Agenda and draft minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Luciane Bowker  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist


No. Item


Appointment of Vice-chairman

To appoint a Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the 2020-21 municipal year.


Councillor Malcolm Richards was appointed Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the 2020/21 municipal year.



To receive any apologies for absence


An apology for absence was submitted from Councillor UllaKarin Clark.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 409 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 5 November 2020.



The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 5 November were confirmed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman at a later date; subject to a change on page 18 under the third bullet point so that it would read as follows:


Councillor Richards asked if there were any statistics available in relation to the educational outcomes for Wokingham’s children who were attending colleges; he believed that children who stayed at a school sixth form tended to do better academically.


Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


There were no declarations of interest.


Public Question Time

To answer any public questions


A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.


The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.


Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to


There were no public questions.


Member Question Time

To answer any member questions


There were no Member questions.


Update from the Executive Member for Children's Services

To receive a verbal update from the Executive Member for Children’s Services.


This item was deferred to the next meeting.


Children’s Services Performance Indicators pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To receive an update and monitor Children’s Services key performance indicators.

Additional documents:


The Children’s Services Performance Indicators report was presented by Nick Hammond, Service Manager Intelligence and Impact.


Members were pleased with the report format and the timeliness of the information provided.


The following comments were made in relation to each dashboard:


Dashboard Item 1 – Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

·           In response to a question Nick Hammond stated that the reason for the decline in the timeliness of EHCPs issued within 20 weeks of referral in Q3 was due to a number of factors, including an increase in complexity of needs which slowed down assessments, and staff changes.  However, this was already improving with 100% completion having been achieved in December and January;

·           In response to a question Sal Thirlway, Assistant Director for Learning and Partnerships stated that the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) team had been operating with a number of locum staff which had now moved on.  Permanent staff had now been recruited, however the churn of staff had impacted on the timeliness of assessments.


Councillor Blumenthal suggested that a key be added to report to make it clearer if the arrows are being benchmarked in relation to national or local indicators.


Dashboard Item 2 – Early Help

·           Nick Hammond stated that the number of referrals and assessments for Early Help services has significantly increased;

·           Members were interested to know if this increase was occurring as a result of the pandemic;

·           Adam Davis, Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care stated that an increase in referrals had been expected after the summer, but that it had not materialised.  The service was starting to look at themes and how to group it into categories;

·           In response to a question Adam Davis stated that the service was conscious of the impact on staff of the different way of working;

·           Adam Davis stated that the service was currently managing the demand for services, but this was kept under review;

·           Adam Davis stated that given the significant increase in the number of referrals, it was positive that the average length of time between referral and assessment had only gone up only marginally.


Dashboard 3 – Children’s Social Care Front Door

·           Nick Hammond stated that there had been a reduction on the number of referrals in Q3;

·           Members were interested to know how the service would deal with a Child In Care (CIC) who lost a loved one during the pandemic.  Adam Davis stated that this would be dealt with in the same way as with any bereavement involving a CIC;

·           In response to a question Adam Davis stated that measures had been put in place to deal with potential increase in demand; such as providing additional support for front door, by drawing up resources from other areas.  There was capacity within the service;

·           In response to a question Adam Davis stated that it was possible that there were unidentified needs due to the current lack of direct contact with children.


Dashboard Item 4 – Child Protection

·           Nick Hammond stated that there was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.


SEND Strategy pdf icon PDF 190 KB

To receive an update and make comments on the development of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Strategy.

Additional documents:


The SEN Strategy report was presented by Matthew Booth, SEN Consultant.


Sal Thirlway stated that the service had undergone an inspection in 2019 which had identified the need for producing a new SEND Strategy to replace the existing one.


Some of the comments made by Matthew Booth during his presentation are listed below:


·           The consultation had now finished and the results would be shared with the Committee;

·           The Local Authority has huge legal responsibilities in relation to the education of SEND children, but limited resources to deliver services. Therefore, it was important to work in partnership with all the stakeholders;

·           There was an aspiration that Wokingham continue to be a great place for children and young people with SEND to grow up;

·           The strategy contained a needs analysis with facts and figures. The understanding of the needs was continuing to improve, including predicting what the needs might be in the future;

·           There had been support from stakeholders in relation to co-producing the strategy and also challenges in relation to the delivery of the strategy;

·           The number of children with EHCPs and SEND needs was growing at a much higher pace than the population growth;

·           Feedback from carers and parents was included in the strategy;

·           Wokingham’s position in relation to SEND challenges was similar to those faced by other local authorities;

·           The priorities (as listed in the report) intended to improve services for children and young people with SEND and their families;

·           There was an effort to improve provision within the Borough;

·           Improving transitions was one of the areas that the strategy was focusing upon;

·           Using data more efficiently was part of the strategy;

·           The details of how the strategy was going to be measured were explained in the report, including key performance indicators;

·           50 full responses to the consultation were received, which was positive; the feedback received was encouraging and challenging;

·           Conversations with partners were being undertaken to decide how the services would be resourced, in the context of the financial demands to deliver the strategy; funding models were being reviewed;

·           The public sector equality duty would be further refined for the final assessment.


During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:


·           In response to a question Matthew Booth stated that one of the main differences between this strategy and the previous one was the element of co-production and engagement with partners; he believed it was also more evidence based;

·           In addition, Carol Cammiss stated that the previous strategy was educationally centred, whereas this was a local area partnership piece of work;

·           Members noted that the number of boys with EHCPs and SEND needs was significantly higher than the number of girls; and asked if there was a reason for this and wondered if girls were being missed out and potentially not getting the help which they needed;

·           Members also asked if the data could be broken down further, by gender and ethnicity;

·           Matthew Booth stated that Health professionals had explained that behaviour signifiers showed up earlier  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.


Child Exploitation pdf icon PDF 389 KB

To receive a report containing a review of issues relating to child exploitation in the Borough.


The Child Exploitation report was presented by Kelli Scott, Interim Service Manager, Children With Disabilities and Early Help.


Kelli Scott stated that the report provided an overview of what constituted child exploitation and Council’s response to it through contextual safeguarding.


Kelly Scott stated that the strategic response to Child Exploitation involved a series of partnership meetings at strategic level, aiming to understand and mitigate risk factors at an individual and community level through relationship based practice and disruption techniques.


Kelly Scott stated that the operational response to Child Exploitation was delivered through: Early Help provision; Statutory Social Work Services; KICKS  Project; Youth Mentoring; Positive Pathways Project and Youth Offending Service.


During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:


·           Members noted that the report did not contain data and asked if this could be provided;

·           Kelly Scott stated that a decision had been made not to include data in order to avoid potential identification;

·           Carol Cammiss stated that the data was confidential and she would investigate the possibility of being able to share this data;

·           In response to a question Kelli Scott stated that partnership working was being developed in relation to contextual safeguarding;

·           Members were concerned that it was not possible to know the scale of the problem without knowing the numbers.  Carol Cammiss agreed to look into the possibility of presenting the data in a Part 2 session;

·           In response to a question Kelli Scott stated that professionals were increasingly able to recognise/identify and respond to child exploitation, and therefore aware of more cases;

·           In response to a question Kelli Scott stated that there was generally more awareness of child exploitation resulting from national and local campaigns.


Members recognised that this was a difficult area of work and thanked Kelli Scott for the report.




1)     The report be noted; and


2)     Future reports on Child Exploitation would include data whenever possible and the use of Part 2 to enable this would be explored.


Compass Team Update pdf icon PDF 291 KB

To receive and consider an update report on the work of the Compass Team.


Adam Davis presented the Compass Team update report.


Adam Davis stated that the Compass Team had been set up to address gaps that had been identified in the provision of services.  The focus of the team was to work with children at the edge of care and to support children to remain in placements for as long as appropriate.


The report contained details about the staff in the team and how it was developed.


Adam Davis stated that positive results had already been achieved since the establishment of the team.


Members suggested the inclusion of figures on outcomes to measure the impact of team in future reports.


In response to a question Adam Davis stated that he believed that the team had the appropriate number of staff at the moment, but this would be kept under review.


RESOLVED That the report be noted.


Measures taken to reduce the need for children to return to a child protection plan pdf icon PDF 240 KB

To receive a report giving details of the measures undertaken by the service to reduce the need for children to return to a child protection plan.


Adam Davis presented the Measure taken to reduce the need for children to return to a child protection plan report.


Adam Davis pointed out to the statistics in the report, including benchmarking.


Adam Davis stated that Childrens Services monitored the number of children becoming subject to a protection plan on a monthly basis and there was a specific indicator for the numbers becoming subject to a Protection plan for a second or subsequent time. This number fluctuated and could be influenced by a number of factors.  Benchmarking against other Local Authorities and

our statistical neighbours is an important component in assessing where we are.  Despite “in year” peaks, Wokingham Borough Council remains below the average of statistical neighbours (communities that are similar). We collect information about children becoming subject to Child Protection plans either in the previous 2 years and ever in their lifetime in order to test the impact of recent interventions and decision making, to give an idea of how

practice is improving or otherwise.


During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:


·           In response to a question Adam Davis stated that the term statistical neighbours referred to local authorities that had similar population demographics and they may not be neighbouring authorities;

·           Members questioned the impact of the pandemic in relation to putting children on plans.  Adam Davis did not believe that there was a more risk averse approach which was resulting in more children being put on a plan.  He stated that decisions were made in a multi-agency process.


Members were pleased with the impact of the measures being put in place to reduce the need for children to return to a child protection plan and thanked Adam Davis for the report.


RESOLVED That the report be noted.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 201 KB

To consider the Committee’s Forward Plan for the remainder of the municipal year.


Members asked about the vaccination programme in relation to Addington School.  Carol Cammiss stated that there had been an issue with the interpretation of the legislation, this had now been resolved.


Members noted that it was positive that all staff in Foundry College and Northern House had now been vaccinated.


The Chairman asked that a date for the Briefing be identified in March, before the next meeting.


Members asked than ‘inclusion’ be included in the Diversity and Equality at Schools item.  Carol Cammiss suggested to add inclusion as an item later on in the year.  Members agreed with this approach and felt that it was important to gather data around diversity and equality issues in schools in order to monitor it.


The Chairman stated that the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee would be discussing ideas for the forward plan for the next municipal year at its next meeting. Some Members suggested the following items:


·           Work opportunities for Care Leavers

·           Update on the take up of the provision of free sanitary products

·           Virtual School update


Any Other Business


Carol Cammiss addressed the Committee and made the following statement:


Our education community has suffered a number of losses recently, with the passing of staff across a number of schools.  Two members of staff, the Care Taker at St Teresa’s Catholic Academy, the Co-headteacher of Year 10 from Bulmershe School have died from Covid related illnesses.  Additionally Jay Blundell, Headteacher at the Foundry College, passed away at the weekend following a short period of illness.  


All of these colleagues will be missed by their own school community as well as the broader education system within the Borough; and our thoughts are with their families, friends, colleagues and pupils who knew them well, at this very sad time.  We are working with all schools to provide support from our educational psychology service and our school improvement service.


The Chairman asked Carol Cammiss to pass on the Committee’s sympathy to the schools involved.