Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 19 January 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Gemma Duckworth (0116 3052583)  Email: gemma.duckworth@leics.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

Webcast.

A webcast of the meeting can be viewed at [insert link].

32.

Minutes. pdf icon PDF 149 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 18 November 2020 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.

33.

Question Time.

Minutes:

The following questions, received under Standing Order 34, were put to the Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

 

(A)       Mrs Sue Whiting asked the following question of the Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

 

Could the Chair please explain why reports and other publicity materials are still being published in difficult fonts when the Written Statement of Action, SEN Handbook and Local Offer newsletter are published in plain font enabling access for many more families?

 

Mrs H Fryer CC replied as follows:

 

The local authority has checked the County Council’s website and reports and they are in a standard format and appear to be clear.  The website and reports have also been checked from a mobile format and again, the format and font appear to be clear.

 

Supplementary Question:

 

Mrs Whiting asked a supplementary question in relation to clarifying which fonts were used to produce the Written Statement of Action submitted to Ofsted, the SEN Handbook, the Local Offer Newsletter sent out in December 2020 and for standard format documents.

 

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Children and Family Services indicated that this information would be provided to Mrs Whiting after the meeting.

 

(B)       Mrs Gillian Bowers asked the following question of the Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

 

In relation to point 14 of the Adoption Service Annual Report, it makes clear there has been one adoption disruption within the time frame being reporting upon but there is no mention of any figures for after 3 years post adoption order. What is the number of adoptions 3 years post adoption order that have resulted in an 'adoption breakdown'. That is to say adopted children/young people have returned to care on a section 20, or moved to supported living, moved to residential schooling at least part time or moved on in another manner that results in them living elsewhere other than mainly within the family home. This would include adopted children and young people up to the age of 25 where they have SEND. Is this figure recorded? If so how many children and young people has this affected in the past year and if not, can this figure be produced please? 

 

Mrs H Fryer CC replied as follows:

 

The department doesn’t have the data for 2020/21 due to how the information is captured.  However, for 2018/19, five children were admitted into the care of Leicestershire who were adopted and in 2019/20, nine children were admitted into the care of Leicestershire who were adopted.

 

Leicestershire County Council continues to support children post adoption who are placed by Leicestershire and assumes responsibility of adopted children in Leicestershire who are placed by other local authorities after 3 years, if post adoption support is required, up to the age of 18.

 

Supplementary Question

 

Mrs Bowers asked a supplementary question to confirm whether it would be possible to include the figures provided in future reports?

 

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Children and Family Services indicated that this would be considered.

 

34.

Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).

35.

Urgent Items.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items for consideration.

36.

Declarations of interest.

Minutes:

The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting.

 

No declarations were made.

37.

Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of the party whip.

38.

Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 36.

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 36.

39.

Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/22 - 2024/25. pdf icon PDF 406 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a joint report of the Director of Children and Family Services and the Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the proposed 2021/22 to 2024/25 Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as it related to the Children and Family Services department.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.

 

The Chairman welcomed Mrs. D. Taylor CC, Lead Member for Children and Family Services, to the meeting for this item.

 

Arising from the discussion, the following points were raised:

 

Service Transformation

 

i)                The department was embarking on proposed significant transformation comprising of four main programmes – the High Needs Development Programme, Defining Children and Family Services for the Future, Children’s Innovation Partnership and departmental efficiencies.  These would deliver substantial cost efficiency savings and enable a sustainable, cost effective operating model whilst improving outcomes for children and young people.

 

ii)               It was reported that the Children’s Innovation Partnership had capital investment of up to £2.5m to create up to 12 placements and a member asked for more specific clarity around what this entailed.  The Director stated that the service had identified the need for some homes for children in Leicestershire and the first phase of the Children’s Innovation Partnership Residential Design Brief had identified the need for an investment of up to £2.5m in order to purchase or build properties that would be used to either place young people or as assessment beds.

 

iii)             The department had gone into partnership with Barnardo’s in 2018 and the Children’s Innovation Partnership had been established for the department to work alongside a partner to improve outcomes for children.  This was being developed through design briefs, the first of which was the Residential Design Brief.  The majority of work undertaken to date had related to developing a number of programmes, including family group conferencing and work during the summer holidays.  The Residential Design Brief focussed on improving the sufficiency of places and quality of residential provision as a result of a specific brief looking at the number of children in residential provision and how that provision could be improved.  £2.5m capital had been invested to purchase a number of properties and it was projected that there would be some savings in light of the scheme due to placement costs being lower than what was currently being paid.

 

iv)             The Children’s Innovation Partnership Residential Design Brief was welcomed but a member commented that this was a complete turnaround from when the County Council had outsourced its children’s homes.  In response, the Director stated that the County Council was not looking to open and operate children’s homes itself.  Consideration was being given to developing a different kind of residential provision for children based on understanding their needs.  Part of the strategy included continuing to work with the private sector providers to ensure that there was a wide range of provision for children.  However, the County Council was also looking to develop more provision through Barnardo’s as a delivery partner.

 

Proposed Revenue Budget

 

v)              The total gross proposed budget for 2021/22 was £338m with contributions from specific grants, health transfers and service user and partner contributions of £249m projected.  The proposed net budget for 2021/22 totalled £89.1m.  Net budget increases of £1.88m had been made during the 2020/21 financial year and had now been adjusted for in the updated original budget.  This comprised of the staff pay award and fostering placement inflationary increases.

 

Growth

 

vi)             Growth over the next four years totalled £23.1m, including £10m in 2021/22.  The majority of the growth requirement related to continued increases in demands (and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Update on the Defining Children and Family Services for the Future Programme. pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided details of the outcome of the diagnostic assessment undertaken across Targeted Early Help and Children’s Social Care services, along with an outline of the next steps of the Defining Children and Family Services for the Future programme plan and the approach to be taken.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Opportunities had been identified in the diagnostic assessment and were categorised into four main themes.  The opportunities demonstrated a combination of potential benefits including cost/demand avoidance, enhancing quality and outcomes for service users and improved productivity.  The total net annually recurring benefits were estimated to be in the region of £9.3m, with a stretch ambition of £13.1m over the next four years.

 

Also attending the meeting for this item were Mr Luke Tregidgo and Mr Stephen Knight from Newton Europe who provided further detail of the scope of the work being taken forward.  Key principles of the programme were co-ownership and co-design, a robust process for tracking and monitoring improvements and performance and aiming for consistency around practice.

 

A joint team of frontline staff and practitioners from the Children and Family Services department and colleagues from the Transformation Unit and Newton Europe had now been established to oversee the development and testing of new ways of working.  The team was entering a pilot phase to test the changes and it was anticipated that this would last three – six months.  Once solutions had been developed, these would be rolled out county wide and this implementation and sustainability stage would last between six – twelve months.  It was expected that the programme would run to November 2021, by which point the department would be able to independently sustain the new ways of working.

 

Arising from the discussion, the following points were raised:

 

i)                Assurance was sought that the targets being set were achievable and that the changes would deliver permanent benefits.  The Director of Children and Family Services stated that the department had chosen to work with Newton Europe as its model was to work alongside a local authority.  Thus far, the level of engagement with staff had been very positive.  Newton Europe had previously worked with a large number of local authorities, particularly Adult Social Care and Children’s Social Care departments, and the Local Government Association had also chosen Newton Europe to work with a range of local authorities in relation to their spending.  It was noted that defining success was not just about the delivery of results; key was ensuring that the right joint team was in place and that the handover was successful.  As the department became more confident, support from Newton Europe would reduce and ways of working would continue to be monitored to ensure that they were sustained.  In relation to the targets set, these were primarily financial and had been set around the MTFS.  The Delivery Board would undertake regular scrutiny of the benefits to ensure that they were being achieved and sustained.  Regular updates would also be provided to the Committee on the benefits being achieved.

 

ii)               The contingent fee model of Newton Europe was raised; this proposed that they would guarantee to deliver savings with fees being commensurate to the benefits delivered.  It was confirmed that there was a set fee and contingency arrangements were in place.  Newton Europe guaranteed to deliver an annual benefit of £7m but it was hoped that this would be as much as £9.3m.  The fee to Newton Europe would be capped and if the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Update. pdf icon PDF 526 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided a progress update on work taking place across the SEND local area in response to the national, regional and local increase in demand for Education Health and Care Plan Needs Assessments and the Leicestershire Local Area SEND Inspection which had taken place in February 2020.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Arising from the discussion, the following points were raised:

 

i)                It was noted that between 24 November 2017 and 15 July 2020, eight complaints had been taken up by the Local Government Ombudsman on behalf of parents and of these, seven had been upheld.  A member raised concern and questioned how this could be avoided in future.  The Director commented that changes to process and practice had been made to ensure that the issues raised in the complaints did not reoccur.  Customer satisfaction surveys had also been introduced at each step of the process to ensure that any issues were dealt with.  A briefing note would be produced to highlight the work undertaken and this would be circulated to members of the Committee.

 

ii)               As part of the Local Area SEND Inspection Written Statement of Action (WSOA), regular monitoring updates would take place with the Department for Education.  A meeting had taken place recently and very good feedback had been received on the overall progress made.  31% of the actions in the WSOA had now been completed and 49% of those outstanding were showing good progress.  In terms of completing all the actions, there had been some delay to Covid-19 but it would usually be expected that these would be achieved approximately 18 months after the inspection had taken place.  At the next visit, it was anticipated that the majority of the actions would be completed.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the report be noted.

42.

Covid-19 Recovery Update. pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided an update of the work of the department during the Covid-19 pandemic.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 11’is filed with these minutes.

 

A member raised the point that some impact on children were still unknown and it was hoped that the department would be able to respond to these effects when they became more apparent.  Assurance was given that the department had a continued response and focus on delivering services.  The impact of the pandemic on children was still not fully known but the Director was confident that the department and its partners would continue to deliver services to children.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the report be noted.

43.

Annual Report of the Adoption Service 2019-20. pdf icon PDF 295 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which presented the Annual Report of the Adoption Service.  This evaluated the extent to which the County Council had fulfilled its responsibilities to children for the period 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 12’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Lots of practical work had been highlighted in the report and it was queried how much of this was still ongoing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The Director stated that next year’s Annual Report would provide greater detail on the work that was currently being undertaken.  Lots of activity had had to be conducted virtually, although where it had been considered safe to do so, face to face contact had continued to be offered.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the report be noted.

44.

Date of next meeting.

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place on 9 March 2021 at 2.00pm.

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

It was noted that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on 9 March 2021 at 2.00pm.