To receive an update and monitor Children’s Services key performance indicators.
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 a significant increase in the number of children with plans in Q3;
· Nick Hammond pointed out that there was a commitment to carry out face to face visits as much as possible, with the percentage of virtual visits being below 6%;
· In response to a question, Adam Davis stated that only a small number of people had been worried about Covid security during visits;
· In response to a question Adam Davis stated that further analysis was needed to understand the impact of the pandemic on the percentage of children starting a plan who had a previous one in the last two years.
Dashboard Item 5 – Children In Care
· Nick Hammond drew attention the significant improvement in the percentage of CIC who have more than one allocated Social Worker in 12 months;
· Members were very pleased to note the improvement and asked what led to it. Adam Davis stated that the service had undertaken a lot of work to improve recruitment, retention and creating stability;
· In response to a question Adam Davis stated that having a stable workforce was a continuous aspiration;
· Members were interested to know if there was a reason that the number of CIC in Wokingham was significant lower than other areas in the South East and if there was a danger that children were being missed out;
· Adam Davis stated that the service had looked into this and there were various different themes: the demographics; the prevention services being really good; the high number of Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) and the high number of adoptions;
· In response to a question Adam Davis stated that CIC had different visit requirements (in relation to frequency) depending on each individual circumstance.
Dashboard Item 6 – Care Leavers
· Members were interested to know if Care Leavers were being given priority into the new employment and work experience initiative being promoted by the Council, and if there were any particular concerns about how they were coping during the pandemic;
· Adam Davis was not aware of any ring-fencing for Care Leavers in relation to the Kick Start Programme;
· Adam Davis stated that Care Leavers were receiving additional support during this time from Here4You and PA’s;
· Members were concerned by the number of Care Leavers who were Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and asked how the service was looking to improve this situation;
· Carol Cammiss, Director of Children’s Services stated that a new member of staff had recently been employed to specifically look at this. Options around work experience, working with local businesses, training opportunities and others would be considered. She also stated that this was something that the service was committed to improving, she believed that improvements would be seen in the next six months;
· Carol Cammiss stated that Virtual School had recently extended its offer Post-16 education, it was expected that this would make a significant difference to the numbers.
Dashboard Item 7 – Children Missing from Home/Care
· Members were concerned about the high number of Permanent Exclusions, especially during the pandemic when less children are attending school. Sal Thirlway stated that the service was working with schools, trying to understand the reasons for this number, he offered to provide an answer outside of the meeting;
· Members asked that a breakdown of the number of children with SEND who are permanently excluded be provided every quarter, and if possible also by gender and ethnicity;
· Members asked if permanently excluded children were being able to access learning remotely. Sal Thirlway stated that those children who were permanently excluded were placed in alternative schools/provisions and there was an effort to minimise the disruption to their education;
· Members asked if there was a correlation between the number of children missing from education and the current pandemic. Sal Thirlway believed that it was unlikely that the five children missing from education listed in the report were as a result of the pandemic;
· Sal Thirlway explained that under the current rules parents were not compelled to send their children into school, therefore those children would not be classified as missing from education;
· Members asked to receive information in relation to school attendance data. Carol Cammiss agreed to provide a report with this information;
· In response to a question Sal Thirlway stated that around 12% of the children who would normally attend school were currently attending school. The current attendance for children with EHCP or with a Social Worker was around 41% to 42%;
· Sal Thirlway stated that the service was working and engaging with families of children who were eligible to attend school but choosing not to attend, to ascertain what was best for the child;
· Carol Cammiss stated that the situation was constantly under review, it was necessary to balance the needs of certain children to be in school with the school’s ability to operate under the current restrictions;
· Adam Davis stated that number of CIC attending school under this lockdown is significantly higher than previously, at around 60%.
Dashboard Item 8 – Children’s Services Workforce
· Nick Hammond stated that had been a significant improvement in the permanency of workforce;
· In response to a question Carol Cammiss stated that Social Workers left for a range of reasons, the service conducted exit interviews and tracked the reasons. She pointed out that the numbers were much improved from previous years, and that there was now a stable workforce;
· In response to a question Adam Davis stated that the service was looking to review the offer to keep it attractive to the workforce. The service was always looking at new ways of recruiting new and experienced Social Workers and retaining staff by providing a supportive environment.
RESOLVED That the report be noted and that data on permanent exclusion of children with SEND and school attendance would be provided to the Committee.