Agenda and draft minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 15th June, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN

Contact: Luciane Bowker  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chairman

To elect a Chairman for the 2022/23 municipal year.

Minutes:

Councillor Andrew Mickleburgh was elected Chairman for the 2022/23 municipal year.

2.

Appointment of Vice-chairman

To appoint a Vice-chairman for the 2022/23 municipal year.

Minutes:

Councillor Shirley Boyt was appointed Vice-Chairman for the 2022/23 municipal year.

3.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

An apology for absence was submitted from Councillor Shirley Boyt, she was substituted by Councillor Alistair Neal.

4.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

A declaration of interest was submitted from Councillor Beth Rowland on the basis that she was a school governor for two local schools.

5.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 21 March 2022.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 21 March 2022 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to the amendment below, and signed by the Chairman.

 

Amendment: Councillor Helliar-Symonds had been present online as a Committee Member (not as a guest).

 

Matters arising

Councillor Chadwick asked for an update on the arrangements for home to school transport for September 2022.  Sal Thirlway, Assistant Director for Learning and Partnerships offered to provide a written answer after the meeting, to be included with the minutes.

 

The Chairman stated that there had been two vacancies for diocese representatives and two vacancies for parent governors on the Committee for a long time.  He believed that it would be beneficial for the Committee to have the engagement of such representatives.  He asked if there was a requirement for those representatives to be on the membership of the Committee and he also asked Officers to make an effort to recruit volunteers to fill those vacancies.

 

Luciane Bowker, Democratic and Electoral Services Specialist explained that the vacancies referred to were listed in the terms of reference for the Committee.  Officers had not been very successful in the past in recruiting volunteers to fill in those roles.  However, it was agreed that a renewed effort would be made to try and find volunteers to join the Committee.

 

The Chairman asked if there was an update on the possibility of Members meeting with the residents of the new Care Leavers accommodation on London Road to gain their feedback.

 

Adam Davis, Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care and Early Help explained that the Corporate Parenting Board (CPB) was also interested in gaining feedback from the resident of the new accommodation for Care Leavers.  CPB was still waiting for a response from residents with regards to a visit. 

 

The Chairman asked if Members of CSO&S who were not members of CPB would also be able to speak to the residents.  Adam Davis explained that this was dependent on consultation with the residents.

 

The Chairman asked for information about theYouth Council: do they produce minutes? If so, could this Committee receive a copy of the minutes? Could this Committee engage with the Youth Council?

 

Helen Watson, Interim Director for Children’s Services confirmed that the Youth Council had been meeting regularly and there were notes taken of those meetings.  She agreed that it was a good idea for this Committee to engage with the Youth Council, and that the Youth Council could be invited to attend a meeting of CSO&S.

6.

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 www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

7.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions

Minutes:

There were no Member questions.

8.

Key Performance Indicators pdf icon PDF 275 KB

To receive and consider the Key Performance Indicators report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Some of the comments made during the discussion of the item are listed below.

 

Dashboard item 1 – Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)

·           Councillor Chadwick asked why the number of EHCPs had gone up so significantly in Q4;

·           Sal Thirlway stated that there had been a greater need for assessment and placements, with an increase in the number of Special Educational Needs (SEN) children.  This increase in demand impacted on the timeliness of completion of assessments;

·           Councillor Rowland was concerned that the service was not good enough for schools and asked what the plan was to tackle this situation;

·           Sal Thirlway stated that the service and level of activity had improved, but there was still work to do to improve the service.  The capacity and nature of SEN services was continually monitored to support EHCPs requests.  A Wokingham Partnership was being established in order to better understand the needs for support at schools;

·           Councillor Rowland asked that this item be brought back to the next meeting to monitor the improvement of EHCPs;

·           Councillor Helliar-Symonds asked for the whole total averages of the year (not just 20/21) to be included in all of the dashboards;

 

Dashboard item 2 – Early Help

·           Councillor Rowland was concerned about the direction of travel on this indicator, she believed that Early Help for children was very important;

·           Adam Davis explained that a downwards trend was not necessarily negative for this indicator.  The downward time between referral and assessment was a positive result;

·           Adam Davis added that there had been a significant increase in the front door referrals of 57% and the service had retained the timescales, so this was a doubly positive result.

 

Dashboard item 3 – Children’s Social Care Front Door

·           The Chairman stated that, in relation to the percentage of assessments completed within 45 days, Wokingham continued to be below the national average and statistical neighbours averages.  He asked what was being done to address this?

·           Adam Davis stated that work was being undertaken to clear out the backlog.  He explained that sometimes delays were caused because other activities were underway, however this was an area of focus;

·           In response to a question Adam Davis stated that there were 25 assessments out of the 45 day timeframe, but this number fluctuated up and down.  Delays could occur because of delays in court proceedings for example, or in the case of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASC) delays were caused as the assessment could take longer.  The service was looking to improve this performance where possible;

·           In response to a question Adam Davis explained that there was a threshold document which assessed if a contact should be progressed or not.  However, this judgement was complex and subjective.

 

Dashboard item 4 – Child Protection

·           In response to a question, Adam Davis explained that child protection visits were undertaken every ten working days continuously.

 

Dashboard item 5 – Children In Care (CIC)

·           The Chairman asked if there were any particular concerns in relation to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Education Update pdf icon PDF 438 KB

To receive and consider a report containing the Education Update.

Minutes:

The Education Update report was presented by Sal Thirlway.  He explained that the report outlined the work being undertaken to continue to provide for the children’s educational needs.  It covered attendance, the ongoing development of the Borough Education Partnership, an update on the white and green educational papers and implications for Children’s Services.

 

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

 

·           Councillor Chadwick asked if children with a sick note or with covid who were not at school were counted in the number of those absent;

·           Sal Thirlway explained that the government had changed its coding system to allow for covid related attendance recording.  However, this was no longer in existence, the 93% attendance mentioned in the report was for all pupils on schools rolls;

·           Councillor Chadwick asked for clarification in the 1.2 section of the report as to whether the guidance published by the government was statutory or non-statutory;

·           Sal Thirlway explained that this was non-statutory guidance that the local authority had to follow, it was a quirk of the law;

·           Councillor Rowland explained that some overseas families with children in schools had not been able to see their relatives for a couple of years due to covid.  They were choosing to take their children out of school and pay the fine as this was cheaper than the cost of travelling during the school holidays.  She asked how many fines had been issued in Wokingham schools because of this issue;

·           Sal Thirlway explained that the local authority held the information on the number of fixed term penalties related to school attendance.  There was support to schools in relation to improving school attendance.  However, the level of fixed term penalty notices was set by the government, and some families felt that it was more cost effective to take their children out of school for their holidays;

·           Councillor Helliar-Symonds was of the opinion that this law did not tackle the issue of children with intermittent absences, which was originally its intention;

·           The Chairman asked what the implication for the services was of the new statutory obligations;

·           Sal Thirlway explained that resource implications on the school attendance team were likely.  Options around meeting the capacity challenge were being explored;

·           Councillor Helliar-Symonds commended on the Wokingham Education Partnership, she believed that it was a great idea.  She recommended that the group looking at the sufficiency of school places in the borough considered also the issue of travelling to school;

·           Councillor Howe explained that when schools became academies, there was a disassociation of the local authority from schools.  However, the schools and the local authority were still bound by their responsibilities in relation to SEND and school admissions.  The responsibility for the education of children in the borough still remained with the local authority, but there was not a mechanism to share resources and to work strategically together.  The Borough Education Partnership (BEP) was created in an effort to bring together schools and the local authority to jointly formulate strategies;

·           Councillor  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Forward Programme pdf icon PDF 221 KB

To consider the Committee’s Forward Programme of work.

Minutes:

The Chairman requested that the Executive Member for Children’s Services be invited to attend future meetings, in order to share their thoughts on the service and answer questions. 

 

Luciane Bowker informed that Councillor Bray, Executive Member for Children’s Services had already offered to attend meetings.

 

Councillor Mickleburgh asked that stakeholders who were involved in co-producing the SEND Strategy, such as SEND Voices be invited to attend the next meeting in September when the SEND Strategy was due to be discussed.  Officers agreed with this proposal.

 

The Chairman asked if the CSO&S Committee could receive the Children’s Services Draft Strategy at its next meeting in September.  Helen Watson agreed to present this update.

 

The Chairman suggested adding the following item to the November meeting:

Concerns about the cost of living crisis affecting children in the borough and the impact on Children’s Services.  He suggested that the Executive Member for Equalities, Inclusion and Fighting Poverty be invited to discuss this report. In response to a question Luciane Bowker suggested that Members email her with the specific requirements for this report.

 

Helen Watson informed that the Council was working on an Anti-Poverty Strategy, part of which involved tackling poverty in schools.  This was due to be discussed with the BEP.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     The Executive Member for Children’s Services would be invited to attend future meetings of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee;

 

2)     The stakeholders involved in developing the SEND Strategy be invited to the next meeting; and

 

3)     A report about the cost of living crisis and its implications for children in the borough and Children’s Services be added to the November meeting.

11.

Exclusion of the Public

That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) as appropriate.

Minutes:

That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of the Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as appropriate.

12.

Schools Causing Concern

A report containing details of schools causing concern will be considered in a Part 2 report.

Minutes:

This item was discussed in a part two session.

 

It was agreed that future reports would include a list of all schools in the borough and their current Ofsted status.  Also, the local ward Members of the schools causing concern would continue to be invited to attend this part of the meeting.

 

It was suggested that for schools inspected by Ofsted since the last meeting, the 2-3 page overviews at the start of each Ofsted report be included with the Agenda pack.