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

No. Item


Apologies for absence

To receive apologies for absence.



Apologies were received from Councillor Rob Williams.


Named substitutes

To receive details of members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the committee.


Councillor Frank Cornthwaite substituted for Councillor Rob Williams.


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.


There were no declarations of interest


Minutes pdf icon PDF 419 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2023.

Additional documents:


It was noted that councillor attendance records for the meeting were not accurate and needed to be amended.


Including noted amendments, the minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2023 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.


Questions from members of the public pdf icon PDF 446 KB

To receive any written questions from members of the public.

Additional documents:




Eddy Parkinson

Scrutiny Meeting:

September 2023

Supplementary Question:


I draw attention to the last sentence of the response. 

‘Everyone with significant contact with children’. 

I ask the council to define ‘significant’ in relation to contact with children. Is this based on hours? Is there a policy the council uses? 

Thank you 



Response: Delivered by Councillor Ivan Powell during the meeting.


Councillor Powell thanked Mr Parkinson for his original and supplementary questions and stated:


“Significant in the context of the question refers to those members of staff who would have direct face-to-face contact with children. Many children’s services colleagues do have indirect contact with families, where an enhanced DBS (disclosure and barring service) check may not be required. The numbers of hours worked is not a factor in this process and the requirement for an enhanced DBS is written into all job descriptions for members of staff who are expected to have direct face-to-face contact with children.”






Rachel Gallagher

Scrutiny Meeting:

September 2023

Supplementary Question:


"On the 18th August 2023, CJ, an information governance officer for Herefordshire Council responded to a Freedom of Information request regarding a Reunification Policy. She confirmed that there is NO policy currently in place and no timescales for when it will be completed.

Without a policy, procedures lack clarity and consistency. Without this policy, parents do not know what's expected of them, social workers don't know when to use the procedure and no one knows why it should be implemented and when. Therefore, children are not being returned to their parents and remain in care.

With no policy in place to ensure this procedure is used, even when recommended by independent social workers, how are you reducing the number of children in care?"


Response: Delivered by Councillor Ivan Powell during the meeting.


Councillor Powell thanked Ms Gallagher for her original and supplementary questions and stated:


“In response to the original question we referenced our reunification practice guidance and that forms part of the overall permanence policy for the council. The freedom of information request referred specifically to the reunification policy, we acknowledge that we should have referred specifically to that reunification practice guidance, we would like to apologise for any misunderstanding that many have been caused by that.


Children in care have an independent review officer, who chairs children looked after reviews, where the care plan, including the plan for permanency is considered. There is an a established permanence panel, which ensures that there is an appropriate permanence plan in place and this includes children who are potentially suited to a plan of reunification. There is also a permanency champion in post, who has a dedicated team of social workers, specifically focusing on the discharging of care orders and supporting children to go home to the care of their parents and or family members where this is in their best interest and is in line with their care plan.”





Hannah Currie

Scrutiny Meeting:

September 2023

Supplementary Question:


To quote from your response to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 156.


Questions from members of the council

To receive any written questions from members of the council.


There were no questions received from Councillors.


Early Help pdf icon PDF 221 KB

This report shares information with the Committee regarding the nature of both targeted and universal early help services in Herefordshire, along with additional information regarding the service offer made by the Council.


Additional documents:


The committee took the report as read and the debate was opened up for questions.


The committee asked how the council and partners engaged with children and families to determine need and demand for services. It was asked how well the partnership knew the families, their strengths and the pattern of service use, and how this knowledge determined which services were being provided.


The Director of Children’s Services explained that allocation of services was based on historical data primarily taken from the JSNA (Joint Strategic Needs Assessment) and that the JSNA was being updated by colleagues in public health in the next six months.

It was explained that the JSNA was a data set that was refreshed periodically, and informed by service user feedback and by demographics and information obtained from schools and voluntary and community sectors. Additional information was also obtained from the census data.


It was noted that a lot of early help and prevention services were delivered through school hubs and Talk Community hubs.


The Head of Services for Early Help stated that families were identified by those professionals or people who knew or worked with the family and that advice and signposting could be given depending on the level of need. The CHAT (Children’s Health and Advice Team) and the helpline it operates could signpost for early help services before the need for targeted services.


There was a windscreen of needs from levels one to four. Level one was safeguarding, level four was where universal services were required. Levels two and three were where the CHAT helpline, school, health and police services came in.


The Head of Services for Early Help explained that where needs were more complex families could be offered an early help assessment, which was an assessment of the needs of the whole family including all children and adults. This was done with consent and the professional would draw up a plan of support to address any needs. The early help assessment was a working document that was regularly updated and reviewed. If additional needs had been identified, targeted support would go into the family home. Professionals would also work with other adults who have a role in the life of the child, such as grandparents.


Work was carried out with children to understand their lived experience, which could highlight further needs.



The committee noted that needs were changing rapidly due to the fallout from Covid and the cost of living crisis. The committee hoped a revised JSNA might draw attention to other needs, but questioned whether services would be able to respond to and adapt to changes in the community.


The Head of Service for Early Help explained that that early help and the wider partnership was constantly evolving and developing depending on needs. The CHAT helpline had identified an increase in calls about mental health and anxiety, and staff were being trained in the fearless parenting programme, which was aimed at parents with children who suffer with anxiety. The CHAT was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 158.


Families' Commission Report Update pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To update the Scrutiny Committee on the Families’ Commission report.


Additional documents:


The Director of Children’s Services gave and introduction and overview of the report and explained that it had posed seven questions for consideration some directed at the council and some at the partnership.


It had been agreed with the commission that there would not be a rush to give glib, shallow responses to these questions and that adequate time would be taken to stop and reflect.


The Director sought the committee’s agreement to provide a further update in three months’ time on the progress and impact of the steps taken since the publication of the commission’s report. The director stressed that this would not be a paper exercise for the council and its partners. Long term responses and plans had been developed and a direction had been taken to further engage with some of the families who had met and spoken with the commission.



The committee asked the Independent Scrutineer for the main points that were raised by the commission and what progress had been made.


The Independent Scrutineer started by thanking the families involved for their contributions.


The Independent Scrutineer noted the areas of overlap involved in responding to the commission and the overall improvement journey that children’s services was on.


It was explained that partner engagement with restorative practice would help meet some of the recommendations of the commission and that a trauma informed awareness training package would be rolled out across the partnership over the coming months.


It was stated that focusing on the way the partnership worked, the culture and the way it interacted with the families who were involved with the social care system would be key to success in the future, but that all of this would take time to get right.


The partnership would need to find ways in the future of ensuring it got direct feedback from families going through the system and that the restorative approach being rolled out should help that.



The committee enquired as to what the restorative approach would look like, what differences families who had used the service before would notice and whether the ‘Think Family’ approach would be embraced.


The Independent Scrutineer explained that the new approach would focus on ‘working with and not doing to’ by seeking joint solutions to issues and that children would stay with their families whenever it was safe and possible for them to do so


The Director of Children’s Services pointed out that restorative/relational practice was a model of practice that had been around for many years and that if the committee wished it would be possible, with joint input from the Leeds improvement partner, to carry out a workshop on the subject.


The Director acknowledged that one of the key criticism of children services had been that families felt they had been ‘done to and not worked with’. Some families had come for help and support and felt that the service hadn’t provided that and had been heavy-handed or escalated things in an unhelpful way.


The service had tried  ...  view the full minutes text for item 159.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 257 KB

To consider the work programme for the committee.


The committee discussed the work programme and noted that:


The SEND Action Plan item would be rescheduled for the November meeting.


The Statutory Scrutiny Officer was preparing work around CAMHS and was aiming to get in a briefing before the November meeting.


The Director for Education, Learning and Skills and the Statutory Scrutiny Officer were planning to hold a briefing on the education powers and duties of the local authority, to help the committee to better understand how it might shape scrutiny around education going forward - a tentative date of 19October was proposed for this briefing.


The anticipated Safeguarding Children Partnership Annual Report, was not time sensitive and could be scrutinised by the committee early in the New Year, most likely in the January 2024 meeting.


Date of the next meeting

Date of next meeting: Tuesday 14 November 2.00pm


Date of next meeting: 14 November 2023 2:00pm