Portfolio Holder for her attendance.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Howcroft-Scott, Johnson and Osborne requested that their votes in favour be recorded.