The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided an overview of the outcome of a diagnostic assessment of the Department and outlined the plans to take forward work to develop the department to improve outcomes for children. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.
The Children and Family Services Department faced significant challenges due to increased growth and demand on its services and the County Council was also facing additional financial pressures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This had increased the challenge to the Children and Family Services Department of ensuring continued delivery of effective outcomes for children, young people and families in a financially sustainable way. It was proposed that the diagnostic assessment would help to inform the next steps in the ongoing development of the Department.
The diagnostic assessment had identified several areas for consideration; these were subject to further validation and had been considered through a series of engagement with staff and a gateway review. The opportunities assessed had been broadly categorised into four themes – Children’s Pathways, Timeliness of Interventions, Settings and Children with Disabilities. The opportunities identified were a combination of potential service user benefits, improved productivity and processes and a savings contribution which would be reflected in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS). It was proposed that the cost of the programme would be commensurate and in line with the expected return on the investment.
Further work would be undertaken over the next five – six months to develop the themes and opportunities in partnership with staff across the Department, officers from the Transformation Unit and colleagues from Newton Europe.
Arising from the discussion, the following comments were raised:
i) It was apparent that Newton Europe had effected significant reductions within Children and Family Services in other authorities and a query was raised as to whether this would be seen by Leicestershire County Council. In response, it was stated that the average figures reported by Newton Europe related to previous work undertaken in other local authorities. Newton Europe had proven in-depth experience of working with public service organisations and it was the intention that Leicestershire would work with them to ensure the best possible outcomes for the department.
ii) A report was being presented to the Cabinet on 20 November 2020 to seek approval to move to the next stage of work, based on the outcome of the diagnostic assessment. This was the design phase and would outline a comprehensive plan for delivery. It was the intention to present a further report to this Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting in January which would give much more detail of the findings of the diagnostic assessment and the anticipated savings that would be achieved. In response to a query, it was reported that the work was not motivated purely by the need to make savings. The financial challenge was a key focus but the department also wanted to ensure that services could continue to deliver positive outcomes for children in the most cost effective way. Assurance was given that the focus of the work was on improving outcomes for children and families and service improvements.
iii) The Lead Member for Children and Family Services reiterated the pressures being faced by the department and explained that this work would provide an opportunity for a total refresh of the service whilst ensuring the best outcomes for children and families were achieved.
a) That the report be noted;
b) That a further report be presented to the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 19 January 2021;
c) That the Cabinet be advised of the comments made by the Committee.