Agenda item


Purpose: to share details of the Cabinet Members’ priority areas of work including any strategy and policy developments and provide an overview of the budget position and performance of services within the portfolio.



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

Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All Age Learning



Key points raised during the discussion:


  1. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families highlighted that progress was continuing at pace in Children’s Services. The Member informed the Committee that the Children’s Commissioner’s report which noted substantial progress had been delayed due to the general election and would be published on Wednesday 18 December 2019. The feedback meeting with the Children’s Commissioner was positive and they would be recommending to the Minister that Children’s Services would no longer need to be under the auspices of the commissioner.


  1. A Member of the Committee asked the Cabinet Member for All Age Learning and the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families whether in future budget updates the Cabinet Members could separate their figures into their two respective areas of responsibility, in order to avoid ambiguity. The Cabinet Members agreed that the budget update should be clearer next time.



  1. The Cabinet Member was questioned about the commissioning of the new Child and Adolescent Mental Health service (CAMHS) including the response from the market and recruitment to permanent post vacancies. The Cabinet Member advised that there had been positive market engagement so far. The Cabinet Member also stated the importance of dealing with the current waiting list problems and explained that there was ongoing work with the provider, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SaBP), to improve this and added it was crucial to be honest about poor performance.



  1. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families highlighted that there had been a recent increase in the number of children entering the care system and that the service needed to increase its efficiency, albeit there had been an increase in recruitment for foster care placements. The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that the council’s residential homes for children were of very good quality, with Libertas having just been given an outstanding grading by Ofsted and more money from the capital budget enabling greater capacity of these homes in the future. The Cabinet Members stated that there were now permanent directors and service managers in Children’s Services but there was still a shortage of social workers both in Surrey and nationally.


  1. A Member asked the Cabinet Member for All Age Learning to elaborate on how specialist independent providers might be successfully negotiated with to ensure placements were value for money and improved children’s outcomes. The Cabinet Member stated that they had put capital investment into increasing available places in the county for children with special needs and that additional places on supported internships and Life Skill based programmes for those on the Adult Social Care (ASC) pathway were being commissioned. They asserted that the traditional focus on purely qualification-based, “school” type education did not necessarily give the most appropriate preparation for adulthood for all children. Finally, they informed the Committee that the commissioning team were agreeing the cost of packages to meet Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) stipulations and ensuring that there was clarity on what was included and what fell to other partners, such as health providers, to pay for.


  1. A Member welcomed a future Ofsted inspection and asked whether the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families could give a timetable of progress vis-a-vis moving clinical psychologists closer to schools. The Cabinet Member stated that it was likely that between June and September they would receive an ILACS (Inspecting Local Authority Children’s Services) inspection. They appreciated that the training for support staff in schools - Targeted Approach to Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) – in the CAMHS contract had not been understood well. In September, therefore, schools were reminded of the training that they could receive for emotional wellbeing support. The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that they would be able to discern the percentage increase of uptake of this support, relative to the previous term, soon


  1. The Chairman of the Select Committee highlighted that in relation to initial health assessments for looked after children, a third of the deadlines had been missed. They asked the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families how they were working to improve this. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families replied that the Executive Director had been speaking to his NHS equivalent to keep initial health assessments working at a high level of timeliness. When the success rate had reached 90%, this communication stopped and within a month there had been clear deterioration. This was therefore reintroduced and needed to become business as usual. They stated that within the last month there had been a reduction from 58 to 38 children who were not in the right timescale for their assessment. Regardless of this improvement, there remained problematic issue areas such as out-of-county placements, but this was something they would be focusing on in the future.


  1. The Chairman also asked whether school governors’ support for looked after children (LAC) was an issue and whether the Committee should be scrutinising this. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families suggested that the committee could scrutinise support for all vulnerable learners, rather than just support for LAC. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families informed the Committee that they would be writing to all of Surrey’s elected councillors in January outlining their responsibilities in working together to safeguard children. Additionally, the Cabinet Member requested that the Committee scrutinise the new Corporate Parenting Strategy at its next meeting and suggested that a Corporate Parenting annual report was scrutinised thereafter.



  1. The Cabinet Member for All Age Learning highlighted that, in Surrey, disadvantaged pupils in early years, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 achieved below national results albeit the picture was mixed as to whether the gap had widened or closed since the 2018 data. Notwithstanding they had made improvements both in the Virtual School and with how each child’s progression was monitored. SEND was a significant area of overspend and home to school transport both mainstream and to special school places was a key element of that overspend. A board was being established to provide detailed oversight. The Vice Chairman of the Select Committee informed the Cabinet Member that the SEND Task Group would be developing these issues and reporting its findings in the next Committee meeting.




Actions/Further information to be provided:


i)              Clearer presentation of budget figures in future Cabinet Member Update reports.


ii)             Addition of scrutiny item on school governing body support for vulnerable learners including looked after children and children with SEN. This in future can be based on the corporate parenting board annual report.

Supporting documents: