Agenda and minutes
Venue: Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE
Contact: Simon Cann, Democratic Services Officer
Link: Watch this meeting live on the Herefordshire Council Youtube Channel
Apologies for absence
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Sam Pratley (Representative of the Diocese of Hereford), Andy James (Parent governor representative for the special school sector), Councillor Mike Jones, and Councillor John Stone.
To receive details of members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the committee.
Councillor Claire Davies substituted for Councillor Mike Jones
Declarations of interest
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
No declarations of interest.
To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2022.
The minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2022 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.
Questions from members of the public
To receive any written questions from members of the public.
The Chair issued an apology regarding public questions submitted to the committee having only been made apparent on the morning of the meeting. It was explained that the questions would not be included on the agenda paper and would not be answered during the meeting. Responses to the questions would be sent out and recorded in the minutes of the meeting. Supplementary questions from those who had submitted questions would be accepted once initial responses had been provided.
Questions and responses:
Question:Has any Independent Reviewing Officer or the IRO Service Manager got responsibility for any work for other teams or managing teams other than those relating to IRO Service? If so, please give details e.g. how many IROs?
Ms Hannah Currie
Response:Thank you for your question.
The current establishment is 1 Service Manager (Independent Reviewing Officer Service), 6 Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) and 1 Fostering IRO (FIRO) whose role it is to quality assure the fostering review processes.
The Service Manager (IRO Service), IROs and FIRO do not have any additional responsibilities or work which does not relate to the IRO Service.
Question:Dear Sir/ Madam,
The public have previously asked for the FII audit data to back up the reassurances given by Cabinet members that the rate of FII allegations in Herefordshire are not higher than the national average. The public were told that the data would be available by 18 November. That date slipped and we were told it would be available in January. Nothing has been published yet and we are now five months since the reassurances were given.
Ms Donna Conway
Response:Thank you for your question.
The audit is not yet complete and has taken considerably longer than was originally anticipated due to the need to check many cases manually. It has not been possible to simply run a report and arrive at a number in this particular case.
Once we have concluded the activity we have made a commitment to making the findings public.
· Response (PQ2, 11/10/22 CYPSC) states that 10 children were placed for adoption in 2021?22. However, the HSCP report and LAIT states 22 children.
· Response (PQ18, 9/12/22 Council) gives average weekly cost in “residential” care as £3,249 ([£4,223,305 ÷ 50] ÷ 26) but FOI2022/01890 states £5,066.
Incomplete responses eg:
· The response (PQ2, 11/10/22 CYPSC) had missing data for Herefordshire (not for other areas).
Late responses to supplementary questions eg
· On 7/2/23 for 9/12/22 meeting (many questions were about Herefordshire Children’s Services).
Sometimes information requests by the CYPS Committee are not provided or not timely provided and sometimes the Progress Report is not up-to-date.
Please will the CYPSC escalate the above concerns about responses to public questions ... view the full minutes text for item 130.
Questions from members of the council
To receive any written questions from members of the council.
There were no questions received from Councillors.
Developing SEND services - progress report PDF 235 KB
To provide an update on progress and impact of activity undertaken within and across the multi-agency partnership in response to the recommendations made following the Local Government Association (LGA) Peer review carried out in October 2022.
a) The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee note the activity and progress thus far in responding to the recommendations of the Peer Review conducted in October 2022; and
b) The committee indicate any specific areas of practice, performance, or development that it would like to consider in the future work plan.
The Chair suggested to the Committee that it might be helpful to have officers present the Developing SEND Services Progress Report, Draft SEND Strategy and SEND Peer Review Feedback together. Then approve the progress report and peer review feedback and invite discussion and questions on the draft SEND strategy. The committee agreed unanimously to proceed in this manner.
SEND Services Progress Report
Liz Farr (Service Director, Education, Skills and Learning) introduced and gave an overview of the developing SEND services progress report, which provided an update on progress and impact of activity undertaken within and across the multi-agency partnership in response to the recommendations made following the Local Government Association (LGA) Peer review carried out in October 2022.
It was explained that the review made a number of recommendations, as well as identifying strengths in the provision of the SEND pupils in Herefordshire, it was advised that it would be useful to bring together short and medium priorities and actions to address the actions that were received in the report.
It was stated that the SEND partnership group, made up of health, education and school representatives, met regularly to consider and re-evaluate the improvement priorities. A self-evaluation document had been completed along with a draft SEND strategy. Underpinning the strategy was a thorough SEND action plan. Governance arrangements had been strengthened through the establishment of a SEND strategic board chaired by Deborah Glassbrook (Director of Optimising Potential Limited).The strategic board met on a monthly basis.
An update was provided on Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) performance, with the percentage of plans being received within 20 weeks within the County being above the national figure.
It was pointed out that reviews of children’s plans were highly important when children were transferring from primary to secondary school and great focus had been put on this.
The service director highlighted a piece of work on local offer, regarding the services that parents could access. Officers were currently migrating all site content to one place to improve accessibility and navigation for users.
The draft SEND strategy was currently out for comment with schools and sencos (special education needs coordinators) and the service had welcomed support from external partners, meeting with the LGA SEND improvement partner and the DfE SEND Improvement advisor on a fortnightly basis.
Draft SEND Strategy
Les Knight (Head of Additional Needs) and Liz Farr (Service Director, Education, Skills and Learning) presented and provided an overview of the draft strategy.
The service director explained that following the LGA review, the service had taken the opportunity to revisit and rewrite its SEND strategy.
The draft document had been through various groups and Parent Carer Voice had contributed strongly, which was hopefully reflected in the document.
The service had worked with partners in health and education and the strategy reflected the local authorities own staff evaluation of where things were working well and where things could be better.
The document was aligned closely with the Ofsted Inspection Framework, which was republished in January 2023, ... view the full minutes text for item 132.
SEND Peer Review feedback PDF 237 KB
To share the findings of the Local Government Association (LGA) Peer review of services for children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND) in Herefordshire carried out in October 2022.
a) The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee receive this report, and alongside a separate report on the activity commenced since the peer review indicate any areas of practice or performance that would like to look at further in the year ahead.
The Committee had previously voted unanimously to include the SEND Peer Review Feedback as part of the preceding item.
Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) Annual Report 2021/2022 PDF 363 KB
The purpose of this report is to present the committee with the annual Independent Reviewing Officer report (2021/22).
a) the contents of this report are noted by the scrutiny committee, and
The committee offer any further constructive challenge, define any further action or recommendations to inform and support the Independent Reviewing Officers
Dylan Harrison (Head of Service Safeguarding and Review) provided a description of the role of the IRO to the Committee and then provided an overview of the annual report for 2021 and 2022, as provided within the agenda pack.
Q: The Committee raised concerns about the red rating of dispute resolution protocols.
The head of service pointed out that increased disputes were a healthy sign. Disputes can be extremely complex with a variety of issues, because looked after children are the most vulnerable children, but having disputes demonstrates that the IROs are being effective in holding the local authorities to account. They can’t always be resolved easily, but we work together to do that.
Rachael Gillott (Service Director, Safeguarding and Family Support) said “IROs are the eyes and ears of the service, the disputes escalated have all been appropriate and have largely focused on planning for children. The IRO needs to be a critical friend, so it’s a healthy sign to see a high number of disputes”.
Q: Why show it as red and not green in the improvement plan?
The service director explained that the red related to the signing off and completion of the new process and pathway, which had been delayed. The resolution protocol had almost been fully drafted and just needed to be completed, that was why it was red.
Q: How long between a dispute being raised and getting new actions in place? Is there a statutory time frame?
Sarah Jarratt (Child Protection Conference Chair) explained it was measured within 20 working days and the process was automated. A dispute is raised and then the system calculates what day it should be resolved by and sends that deadline out to the relevant individuals. A dispute meeting should be held if progress hasn’t been made within 15 working days to review where things are.
Q: How many children outside of that timeframe at the moment?
The head of service stated there were 19 current disputes, none of them were outside of the time frame because there was an escalating process. If things couldn’t be resolved at the first level they were escalated. The head was confident there had been improvement in this area. “We now have a tracker that we all have access to and have a greater grip on the issues where we have children with concerns.”
Q: Ms. Fiona Reid (Representative of families) asked a number of questions including the percentage of cases resolved within 20 working days, staffing levels, caseloads per IRO and numbers of looked after children.
The head of service explained that the percentage of cases resolved within 20 days was about 50% with the other 50% being escalated through the process. Staffing issues meant individual IRO caseloads (shared between the 6 full-time employees) were currently at 71, but recruitment was underway and the service would be fully staffed by summer, which would bring the caseload per IRO down. The looked after children figure currently stood at 406, a figure which ... view the full minutes text for item 134.
Children’s Improvement Plan Transformation Funding PDF 225 KB
To review the use of £11.49m from the Financial Resilience Reserve which was made available to support resourcing the transformation stage of children’s services.
a) That the contents of this report are noted by the Children and Young People scrutiny committee
Rachel Gillott (Service Director Safeguarding and Family Support) gave an overview of the report.
On 31 March 2022, Cabinet approved £11.49m Resilience Reserve funding to assist the improvement of Children’s Services. The recommendation was for funding to be allocated in two tranches, the first tranche of £5m and a further tranche of £6.49m have subsequently been released.
In respect of interim recruitment, the investment had allowed interim staff to be deployed across a number of areas:
a. Additional social work teams to manage the increase in demand during 2022/23
b. Auditors, Improvement Leads and Practice Develop Leads
c. Two additional Heads of Service (Fostering and Quality Assurance)
d. Data and Systems Analyst
e. Additional Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)
f. Managing Practitioners across the service
g. Service Managers across the service
h. Additional management and worker capacity in the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub
i. Funding to scope and implement Trauma Awareness Training being part of the learning offer
j. Scoping and commissioning of Family Group Conferences pending permanent recruitment
The remaining £473,000 had been set aside to be carried forward into 2023/24 to enable the continuation of key posts to support the response to Ofsted.
The funding had been invaluable to our current improvement journey.
The fostering head of service was highlighted as a particularly valuable post and funding had allowed for time and communication between families and foster carers and others that had had a traumatic journey.
Q: What is the reason for a forecast underspend of £688,337 at the end of the current financial year – is it targeted spending that was not made as planned (ie. the improvement plan not going to the anticipated pace) or costs being less than expected?
Q: Some time ago the DCS agreed to provide a category spend list as per the original improvement plan before the additional funding was approved, to compare how the extra money was proposed to be spent and prioritised. Could this please be provided to the committee?
The service director assured the Committee she would investigate the category spend list.
Ms Fiona Reid referenced a recommendation made by the Committee to cabinet in relation to family group conferences being introduced by April 2023.
The Committee Chair explained to Ms Reid that Cabinet had not approved the recommendation as it had feared the deadline of April was too tight.
Ms Reid raised concerns about the number and cost of looked after children in the county and stated that she believed the figure was almost double that of statistical neighbours and represented a significant drain on Council funds, which she felt could potentially be reduced by the introduction of family group conferences.
The service director explained that family group conferencing staffing and job expectations had been established and that spot purchasing through another organisation meant that conferencing would be available as of 1 April 2023.
Other key points were:
Due diligence relating to trauma informed training had been carried out regarding a provider and it was now ... view the full minutes text for item 135.
Children’s Services Improvement Plan – Implementation Review Update PDF 286 KB
The purpose of this report is to present an update to the committee in respect of the progress and implementation of the Children’s Improvement Plan.
a) That the contents of this report are noted by the Children and Young People scrutiny committee
The Committee took the reports as read.
Recommendation: For the Committee to note the included reports:
RESOLVED: The Committee unanimously noted the following reports:
(i) Improvement Plan Progress Update Cover Report - January 2023
(ii) Improvement Plan Progress Update January 2023
(iii)Herefordshire Children's Improvement Board Newsletter January 2023
A discussion took place regarding the ‘measures that matter’ dashboard.
Rachel Gillott (Service Director, Safeguarding and Family Support) anticipated potential drift where partnership connection was required and that aligning police, health and council agendas would likely take time.
The director stressed that they didn’t believe partnerships would fail and that police and health partners were all coming along, however it was suggested that timings would be staggered in terms of implementing certain plans within the partnership. The standing operating procedures had been signed off.
The Chair noted that the measures that matter dashboard had been developed by a professional group, so the committee simply needed to note the dashboard rather than make recommendations.
Resolved: The Committee unanimously noted the measures that matter dashboard.
Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (HSCP) Annual Report 2021-22
An update on responses to questions put to the Independent Scrutineer in relation to the Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Annual Report 2021-22
Due to time constraints and technical difficulties in communicating with the Independent Scrutineer, the Committee took the decision to defer the item until the next meeting. The responses to the Committee’s questions from the Independent Scrutineer would be returned to the Committee as a report for the next meeting.
An update in relation to the forthcoming Ofsted paper.
No update was available.
This report provides a brief summary update on issues previously considered by the committee.
The Committee received the report as set out on pages 151-158 of the agenda, which provided a brief summary update on issues previously considered.
It was resolved that:
(i) The progress report on scrutiny information requests, scrutiny reports and recommendations and other matters raised by the committee be noted; and
(ii) Those information requests where a response has been received be agreed as completed, and any other outstanding items be requested for the next meeting.
To consider the work programme for the committee.
The committee unanimously approved a set of suggested items for the incoming committee to consider for future agendas.
Date of the next meeting
The date of the next meeting was to be confirmed.
The meeting ended at 17:23