With the agreement of the Chairman, Councillor Clark, Executive Member for Children’s Services addressed the Committee.
Councillor Clark stated that her statement was in relation to a question that had been submitted to the Council meeting on 16 June 2020, in respect to the impact of the Covid-19 virus on Children’s Services and how the Council has countered them.
Councillor Clark’s statement:
All Learning, Achievement & Partnership activity has been maintained throughout the coronavirus outbreak, with staff working from home to maintain service delivery. We have utilised online and mobile platforms to continue to engage children and families in supporting activity with them. We have worked closely with all schools and early years settings to support them in keeping them open for vulnerable children and children of key workers, and to support home learning for students that are unable to access schools during ‘lock-down’. We have offered all looked after children an online tutor to support them with their school work.
In children’s social care we have followed Government guidance, lockdown restrictions and Public Health advice and we have adapted the way that work ensuring that we can continue to deliver our statutory duties, keeping both children and staff safe. Most social workers are now working from home, this has been supported by the roll out of IT equipment. The Front Door (Duty Triage and Assessment) are continuing to take referrals, although these are lower due to the reduction of children having contact with partner agencies.
All Child Protection visits in Borough are ongoing and are face to face using all safety precautions which includes PPE where required. Strategy Meetings, Child Protection Conferences and Looked After Children Reviews are taking place remotely via conference calls and all ‘Looked After Children’ cases have been reviewed and where possible visit time frames amended, in line with the statutory requirement relating to each case. The availability of new Apps and software has supported the use of video calling to communicate with children and families regularly.
The Bridges Resource Centre is continuing to offer a Residential Respite service for children with disabilities, although this has been slightly reduced.
All court applications for Public Law (where we need to protect a child) and Youth Justice are being completed remotely via video link.
The performance of Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCP) within 20 weeks has improved significantly from 12% in January to 95% in April 2020.
The following comments were made during the discussion of the item:
· Councillor Bray thanked officers in the service for their work during this period. She asked about what was being done to support young carers;
· Adam Davis, Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care stated that young carers had been contacted as part of a welfare call to establish if they had any additional needs, support was then offered where needed;
· Councillor Mickleburgh was pleased to note the significant improvement on the number of EHCP completed within the timelines. He asked if the number of requests for assessments had been impacted during the pandemic and whether there was a risk of a back log in the future;
· Sal Thirlway, Assistant Director for Learning and Achievement stated that the number of requests for assessments continued steady throughout the period;
· The Chairman asked about the take up of the offer for online tutoring to looked after children. Patrick Finegan, Virtual School Headteacher stated that it had been increasing weekly, now there were around 15 children who had taken up the offer. He also stated that following a Corporate Parenting Board meeting, the offer was extended from two hours a week to three hours a week;
· In response to a question Patrick Finegan stated that children of various ages had taken up the offer.
The Chairman invited Councillor Clark to give an executive update to the Committee on a regular basis.
1) The update by the Children’s Services Executive Member be noted; and
2) The Committee would receive regular updates by the Children’s Services Executive Member.