Children Improvement Plan - Progress Update
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday 23 November 2021 2.30 pm (Item 50.)
To receive an update on the progress of the Children Improvement Plan.
The Director for Children and Families introduced the report the purpose of which was to provide an opportunity for Members to reflect on what had been done since the non-statutory improvement notice had been put in place in May of this year and for Members to indicate which specific areas they wished to see reported on in the future.
During discussion the following principal points were noted:
· The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee would attend at least the next two meetings of the Improvement Board in order to enable greater engagement with the improvement plan. Future regular invites for attendance would be reviewed after the next two meetings based on an assessment of the benefit and relevance to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee’s work.
· A detailed performance and outcomes report was already scheduled for the next improvement focus meeting of the Committee and would be a regular feature of the Forward Plan subject to the conversations had on this matter under the next agenda item.
· The Strategic Plan was endorsed by Cabinet on 28 October and has been submitted to the Department for Education.
· Members, including scrutiny Members had contributed to the development of the Plan through a number of workshops.
· All actions stipulated in the notice had been completed. The primary focus was to establish an improvement board, a robust governance structure and to ensure necessary resources were in place.
· Ms Rhodes-White who was present observing the meeting, was the Chair of the Improvement Board that had been put in place.
· Each month the Director would present an update to the Board which would be a progress and exception report. As the Plan was very detailed it would not be examined line by line each month.
· The Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care would also provide the Board with a performance report on their area every month.
· A staff reference group had been established and this too would routinely report to the Board.
· The Department for Education had recently led a six month review of the non-statutory notice and was pleased with the direction of travel and had confidence in the Plan.
· £1.5 million of grant monies had been received from the Department for Education to speed up some of the improvement activity that was being undertaken.
· The notice would be kept in place until the next Ofsted inspection. It was always expected that the notice would be for a minimum of 12 months.
· Officers expected that scrutiny’s role was to make them accountable for delivering on what they said they would deliver on, but also to help drive the improvement agenda; for example, if scrutiny saw that the improvement journey was stalling for any reason it could keep up the pace of change by making recommendations to Cabinet and full Council.
· The work that the Committee would be doing with the LGA would help to define what scrutiny should be doing and how they should be doing it, to help keep children safe.
· The Vice-Chair welcomed the Improvement Plan and its identified role for scrutiny in holding officers to account but felt that there has been a broken contract between officers and elected members which still needed mending. Although the Plan and recent work between officers and scrutiny members had helped to start repair this broken contract, trust would only be fully established once there were some answers and clarity on what had happened in the past.
· The Committee were impressed by the rag rating system used in the Strategic Improvement Plan and would like this to be adopted for scrutiny reports.
· There was an omission of feedback from the ‘third sector’ which would greatly benefit and help inform the Improvement Plan.
· The Cabinet Member echoed the Chair’s congratulations to the Director of Children’s Services on his permanent appointment.
· It was highlighted that the use of the term special measures was inaccurate as what the Council had been issued with was a non-statutory notice of improvement.
· Although schools were not the focus of meetings currently, they were not forgotten and the Director of Children’s Services wanted to recognise the amazing job that school colleagues had done throughout the pandemic, especially in relation to pastoral care. This sentiment was echoed by the Vice-Chair and the wider committee.
The following recommendations were proposed and seconded and carried unanimously.
The Committee recommended that:
a) Feedback from the third sector (for example community groups and charities) be recognised as an additional source of information informing the whole system approach to quality assurance and performance management
b) Work on mental health in schools be highlighted in the Committee work programme
1. That the rag rating system used for the Strategic Improvement Plan be implemented for Scrutiny reports.