Agenda and minutes
Venue: Online meeting only
Contact: Matthew Evans, Democratic Services Officer
Apologies for absence
To receive apologies for absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Declarations of interest
To receive declarations of interest in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting on 2 June 2020.
The committee considered the minutes of the previous meeting on 2 June and the addition of wording to the record of the public questions under paragraph 52. It was agreed that the following wording was added to the minutes:
The committee was advised that no supplementary question had been received. It is right to acknowledge that the public questioner had indicated a desire to ask a supplementary question. However a supplementary question had not arrived at the time when supplementary questions were considered by the committee because of the late acceptance of the question.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting on 2 June are agreed as a correct record, subject to the addition of the wording above, and are signed by the Chairperson.
The Chairperson updated the committee on the business for the meeting and apologised that the report concerning the review of historic cases of peer on peer abuse cases had been delayed form the current meeting. It had been requested that the report was brought to the current meeting however due to the involvement of officers in the COVID-19 response and the Leader’s desire to ensure content and supporting information in the report was adequate it had not been possible. The circumstances were regrettable but it was explained that the review had been commissioned by the Leader and not by the scrutiny committee; the decision over the timing of the consideration of the report by scrutiny and its publication of the report lay with the Leader. Assurance had been provided that the report would be available for consideration at the September meeting of the committee and there was a determination that it would not be delayed again.
The Assistant Director Education, Development and Skills confirmed that the report was being finalised and would be ready for the September meeting and advice had been provided that the report should be considered at that meeting.
To receive any written questions from members of the public.
Deadline for receipt of questions is 5:00pm on Wednesday 22 July 2020.
Accepted questions and answers will be published as a supplement prior to the meeting. Please submit questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A copy of the public questions received, response provided and the supplementary questions is attached at appendix 1.
To receive an update on the reopening of schools.
The committee considered a report by the Assistant Director Education, Development and Skills (ADEDS) providing an update on the operation of schools during the lockdown and their reopening. The ADEDS introduced the report and raised the points below:
· There was some doubt nationally about attendance and the report provided data concerning attendance at Herefordshire schools and the support in place for those not attending was also covered. The attendance data ended on 1 July but attendance increased throughout July and 24% attendance rates were reached across special, primary and secondary schools;
· Herefordshire had the highest level of attendance in the west midlands with 5,500 children attending towards the end of the term which reflects year groups that government asked to return. A lot of schools took the opportunity to attempt to bring all pupils back into school before the end of the school term.
· It was acknowledged that from the data there had been two-third of pupils who were not attending and support for those pupils came in a range of ways including online resources provided to schools including free software licenses. Some schools were already familiar with the online resources and there had been outstanding performance in some areas but use across the county had been variable.
· Some schools made home visits and undertook virtual contact via video conferencing, phone and social media.
· During the lockdown schools were having to constantly respond to updated and changing government guidance.
· Guidance had been issued to families as to how to support children at home but it was acknowledged that it would have been a challenge for parents and carers who were working from home
· Guidance had been issued to schools on the range of facilities for remote learning and the offer they could make available.
· As the lockdown endured it was acknowledged that support became more variable. As the lockdown could result in children not attending schools for up to 6 months arrangements would be strengthened for the start of the September term. There was the potential for non-attendance to persist into the new school year.
· Social work heads of services had been contacting schools regularly to support children with child protection issues.
· Significant work had been undertaken to keep key worker provision open in early years.
· The impact of the lockdown on pupils’ mental health and the educational deficit was still emerging. The report provided the young minds survey which was a national survey but with a relatively small sample. The outcomes state that there is a variable outcome and there may have been an adverse impact on children with special educational needs in particular during the lockdown. A local survey undertaken in Herefordshire and Worcestershire echoed the national findings. Both surveys had small samples and the methodogly was open to challenge but there was anecdotal evidence concerning children who had enjoyed the online opportunity particular from disadvantaged backgrounds and with autism where they could work comfortably from home.
· On return to school in September it is likely that there ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
To consider the Corporate Parenting Strategy 2020-2023, the Care Leavers covenant and fostering and adoption annual reports.
The committee considered a report from the Head of Looked After Children (HLAC) to undertake pre-decision scrutiny on the Corporate Parenting Strategy 2020 – 2023, the Care Leavers Covenant and the Fostering and Adoption annual reports. The report was introduced by the Head of Looked After Children who outlined the following in her presentation to the meeting:
· The refreshed strategy would be taken to cabinet in September following the end of the previous strategy which had been felt to be a success
· The corporate parenting strategy had been developed with the corporate parenting panel and each of the priorities in the strategy was led by a panel member working alongside your voice matters.
· Young people were a part of developing the strategy
· The strategy has been reduced in size to focus on important elements and those which will make a difference to children and young people. It is a responsibility of all councillors and officers as well as partner agencies to deliver on the corporate parenting expectations as set out in legislation.
· The care leavers covenant is a new initiative and was contained in the DfE’s keep on caring policy to promote five key outcomes for care leavers. Herefordshire had been identified as a trailblazer local authority and therefore it was important that the council lead by example. Through the care leavers covenant the objective was to work with local businesses, agencies and the third sector to encourage a commitment to the care leavers covenants. Such local bodies would be approached to see what more they could do to support young people to establish themselves as young adults.
· The fostering and adoption annual reports detailed the achievements and areas for development and improvement for each of the services over last year and priorities for the current year. The adoption service was provided by Adoption Central England (ACE) which was a regional adoption agency (RAA) led by Warwickshire but with Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Coventry and Solihull. The Assistant Director Safeguarding and Family Support explained that she was the chair of the ACE executive board and would represent strongly the interests of Herefordshire. Membership of the RAA had brought a number of benefits which had strengthened the adoption of children from the county. ACE provided skills and expertise in the recruitment of adopters who were then well supported and assisted the placement of children in a timely manner where adoption was the plan approved by the court. It was likely that evidence of good performance in this area could be brought to the committee shortly.
The following points were raised in the debate:
· The new format of the corporate parenting strategy was commended.
· The difficulty for care leavers to get jobs and training as a result of the pandemic was explained and it was beholden on all to help where possible. Partner organisations such as Halo, Hoople and Balfour Beatty should commit to the care leavers covenant, large contractors engaged by the council to undertake large infrastructure projects in Herefordshire should also commit. ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
To review the attached work programme for 2020/21.
The committee received and noted the work programme attached to the agenda with an addition agreed at the current meeting to reflect the prioritisation of the children’s mental health review.
The committee received an update from Councillor Diana Toynbee on her visit to the supported accommodation in Widemarsh Street for young adults with complex need.
The clarification contained in the Chairperson’s response to the supplementary question concerning peer on peer abuse cases and the minutes of the previous meeting was raised. The committee voted to confirm that the clarification provided by the Chairperson, concerning the use of the terms substantiated and unsubstantiated, would be appended to the minutes of the current meeting of the committee; 28 July 2020.
RESOLVED – That:
· The 2020/21 work programme of the committee is agreed subject to a change to reflect the prioritisation of the review of CAMHS and children’s mental health; and
· The clarification provided by the Chairperson concerning the use of the terms substantiated and unsubstantiated cases to be appended to the minutes of the current meeting of the committee; 28 July 2020.