Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 30th July, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Remote - To be held remotely via Zoom - View directions

Contact: Jane Garrard 

No. Item


Apologies for absence




Declarations of Interests




Minutes pdf icon PDF 245 KB

To confirm the minutes of the last meeting held on 30 January 2020


The Committee confirmed the minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2020 as a correct record and they were signed by the Chair.


Impact of Coronavirus on Children's Services pdf icon PDF 194 KB

Additional documents:


Councillor Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, Catherine Underwood, Corporate Director for People, and Tajinder Madahar, Head of Service for Children’s Social Work presented a report about the impact of the current coronavirus outbreak on the delivery of Children’s Services and the impact that this has had on children and their families in the City.  They highlighted the following information:


(a)  The coronavirus outbreak has reduced the ability to support children and families in the usual ways and it has been challenging to maintain services and protect children and young people.


(b)  The importance of protecting the welfare of children and young people has been the key priority in decision making and immediate action was taken to carry out risk assessments for all children in care to look at their individual circumstances and what support they needed during this period.


(c)  Staffing has been a challenge due to staff sickness and shielding, although this has not been as high as initially anticipated, and at times it was necessary to redeploy staff from across the service. 


(d)  Colleagues were supported by the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and guidance on ways of working.


(e)  Initially there was a significant decrease in enquiries to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and resulting social work assessments by the Duty Service.  One of the reasons for this was the level of contact by schools and health services.  Referrals have now largely returned to pre-Covid levels and it is anticipated that there may be an increase in referrals once all pupils return to school in September and teams are working closely with education colleagues to manage this.


(f)  While the number of referrals reduced overall, there was no major reduction in the number of children with Child Protection Plans.


(g)  Requirements for people to stay at home can be problematic for people at risk of harm from others in the home setting and there are concerns about risks of domestic abuse and violence which is one of the main drivers for social care referrals.  Referrals relating to domestic violence and abuse have returned to pre-Covid levels but there could be hidden cases that are not yet known.  Teams are working with partners to identify this and provide support.


(h)  Independent Reviewing Services have had to take place virtually, either by telephone or video link. 


(i)  Early Help and Child Mental Health Services have provided online resources for use by children and families, and prioritised contacting families identified as most in need of intervention. 


(j)  It has been challenging to deliver youth and play services, and the focus has been on those at risk of exploitation and anti-social behaviour.  278 young people were identified as most vulnerable and colleagues have been in regular contact with them. 


(k)  It has been necessary to make substantial adjustments to respite services, with no residential breaks.  The Short Breaks Service and Crocus Fields Services have worked together to provide some sitting services, shopping collection etc for those most in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Children's Integrated Services Ofsted Focussed Visit and Improvement Programme pdf icon PDF 200 KB

Additional documents:


Councillor Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, Catherine Underwood, Corporate Director for People, and Tajinder Madahar, Head of Service for Children’s Social Work, presented a report updating the Committee on the outcomes from Ofsted’s Focussed Visit in February 2020 and associated improvement programme.  They highlighted the following information:


(a)  Ofsted’s Focussed Visit looked specifically at arrangements for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan, with a focus on children at risk of neglect as these had previously been identified by Ofsted as areas of concern.


(b)  Focussed Visits do not result in a rating but Ofsted issued two Priority Actions which is significant.


(c)  The Service is committed to addressing the issues and strong oversight and support has been put in place to progress improvement work.


(d)  Following the Visit, swift action was taken to review the areas of concern.  Ofsted don’t formally sign off action plans but their feedback on the improvement plan was sought.  An ongoing dialogue with Ofsted is taking place, with informal conversations held every week.


(e)  A Children at the Heart Improvement Board has been established, chaired by the Interim Chief Executive and involving councillors, senior officers and partners including schools, health and the police.  The role of the Board is to hold to account and challenge progress on improvement, but also support improvement work. 


(f)  Working with partners is vital for the improvement work because although the Priority Actions were directed at the Council they relate to services delivered in partnership with other service areas within the Council and partners external to the Council.


(g)  Regional colleagues are supporting the Service to reflect and learn, and the Council is also working with the Local Government Association and Department for Education.  Through the Department for Education, the Council is getting improvement support from the Partner in Practice Scheme.  As part of this the Council is getting substantial support from Essex County Council to help strength practice and services.


(h)  One of the key areas to address is stabilising the workforce.  Workforce gaps have been filled through use of a recruitment agency and this has provided short term capacity, and work is now taking place to recruit substantive post-holders. 


(i)  The Nottingham practice model and standards have been relaunched and everyone is being trained to these standards.  A strengths-based approach is being taken. 


(j)  Ensuring that the voice of the child is at the heart of services is being re-energised.  Work is taking place to test that this is in place.


(k)  The performance and quality assurance framework is being improved to include a strong moderation process and make sure that learning from audits is fully understood and used to inform best practice services. 


(l)  Going forward there will be a refreshed social worker recruitment campaign to try and attract permanent social workers that want to stay in the service and develop as part of a great team.  Part of this will include developing an attractive and supportive workforce development  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Work Programme 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 108 KB

Additional documents:


Jane Garrard, Senior Governance Officer, introduced the report asking the Committee to identify issues that it would like to focus its work on during municipal year 2020/21.  The Committee discussed the following issues for inclusion in its work programme for the year:


(a)  reopening of schools to all pupils and the extent of learning loss and support for addressing this;


(b)  outcomes of the Ofsted assurance visit regarding Children’s Services;


(c)  findings of the Committee’s recommendation to survey families about their experiences and perspective of services during the period of the coronavirus pandemic to review how this is being used to inform decision making;


(d)  progress in implementing the action plan related to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation; and


(e)  impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the mental health of children and young people.