Agenda item


To detail the additional budget to be provided in 2024/25 to support prevention work within CFLL. To provide a service response to Cllr Catherine Powell’s proposed budget amendments relating to Children’s Services.



Cllr Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Lifelong Learning

Cllr Maureen Attewell, Deputy Cabinet Member Children and Families, Lifelong Learning

Cllr Catherine Powell

Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

Julia Katherine, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Chris Tisdall, Head of Commissioning – Corporate Parenting

Kay Goodacre, Strategic Finance Business Partner for CFL


Key points made in the discussion:

  1. The Chair summarised the areas where opinion differed on how to allocate the additional Children, Families and Lifelong Learning budget coming from Surrey’s share of the £600m additional allocation announced by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in January 2024: (a) the Service wants to develop inclusive play rather than continue to support play and leisure breaks for children with additional needs and disabilities suggested by Cllr Powell; (b) the Service supports the need for additional support in schools for neurodiverse children but does not support targeting areas of high deprivation suggested by Cllr Powell; and (c) the Select Committee questions the value of international social worker recruitment proposed by the Service.


  1. A Member asked the Service to explain the inclusive play it espouses and the evidence base for its outcomes. The Head of Commissioning – Corporate Parenting explained it would make the mainstream more inclusive, for example allow children with additional needs to access sports clubs in their community. Surrey could learn from other local authorities already doing this, for instance Hampshire and Wandsworth. It had been discussed with 30 parents so far in a co-production programme. He assured the Committee that inclusive play would not undermine the current £370,000 play and leisure offer. A Member said they would like to get rid of the deficit in the current SEND play and leisure offer, i.e. address the waiting list in this area, before introducing another scheme. The Head of Commissioning – Corporate Parenting noted that, unlike some other local authorities, Surrey County Council (SCC) did not have an eligibility threshold and this open approach made it hard to give an answer on how many eligible children were waiting. The Cabinet Member thought this open approach might have to change.


  1. Asked how many play and leisure places for children with additional needs and disabilities (AND) were available versus how many were needed, the Head of Commissioning – Corporate Parenting responded that about 1,400 children accessed 140,000 hours of play and leisure breaks each year and about 350 children and young people were on a waiting list. Access was at the discretion of SCC, whose statutory duty was to provide overnight short breaks, rather than enabling every child with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for example to access a play and leisure scheme.


  1. The Cabinet Member said SCC was not obliged by statute to provide play and leisure but it was highly valued by families of children with additional needs, many of whom had difficulty in finding childcare, and should be seen in the context of preparation for adulthood and promoting independence. She was saddened by a point in the SEND inspection report that a number of young people with additional needs did not feel included or welcome in their community, and felt sports clubs becoming more inclusive may help to address that. From September 2026, every school will have to provide access to wraparound childcare from 8am-6pm.


  1. Explaining why she raised the budget amendment, Cllr Powell spoke of increased demand because of the increasing number of children with EHCPs, and the need to reopen waiting lists that closed due to the 2023/24 reduction in services. The Equality Impact Assessment had stated the increased pressure on families of children with disabilities would likely lead in some cases to the contribution of family breakdown if not mitigated, leading to increased costs for SCC. Parents told Family Voice the reduced service had led to significant mental health pressures on the family and reduced child confidence. In one case the respite was said to be the difference between the child staying in the family or going into residential care. Cllr Powell did not believe inclusive provision was able to meet all needs.


  1. The Service was asked if it would support more funding focused on neurodiversity need in school catchment areas of higher child need/deprivation in Lower Super Output Area domains, or if alternatively it believed there should be a priority on identifying and targeting geographic clusters of identified neurodiversity need, regardless of prevailing socio-economic factors. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning questioned whether targeting would take into account just the school location or its catchment area, explaining that although none of the 18 schools included in the Schools Inclusion for Autism pilot were in those areas, many of the pupils live in such areas. She proposed deprivation was one of a number of factors that should be considered when targeting, including attendance, exclusions and percentage of AND pupils within the school. She added that the Council could not insist that any schools take up an offer of support or direct them to do so. Asked why a school would not want to take it up, the Director answered that they might feel they cannot give it the attention needed to have impact if they have other ongoing initiatives, or they could perhaps have an alternative idea to meet need.


  1. A Member queried how many schools would be categorised as in an area of high deprivation and whether, if these schools were prioritised, there would be any remaining capacity. He also enquired how low level of attainment in language and communication when starting school mapped against areas of deprivation across Surrey. The Director responded it was a problem that had worsened due to the pandemic and she would provide figures.


  1. The Cabinet Member said most programmes already in place had been piloted first. The Council did not manage any school and could not dictate to or impose on schools; each one was an autonomous organisation accountable to its governing body or trust.


  1. Cllr Powell said it was acknowledged that it would take a decade for the gap in attainment between the most disadvantaged pupils and others return to what it was before Covid. Schools in areas of deprivation were also dealing with the challenges of higher numbers of children with neurodiversity and more safeguarding issues. Forty-five Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) of Surrey were in the bottom 20 per cent of the country. Two of the Service’s universal suggested services provided advice that would require extra time and energy on the part of the schools.


  1.  A Member asked what lessons were learned from the last occasion international social workers were recruited, who were understood to have left due to cultural differences and some experiencing racism from service users. The Director for Corporate Parenting informed that out of the 33 recruited via an agency in 2022, 20 still worked for Children and Families and four had transferred to Adult Services. SCC had held workshops to learn what worked for them and found non-office working had led to a number of people used to living and working in another country feeling isolated. In West Sussex Council’s international campaign they had a pastoral focus and did more preparation with the employees before they left their native countries. She added that any reported abuse was always followed up. The Member said mentoring and whether they brought dependents should be considered. A Member suggested a need to understand why social workers were leaving the profession rather than bringing workers from abroad who would have loneliness to deal with in addition to the demands of the role. The Director said in one retention initiative, social workers were being given clinical support to debrief.


  1.  Asked what impact the £5,000 per annum market supplement recommended by the Select Committee and introduced in December 2023 had had on social worker recruitment and retention this year, the Director for Corporate Parenting said since its implementation, which had brought pay more in line with that of neighbouring authorities, five agency staff had moved into permanent roles. In Family Safeguarding, the retention rate had increased to 76 per cent in March 2024 from 68 per cent in December 2023, a significant difference in three months.


  1. The Chair explained that the £370,000 allocated to SEND play and leisure would not necessarily fully restore all the hours that were available in 2022/23 and this would not be known until negotiations with providers had been concluded. Therefore, the Committee would like some of the £500,000 being considered for play and leisure funding additional to this £370,000, which is proposed by the Service for a programme developing more inclusive practice in mainstream provision, to be redirected to bring down the waiting lists for play and leisure for children with additional needs.


  1. A Member questioned the value of piloting inclusive play and thought the Committee should take one side or the other rather than doing both at once. The Chair said both could be funded and the pilots were to understand how well integrated play could serve the anticipated needs in each quadrant. The Strategic Finance Business Partner confirmed there was money ringfenced to Children, Families and Lifelong Learning that had not yet been allocated to specific projects.



  1. Scrutiny Officer to reshare briefing on supply and demand for short breaks provided in July 2023.


  1. Director of Education and Lifelong Learning to answer: How many schools would be included in the Enhanced Language and Communication Initiative if focusing first on the areas of high deprivation; and would that utilise the whole capacity (up to 50 schools) for the programme or not? 


  1. Director of Education and Lifelong Learning to answer: Is the low level of attainment in language and communication referred to on page 63 of the report recognised as a greater problem in areas of deprivation across the county? Please supply supporting data.




1)    The Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee endorses the following:

·         £4.84m spending on prevention work proposed by CFLL;

·         £0.05m of one-off funding to support the expansion of the current pilot, where providers of SEND Play and Leisure or Overnight Respite groups would allow parents and carers who struggle to recruit Personal Assistants for respite to fund a session or place using their personal allowances;

·         £0.05m one-off funding to support the implementation and roll out of the Surrey Foster Carer Charter.


2)    It also welcomes the Service’s proposed £1.8m spend on social worker recruitment and retention, with the proviso that special measures are put in place to ensure that social workers recruited from overseas for front line roles are retained in those roles, and the effectiveness of these measures is reviewed six months after recruitment and reported back to Select Committee by the end of April 2025.


3)    The Committee supports the Service’s £653,105 proposals for additional support in schools for neurodiverse children, and makes the following recommendationsto demonstrate and reinforce SCC’s commitment that no one is left behind:


a)    To better understand where the need is and why, by the end of November 2024 the Service undertakes research to identify where the greatest presentation of neurodiversity need exists in the county and what the contributory factors are.


b)    The offer for the Whole School Autism Friendly Reviews and the Schools Inclusion for Autism Initiatives is underpinned by the offer of implementation support to take the pressure off the schools, with £0.3m allocated to provide such implementation activity in schools which are struggling to cope. It will be for the Service to ascertain which schools would require this to enable them to take up the offer.


4)    The Committee asks that, on completion of the co-production programme’s research, a written report is produced to outline the strategy for developing and delivering integrated play and leisure across Surrey. The report should detail what integrated play will be delivered by whom, to whom, where, and by when. It should also address how interaction with voluntary sector providers will work, along with an assessment of the strategy’s anticipated impact, by comparison with existing provision, and how the transition will be achieved. It should also identify where integrated play will not meet the needs of children with additional needs and disabilities, and how it is anticipated these needs will be met.


5)  Including £0.5m that the Service proposes for a programme developing more inclusive play and leisure in mainstream provision (which the Committee reserves judgement on until it learns the outcome of recommendation 4), the above initiatives cost a total of £8,196,227. The Committee understands up to £8.3 million may be available to support prevention objectives in Children’s Services, which potentially leaves £103,773.


Thus the Committee recommends that all hours of SEND play and leisure provided in 2022/23 are restored in 2024/25. It has been indicated that this will now require more than the £370,000 uplift originally advised by the Service, and championed by the Select Committee. It recommends using what remains of the £8.3m to ensure that the objective of the Select Committee as originally intended is achieved – i.e. restoration of the hours of SEND play and leisure in 24/25 to 22/23 levels. If this is not sufficient to restore 2022/23 hours, it recommends the necessary funding is taken from the £0.5m that the Service proposes for a programme developing more inclusive play and leisure in mainstream provision.


Supporting documents: