Agenda and draft minutes

Children, Families, Lifelong Learning & Culture Select Committee - Wednesday, 6 July 2022 10.00 am

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

Contact: Ross Pike, Scrutiny Business Manager  Email: ross.pike@surreycc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

24/22

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Apologies were received from Ayesha Azad, Lesley Steeds, Michaela Martin, Rachael Lake, and Simon Parr.

    David Harmer substituted for Lesley Steeds and Saj Hussain substituted for Rachael Lake.

    Rachael Lake attended the meeting remotely.

     

25/22

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETINGS: 1 JUNE 2022 pdf icon PDF 223 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.

26/22

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.

27/22

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS pdf icon PDF 257 KB

    To receive any questions or petitions.

    Notes:

    1.    The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (29 June 2020).

     

    2.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting(28 June 2020)

     

    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:

    Witnesses:

    Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    1.    Five questions were received from Fiona Davidson.

     

    2.    The Member asked a supplementary question on the timeliness of Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCPs); why had there been a significant decline in the number of EHCPS delivered from January and February 2022 onwards. The Director explained that this was due to a number of factors, such as an increase in demand, and changes in staffing and turnover. There was also a national shortage of educational psychologists, with a 40% vacancy rate in the team. A different approach to attracting staff had been adopted, in terms of pay and rewards. The Education Service had been targeting trainee educational psychologists, as well as working with associates and retirees to encourage them to return to work. 

     

    3.    The Member queried the target of a 70% completion ratio, noting that in the south west quadrant, the current ratio was 17%. Had 70% ever been achieved and was this a realistic target. The Director explained that the Service had been achieving above 70% completion ratio at many points and were achieving that at points during the pandemic. The completion ratio was 65% on average for the cumulative total. The Director had confidence in the target and explained that it was a stretch target but was considered a milestone to the aim of achieving 100%. The Cabinet Member emphasised that the quality of assessments was just as important as the timeliness of them. 

     

    4.    A Member queried what the cumulative target was for the year. The Director explained that there was no forward planning around the cumulative target, as the focus was on in-month timeliness.

     

28/22

SCHOOL PLACE SUFFICIENCY pdf icon PDF 411 KB

    Purpose of the report: To review the strategic approach to ensuring sufficiency and sustainability of school places. To also consider the challenges of both within the context of the White Paper Opportunity for all - Strong schools with great teachers for your child.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

    Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

    Mike Singleton, Service Manager (School Place Planning)

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

    1.    The Cabinet Member introduced the report, noting that sufficiency was good in mainstream schools and that the Service was working hard to increase the number of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) places to enable children to be able to attend their local school. There was a trend of falling birth rates, producing vacancies in primary schools which was unevenly spread across Surrey. Over 50% of schools were already academies and the Schools Bill would strengthen the Council’s role with admissions. 

     

    2.    A Member questioned whether the Council was pushing schools to become academies and join multi-academy trusts (MATs), which resulted in the Council having less control over such schools. The Director explained that both the White Paper and the Schools Bill stated that all schools would need to become academies by 2030, although primary legislation was not being altered to mandate this. The Council had always supported choice for schools and becoming an academy was one choice. Academisation was not viewed as a solution to the sustainability of schools on its own. However, broader support and shared leadership arrangements could be provided through a multi-academy trust. The Member enquired as to whether the Council wanted to set up academies themselves and establish an academy trust. The White Paper would allow for local authority multi-academy trusts, although, there was no expression of interest by the Council at this stage. MATs tended to be established in areas with a low prevalence of existing trusts and there were criteria set by the Department of Education (DfE). If the Council established a multi-academy trust, it would need be clear about the benefits it would provide and its purpose distinct from other trusts.

     

    3.    A Member asked about how demand versus capacity was managed in the secondary sector where the schools were predominantly academies. The Director responded that the Education Service took a collaborative approach with schools to their organisation, to ensure that there was a balance of schools that enabled everyone to thrive. It was agreed with schools when to increase or decrease capacity.

     

    4.    In response to a question on ensuring that places were filled, and requisite staff were recruited, the Director explained that in relation to the Council’s special schools, one of the criteria employed was the capacity of the school to deliver an increase of places. It was not simply about having the physical space for an increase. In terms of recruitment, there had been a difficulty in recruiting teaching assistants and the Service had been working with schools to enable them to resource them appropriately. The Director noted that there had been an overreliance on teaching assistants over time. There were not difficulties in filling school places and there was a centralised team in the Gateway to Resources team who coordinated the places. The aim was to create  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28/22

29/22

CORPORATE PARENTING ANNUAL REPORT REGARDING LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN pdf icon PDF 247 KB

    • Share this item

    Purpose of the report: Update on: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Corporate Parenting; the key performance data for year ending March 2021 for Looked After Children as compared with statistical neighbours and nationally; and, any relevant national policy developments, such as Care Review output.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

    Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked whether kinship carers were paid at the same rate as general types of carers. The Director explained that the payments were complicated. The payment for the child would be the same, however, the skills payment for the carer was dependent on their experience and therefore it varied.

     

    2.    A Member questioned what the target date was for the benchmarking study regarding payments for carers compared to surrounding counties. The Director stated the study would be ready by 18 July 2022. The Corporate Parenting Service had agreed a 3% increase to the child payment to account for the rising cost of living, which would be backdated from 1 April 2022. They wanted any change to be future proofed and any further changes would just be based on inflation. The review was taking longer as the published information of other counties was not always accurate and they wanted to consult with carers. The Member noted that Surrey was an expensive place to live, and the Council was behind surrounding counties even with the child payment. The Director explained that the Council was

    competitive with the payment for younger children, but less so for older children. 

     

    3.    A Member asked how many homeless 16- and 17-year-olds there were in Surrey each month on average. The Director replied that there were six on average. 

     

    4.    In response to a question on the low rates of adoption in Surrey, the Director explained that low rates were a national trend, however, Surrey’s rates were lower than regional neighbours. It was important to have the right individual care plan for a child and to keep children connected to their families. Adoption rates needed to be looked at in correspondence with special guardianship order outcomes (SGO outcomes). Adoption Southeast performed well at family finding for children and there were not high numbers of placement orders. The Service had improved permanency planning. However, the rates of adoption did dependent on the outcomes of court hearings. 

     

    5.    A Member asked about the other types of placements and the sufficiency of Surrey foster carers. The Director explained that the sufficiency strategy was a three-year plan, and it was ambitious. Ofsted considered it a robust plan and it would continue to be reviewed annually. There was a refreshed Recruitment and Retention Board which included foster carers, and they were supportive of the measures being taken. However, there was a national shortage of foster carers and post-pandemic, a number of foster carers had retired. The Cabinet Member shared that the Fostering Service had undergone a peer review by Essex County Council who made some recommendations about how the Service could be changed. Although money was still important to foster carers they were unlikely to leave for financial reasons. 

     

    6.    In response to a question on payment allowances for kinship carers taking on children remedially, the Director explained that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29/22

30/22

CHILDREN'S SERVICES (ILACS) INSPECTION FINDINGS pdf icon PDF 484 KB

    • Share this item

    Purpose of the report: This report provides an update on the findings from the Ofsted Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) that took place in January 2022. The feedback from Ofsted, including further detail not published in the final inspection report, is included here along with an outline of the next steps that the Council’s Children’s Services are taking in response.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

    Matt Ansell, Director – Safeguarding and Family Resilience

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked for the witnesses’ assessment of why the progress from an inadequate judgement had been slow and asked whether the Service was aiming to reach outstanding as agreed by a motion at Council. The Cabinet Member responded that it was important to be realistic and look at the judgement in the context of the whole Council.  There was a long history of inadequacy, and it took the appointment of the current Chief Executive and the previous Director of Children’s Services to provide a clear and detailed plan for a turnaround. The journey was consistent with other local authorities. The monitoring visits demonstrated the improvement over time and the impact of the pandemic could not be underestimated. The staff were committed to achieving an outstanding Ofsted judgement. 

     

    2.    A Member asked whether there would be any key performance indicators (KPIs) to enable the Committee to track progress and queried the lack of due dates and interim targets in the plan. The Cabinet Member explained that there was a substantial amount of performance data information, and it was for the Committee to decide how much they wished to receive. 

     

    3.    A Member queried the ratio of permanent to agency staff and asked why problems persisted with recording and evaluating information. The Director shared that there was an increase in the amount of permanent, qualified social workers in Surrey but 30% of the current case holder social workers were agency staff and there were around 130-140 vacancies. Nationally, there was a shortage of social workers, the Council had doubled its cohort of newly qualified social workers and were hoping to build on this in the following year. The Member asked about the work to improve the performance of supervising managers. The Director explained that all front-line staff and managers had the opportunity to be trained in motivational interviewing. There were also workshops looking at how leaders supported and embedded principles on working with families and supporting staff. 

     

    4.    In response to a question on the differing terms used by internal and external communications in relation to Ofsted judgements, the Director explained that internally Children’s Services was using the term ‘excellence’ which was equivalent to Ofsted’s use of ‘outstanding’. The Member noted that at Council it was agreed for the Council to use the same wording for internal and external communications. The Cabinet Member clarified that the ambition was to become an outstanding authority and emphasised the importance of partnership working to achieve this.

     

    5.    The Member also asked about the lack of transformational changes included in the improvement plan. The Director clarified that the Service did not need to change the direction of travel, rather it was about embedding practices instead. The Impower organisation had been commissioned to carry out of a piece of work to look at how to bring out the changes required. The report  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30/22

31/22

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

    • Share this item

    Purpose of the report: As part of the recently agreed communications plan in Children’s Services the Select Committee will receive recent Ofsted reports on Surrey County Council-run Children’s Homes in its agenda.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witness:

    Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked about the recommendation regarding the  ‘independent scrutiny’ referenced in the report. The Director explained that they would need to check this and provide an answer following the meeting. 

     

    2.    A Member queried the strength of practice in children’s homes, as the Ofsted judgment decreased from outstanding to good. The Director explained that it was due to the nature of the regulations of children’s homes. For example, if the proportion of permanent staff was not high enough, the home would not be judged as outstanding. There were no concerns regarding practice. The home was committed to return to an outstanding judgement. 

     

    3.    A Member asked who decided the registered person of a children’s home. The Director explained that Ofsted decided. There was a fitness to practice interview with Ofsted, following an interview with the Council. 

     

    Actions/requests for further information:

    1.    The Director for Corporate Parenting to explain the   recommendation to the registered manager to ‘seek  independent scrutiny of the home.’ 

     

    RESOLVED:

    The Select Committee noted the report.

     

32/22

ACTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER AND FORWARD WORK PLAN pdf icon PDF 107 KB

    • Share this item

    For the Select Committee to review the attached actions and recommendations tracker and forward work programme, making suggestions or amendments as appropriate.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witness:

    Ross Pike, Scrutiny Business Manager

     

    Key points raised in the discussion:

    1. The Scrutiny Business Manager noted that there were too many items scheduled for the public meeting in October for it be effective. It was agreed that the October meeting would include the item on the achieving excellence programme and the item on the SEND transformation programme. The Chairman and Vice-Chairmen would agree whether to defer some of the items. 

     

33/22

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING

    The next public meeting of the Select Committee will be held on Tuesday, 4 October 2022.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Select Committee noted that its next meeting would be held on Tuesday, 4 October 2022.