Agenda and draft minutes

Children and Education Select Committee
Wednesday, 6 March 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Ashcombe Suite, County Hall, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2DN. View directions

Contact: Richard Plummer 

Items
No. Item

22.

Apologies for Absence and Substitutions

23.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting: 16 November 2018 pdf icon PDF 100 KB

24.

Declarations of Interest

     

    All Members present are required to declare, at this point in the meeting or

    as soon as possible thereafter:

     

    i.       any disclosable pecuniary interests and / or;

     

    ii.      other interests arising under the Code of Conduct in respect of any item(s) of business being considered at this meeting

     

    NOTES:

     

    ·        Members are reminded that they must not participate in any item where they have a disclosable pecuniary interest;

     

    ·        as well as an interest of the Member, this includes any interest, of which the Member is aware, that relates to the Member’s spouse or civil partner (or any person with whom the Member is living as a spouse or civil partner); and

     

    ·        Members with a significant personal interest may participate in the discussion and vote on that matter unless that interest could be reasonably regarded as prejudicial.

     

    Minutes:

    Tanya Quddus advised that she was a Children’s Centre Governor at Walton and Weybridge.

25.

Questions & Petitions

    To receive any questions or petitions

     

    Notes:

     

    1.    The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (28 February 2019).

     

    2.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (27 February 2019).

     

    3.    The deadline for petitions was 14 days before the meeting, and no petitions have been received.

    Minutes:

    None were received.

26.

Response from the Cabinet to Issues Referred by the Select Committee

27.

Children, Families and Learning Care Assessments Internal Audit pdf icon PDF 99 KB

    Purpose of the Report: Scrutiny of Services

     

    To review the summary of audit findings produced as a result of an internal audit review of CFL Care Assessments.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

     

    Mary Lewis, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families

     

    Dave Hill, Executive Director - Children, Families & Learning

    Rachel Wigley, Interim Director of Financial Insights

    David John, Audit Manager

    Reem Burton, Principal Auditor

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

     

    1.    After a brief overview of the audit, the auditors advised the Committee that their key wish was to see the Liquid Logic IT system fully implemented in Children’s Services alongside basic user processes as this would realise immediate improvements. The cultural issues identified would take longer to change. The Executive Director took the findings seriously but reminded the Committee that it took place during a period of significant staff upheaval.

     

    2.    The Executive Director identified two key challenges: quality of social work and the financial controls and systems. The implementation of the IT system had not been good, taking it away from the core product, and this was under review with the supplier. Gateway Teams were now controllers of packages of care costs working with social workers in a break from the past practice of social workers deciding on placements. The result of this was a significant budget underspend.

     

    3.    Auditors were questioned as to the culpability of individuals in the poor practice found in the audit report. The Audit Manager explained that this issue was due to poor embedding of the IT system and a lack of understanding around the importance of using the system properly not individual behaviour.

     

    4.    The Audit Manager stated that the weaknesses in the use of the IT system were widespread and these problems had been known by historical management but never dealt with. The Executive Director reassured the Committee that there was an almost entirely new leadership team now in place and improvement action was underway.

     

    5.    The Vice-Chairman thought that a follow-up audit was required to test the Executive Director’s assurances that the situation had improved. The Audit Manager would work with the service to scope and plan a follow-up audit at the optimum time. The Executive Director welcomed input from critical friends, outlining the other ways the Directorate had been challenged including Ofsted inspection, peer review and by the Children’s Commissioner.

     

    6.    The witnesses clarified the timeline of the audit for the Committee. It was commissioned by the incoming Chief Executive last year and reported informally in May 2018. The Executive Director began in April and independently identified issues with gatekeeping of costs and the quality of placements. New processes were in the planning stage during the summer and were implemented from September. Internal Audit commented that it had been difficult to get the service to engage with the draft findings during this period.

     

    7.    A Member queried the role of Finance in helping Children’s Services control costs; it had been suggested their role was transactional rather than supportive and it was hoped that this would change. The Director of Financial Insights explained that the Finance Improvement project work was working to develop processes and enable services to improve too.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

28.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Transformation pdf icon PDF 83 KB

    Purpose of the Report: Scrutiny of Services and Budgets

     

    The Committee will review the findings from the recent consultation on SEND Transformation and understand the Council’s future strategy.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

     

    Mary Lewis, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families

     

    Dave Hill, Executive Director - Children, Families & Learning

    Rachel Wigley, Interim Director of Financial Insights

    David John, Audit Manager

    Reem Burton, Principal Auditor

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

     

    1.    After a brief overview of the audit, the auditors advised the Committee that their key wish was to see the Liquid Logic IT system fully implemented in Children's Services alongside basic user processes as this would realise immediate improvements. The cultural issues identified would take longer to change. The Executive Director took the findings seriously but reminded the Committee that it took place during a period of significant staff upheaval.

     

    2.    The Executive Director identified two key challenges: quality of social work and the financial controls and systems. The implementation of the IT system had not been good, taking it away from the core product, and this was under review with the supplier. Gateway Teams were now controllers of packages of care costs working with social workers in a break from the past practice of social workers deciding on placements. The result of this was a significant budget underspend.

     

    3.    Auditors were questioned as to the culpability of individuals in the poor practice found in the audit report. The Audit Manager explained that this issue was due to poor embedding of the IT system and a lack of understanding around the importance of using the system properly not individual behaviour.

     

    4.    The Audit Manager stated that the weaknesses in the use of the IT system were widespread and these problems had been known by historical management but never dealt with. The Executive Director reassured the Committee that there was an almost entirely new leadership team now in place and improvement action was underway.

     

    5.    The Vice-Chairman thought that a follow-up audit was required to test the Executive Director's assurances that the situation had improved. The Audit Manager would work with the service to scope and plan a follow-up audit at the optimum time. The Executive Director welcomed input from critical friends, outlining the other ways the Directorate had been challenged including Ofsted inspection, peer review and by the Children's Commissioner.

     

    6.    The witnesses clarified the timeline of the audit for the Committee. It was commissioned by the incoming Chief Executive last year and reported informally in May 2018. The Executive Director began in April and independently identified issues with gatekeeping of costs and the quality of placements. New processes were in the planning stage during the summer and were implemented from September. Internal Audit commented that it had been difficult to get the service to engage with the draft findings during this period.

     

    7.    A Member queried the role of Finance in helping Children's Services control costs; it had been suggested their role was transactional rather than supportive and it was hoped that this would change. The Director of Financial Insights explained that the Finance Improvement project work was working to develop processes and enable services to improve too.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Family Resilience Phase 1: Children's Centres pdf icon PDF 145 KB

    Purpose of the Report: Scrutiny of Services and Budgets

     

    1.    To review the transformation business case, consultation feedback and impact on service change.

    2.    Understanding of the case for change, the expected benefits and how the Council has responded to consultation feedback. To hold decision makers to account for expected financial and non-financial benefits via future scrutiny

     

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

     

    Mary Lewis, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families

    Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning

     

    Jacquie Burke, Director for Family Resilience and Safeguarding

    Nigel Denning, Interim Consultant for Early Help

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    Liz Bowes and Robert Evans briefly left the room during this item

    Victoria Young left the meeting at 12:15

     

    1.    The Director for Family Resilience and Safeguarding covered the rationale for the change to children’s services. The critical differences were that the council had to have a coherent offer that everyone, residents, partners and practitioners included, understood. The council’s front door would change from the current Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) model to integrated co-located teams based on a family safeguarding hub and early help hub models.

     

    2.    The Chairman sought clarification on the early help advisory boards that existed to support the early help offer in districts and boroughs. The consultant advised that these were still part of the transformation plan but needed to be understood as part of the new structure of children’s services. The Committee emphasised to officers that Local Members needed to know who the new staff taking on these boards were.

     

    3.    A Member of the Committee sought more information on the difference between the existing MASH approach and the new family safeguarding and early help hubs and assurances that this would represent significant change. The Director replied that there had been criticism of the MASH set up from the Children’s Commissioner. It had been overwhelmed by the number of referrals as the council had told its partners to refer in any situation whereas elsewhere partners manage contacts themselves. The Director had reviewed requirements for consent and other Authorities practice. This had led to partners being asked to obtain consent before referral. In February the council’s levels of need and what services might be provided were relaunched which was a departure from past practice.

     

    4.    The Director further explained that if a child’s need met the threshold for statutory services this referral would go to assessment teams therefore bypassing any need to go through the MASH information gathering process. If there was uncertainty about the level of need the case would then go through the Family Safeguarding hub to make a decision.

     

    5.    The officers were asked if they were happy with the level of response to the consultation and how they would monitor the implementation of the new family resilience model under different providers. Witnesses reported that the level of engagement provided a rich source of information and that there had been a lot of dialogue with parents and families outside of the consultation too. All providers would work to same contract and service specification including key performance indicators which would allow for consistency.

     

    6.    The Committee queried how residents would cope with the loss of other universal services that were provided in children’s centres such as breastfeeding clinics and support for those with post-natal depression. The new model was still about providing services across the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Recommendations Tracker and Forward Work Programme pdf icon PDF 58 KB

31.

Date of the Next Meeting: 26 June 2019