Agenda and draft minutes

Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee - Thursday, 15 December 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Woodhatch Place, 11 Cockshot Hill, Reigate, RH2 8EF

Contact: Julie Armstrong, Scrutiny Officer 

Media

Items
No. Item

47/22

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Apologies were received from Mr Simon Parr, Mr Alex Tear, and Mrs Tanya Quddus.

    Cllr Mark Sugden arrived at 10:06am.

     

48/22

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING: 4 OCTOBER 2022 pdf icon PDF 520 KB

    To agree the minutes of the previous meeting of the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture as a true and accurate record of proceedings.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The minutes were agreed.

49/22

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)

    ·         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.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    None received.

50/22

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS pdf icon PDF 280 KB

    To receive any questions or petitions.

    Notes:

    1.    The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (9 December 2022).

     

    2.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting(8 December 2022)

     

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

     

     

    The public retain their right to submit questions for written response, with such answers recorded in the minutes of the meeting; questioners may participate in meetings to ask a supplementary question. Petitioners may address the Committee on their petition for up to three minutes Guidance will be made available to any member of the public wishing to speak at a meeting.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witness:

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    1. One question was received from Cllr Catherine Baart. A Member asked for a clarification on whether the expectation for schools to fund transport to hubs was met and what happened when it was not met. The Director explained that the expectation was that schools would support the transport; if that was not the case, the Council would have a conversation with the school in the first instance. The transport would not be delayed.

     

    Cllr Fiona White arrived at 10:07am.

51/22

HOME TO SCHOOL TRAVEL ASSISTANCE: LEARNING REVIEW pdf icon PDF 499 KB

    Purpose of the item: To share findings of a review into provision of home to school travel assistance in the lead-up to the 2022/23 academic year, presented for scrutiny.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

    Sarah Kershaw, Chief of Staff 

    Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families & Learning

    Rebecca Threlfall, Chief of Staff – Children, Families & Learning

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    Hayley Connor, Director – CFL Commissioning

    Michael Smith, Programme Director – Twin Track  

    Leanne Henderson – Participation Manager, Family Voice Surrey

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    The Chief of Staff presented slides on the Council’s intentions resulting from the learning review (Annex 1) and stated progress in these would be reported to the Select Committee.

     

    2.    A Member asked how the 17 short-term priorities linked to the recommendations. The Programme Director explained they had identified six of these that would run into 2023 and plans were in place.

     

    3.    The Participation Manager of Family Voice Surrey shared a presentation (Annex 2) on the findings from their survey conducted on home to school travel assistance (H2STA). Of those people who completed the survey, the key findings were that there were a range of negative impacts resulting from problems with H2STA including financial and mental health, communication challenges, and inconsistency around the independent travel allowance (ITA) provided.

     

    4.    A Member noted that on a recent stage two review panel they had sat on, four out of five of the cases should had not have made it to stage two and suggested a lack of officer understanding. The Director (Commissioning) said many stage one appeals did not include enough detail to fully assess the situation and so forms had been changed to gather more information at this initial stage. She welcomed a conversation about improvements in both officer and Member training. The officers at stage two appeals were experienced. The review was looking at the whole process and improving it at every stage. Some recommendations would take longer to address, but all would be part of the improvement process.

     

    5.    A Member enquired as to the Participation Manager’s perception of the current position for families. She understood the majority of families now had transport in place. Communication from families on the issue had reduced since the end of October / start of November.

     

    6.    A Member queried whether the survey results were generalisable across Surrey and whether survey responses consisted of options or free text. The Participation Manager explained communication received prior to the survey was of a similar nature to the results. There were a variety of options for respondents to choose from, which had been selected based on what parent carers were telling them. SEND Advice Surrey were also hearing the same things.

     

    7.    The Cabinet Member acknowledged the service had fallen short in 2022 and apologised for the impact on children and families. There had also been problems in previous years and they were working to address these as well.

     

    8.    In response to a question on the Council funding transport for children at a mainstream school when they lived close to another school, the Director (Education and Lifelong  ...  view the full minutes text for item 51/22

52/22

DRAFT 2023/24 BUDGET AND MEDIUM-TERM FINANCIAL STRATEGY TO 2027/28 pdf icon PDF 233 KB

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    Purpose of the item: Scrutiny of 2023-24 Draft Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy to 2027-28 of areas within the remit of this Select Committee.

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning

    Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

    Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Communities and Community Safety

    David Lewis, Cabinet Member for Finance

    Rachel Wigley, Director – Finance, Insight & Performance

    Nicola Kilvington, Director – Corporate Strategy and Policy

    Nikki O’Connor, Strategic Finance Business Partner – Corporate

    Louise Lawson, Strategic Finance Business Partner Customer & Communities

    Daniel Peattie, Strategic Finance Business Partner – CFLL

    Marie Snelling, Executive Director Customer and Communities

    Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families & Learning

    Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

    Matt Ansell, Director – Family Resilience and Safeguarding

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    Hayley Connor, Director – CFL Commissioning

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    The Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the item, noting that the draft budget had been agreed at Cabinet. The draft budget included a remaining funding gap of circa £14 million for 2023/24, which would need to be closed before the final budget and a funding gap of circa £200 million across the medium-term financial strategy (MTFS). The total pressures were circa £125 million and circa £65 million of efficiencies had been identified. The Strategic Finance Business Partner (Corporate) added that uncertainty remained on the Council’s funding from Government at this stage, until the Local Government Finance Settlement is received. The autumn statement from government provided useful pointers, including an increase in the threshold of council tax increase to 2.99% without holding a referendum and an ability to increase in the adult social care (ASC) precept to 2%. The initial assumptions used in the draft budget resulted in a £27 million increase in overall funding, this included an assumed 0% increase in the ASC precept, and a 1.99% increase in council tax. Inflation was the biggest factor in terms of pressures.

     

    2.    A Member asked about the impact on services if the assumption that income levels would return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023/24 was not correct. The Executive Director (Customer and Communities) explained that income was monitored closely. There was a risk that libraries could not get back to those income levels, but this had been planned and mitigated for. Measures could be instigated if required, which included adjusting supply budgets and holding vacant posts. Surrey Arts was close to pre-pandemic income levels already. Registration services had a continuous high demand, recovering quickly in 2021/22, and were projected to over-realise income this financial year (2022/23). The services were regularly benchmarked to consider enhanced opportunities to generate additional income.

     

    3.    In response to a question on utilisation of rental space, the Executive Director (Customer and Communities) explained that there were currently 16 rooms available for hire within libraries and many were well-used by long-term hirers. The price of rental spaces was regularly reviewed and there had been work on optimising a web presence to push spaces available. Open access technology was being introduced across 13 libraries, as well as extended opening hours which would increase income. The Cabinet  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52/22

53/22

DRAFT INCLUSION AND ADDITIONAL NEEDS PARTNERSHIP STRATEGY AND SAFETY VALVE UPDATE pdf icon PDF 278 KB

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    Purpose of the item:

     

    To scrutinise the draft Inclusion and Additional Needs Partnership Strategy, share feedback from the Surrey Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership and receive an update on delivery of the Safety Valve agreement.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

    Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families & Learning

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    Hayley Connor, Director – CFL Commissioning

    Julia Katherine, Assistant Director – Inclusion and Additional Needs 

    Daniel Peattie, Strategic Finance Business Partner – CFL

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    The Chairman queried why home to school travel assistance information was not included in the key inspection criteria in the Strategy, despite being in the new area SEND framework. The Assistant Director said the inspection criteria (appendix 4) was cross-referenced with the Strategy. The Chairman asked how success would be measured. The Assistant Director said they hoped the number of appeals and complaints would reduce. There was currently a high number of appeals in Surrey, and a 22% increase in 2022 compared to a 30% increase nationally. The vast majority of appeals ruled in line with the family, and this was seen in the county and nationally. The Director (Education and Lifelong Learning) added that the Council was an outlier in terms of the total number of tribunal cases and appealable decisions. They would agree by Christmas a range of key performance indicators (KPIs) to come to the Committee’s performance subgroup. 

     

    2.    In response to a question on timeliness of completion of EHCPs (9% of those due in July were completed within the 20 weeks), the Director (Education and Lifelong Learning) explained that in the most recent set of figures, which were published annually, the Council were performing above the national average of 60%. A recovery plan was established in the summer following a reduced availability of educational psychologists (EPs) and the Council had since recruited eight assistant EPs. There was a weekly meeting to monitor the recovery process and it was expected timeliness would improve in the new year when newly qualified EPs begin in the role.

     

    3.    A Member asked what the Council was doing to encourage schools not to be afraid to share information on a child’s additional needs if they move, in order to enable a school to make a fully informed decision before admission on whether it is able to fulfil that child’s needs. The Assistant Director said they the Ordinarily Available Provision guidance sets out what SEN support could be put in place for a child from the school’s existing resources without the need for a statutory plan. There is a different process for a new placement when a child has an EHCP, which gives the school three weeks to respond as to whether they can meet the needs set out in the plan.

     

    4.    A Member asked what would indicate a good performance in relation to tribunal cases and what support a child was given in the meantime. The Assistant Director explained success would be a reduction in the number of families that feel they need to take that route. Nationally, 3.7% of tribunal decisions were agreed in line with the local authority; the figures for Surrey were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53/22

54/22

PERFORMANCE OVERVIEW pdf icon PDF 214 KB

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    Purpose of the item:

     

    To review the latest CFL performance information.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

    Rachael Wardell, Executive Director Children, Families and Lifelong Learning  

    Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

    Matt Ansell, Director – Family Resilience and Safeguarding

     

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked how other local authorities were able to meet the target of completing 90% of child and family assessments within 45 working days and the Council did 69%. The Director (Safeguarding and Family Resilience) explained that performance had dipped in the past six months due to a number of changes in middle-line managers, as well as a high volume of work and turnover. There was a commitment to develop the workforce through newly qualified social workers, however, this could cause an initial dip in performance. 

     

    2.    A Member asked whether there was a threshold of a low number of foster carers that triggered a form of emergency planning. The Executive Director explained that in-house fostering numbers were matched to need. There was not an emergency solution to foster carers, rather the focus was placed on increasing recruitment. If required, a foster carer would have to be sourced using an Independent Fostering Agency. The Director (Corporate Parenting) explained that there had been a 13% reduction in foster carers nationally. If all applications go through successfully, the Council will recruit an additional 28 households in 2023, a net increase if no further households are lost. Out of the 24 households the Council had lost, six provided care in a different format and 18 left for a variety of reasons including personal circumstances.

     

    3.    In response to a question on why there was no performance measure for the time for homeless 16- and 17-year-olds to receive a social work assessment, the Executive Director explained that due to the sensitivity of this work and the amount of time it could take to build a relationship, a target or timescale for that discussion might not be appropriate. She also explained that the recommendation itself reflected a point of view that was contested, suggesting that the purpose of coming into care was specifically so that when the young person reached adulthood, they would receive Care Leaver support. It was important that a child became looked after in response to current needs rather than to secure future entitlements. The Director (Safeguarding and Family Resilience) added that the processes and policies in place would be reviewed to ensure that referrals led to a social worker assessment. The Cabinet Member shared that the recent housing summit lacked a focus on young people, and she intended to add this focus into the county-wide Housing Strategy.   

55/22

NATIONAL REVIEW: SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES AND COMPLEX HEALTH NEEDS IN RESIDENTIAL SETTINGS pdf icon PDF 124 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To ask the Executive Director questions relevant to Surrey on the Doncaster Council investigation.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witness:

    Rachael Wardell, Executive Director Children, Families and Lifelong Learning

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    The Executive Director explained that there were two young adults (one female and one male) with severe needs from Surrey who had been living in the residential children’s homes in Doncaster covered by the National Panel report, and from the information the Council had seen, they were of the view that the young adults were probably victims of abuse from the care they received. The police investigation was still ongoing. The Council was notified in May 2021 about the female, by which point she had been moved to another unit. The unit where the male was living became part of the investigation in January 2022. Regulation 44 visits to the premises had raised concerns, however, social workers had not been provided copies of these reports. A number of visits were forwarded to Ofsted regarding safeguarding issues and poor training of staff. It was not realised quickly enough that the environment was abusive. The Council requested a review of all children and young people in similar circumstances and there was an assurance group to take forward the learning from both the Council’s reviews and the national review. There needed to be improved multi-agency working and greater scrutiny of the care provided, to be able to connect together isolated incidents. There should also be specific training for staff working in the specialist area and a clearer understanding of who the lead professional is. The Council was conducting a review of all children in dual-registered provision and keeping an oversight of children from other local authorities that attend the Council’s provision. The learnings from the Doncaster review would be adopted.

     

    2.             A Member raised concern that a similar situation happened in Bristol in 2011 and noted the lack of professional curiosity. The Executive Director explained that children with complex additional needs found it difficult to express what was going on and not every incident would be an indication of abuse, so it was essential to pick through the evidence carefully. The Executive Director would be mindful to reinforce professional curiosity.   

56/22

CHILDREN'S HOMES - OFSTED REPORTS PUBLISHED SINCE THE LAST MEETING OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE pdf icon PDF 280 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To review new Ofsted reports on Surrey County Council-run Children’s Homes, received as part of the recently agreed communications plan in Children’s Services.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witness:

    Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

    Key points made in the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked how performance had deteriorated significantly in six months and how issues had been addressed. The Director explained that the more significant the needs of the children living in a home, the more difficult they were to meet. Inspection results of children’s homes were volatile and there was a robust inspection framework by Ofsted. The home was reinspected on 18 October 2022 and the compliance issues that were due at that time had all been met. There was one outstanding compliance around supervision which was yet to be tested. A requirement was placed to not admit any more children and despite being lifted following the inspection in October, the Council decided to maintain this whilst improvements were embedded. 

     

    2.    A Member asked whether there were any staffing issues related to training. The Director explained that retraining of staff had been an integral part of the improvement process. The inadequate rating had a significant impact on staff morale and there was a focus on supporting the staff to give them the confidence to work differently. 

     

    Cllr Jonathan Essex left the meeting at 3:05pm.

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ACTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER AND FORWARD WORK PLAN pdf icon PDF 24 KB

58/22

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING

    The next public meeting of the committee will be held on Thursday, 2 March 2023.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Committee noted its next meeting would be held on 5 September 2019.