Agenda and minutes

Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 15th May, 2024 10.30 am

Members of the public are welcome to attend our meetings to watch them in person at any of the venues across the County. Publicly accessible meetings held in County Hall will be webcast, which means they are available to be watched live or recorded on our website. Please see our webcasting notice here. The Committee may, in certain circumstances, resolve to hold part of the meeting in private. If this is the case, you will be required to leave the meeting.

Venue: Committee Room 'C' - The Duke of Lancaster Room, County Hall, Preston. View directions

Contact: Misbah Mahmood 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from County Councillor Stewart Jones.

 

County Councillor Jeff Couperthwaite replaced County Councillor Steve Clarke for this meeting only.

 

2.

Disclosure of Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Interests

Members are asked to consider any pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests they may have to disclose to the meeting in relation to matters under consideration on the agenda.

Minutes:

None.

 

3.

Minutes of the Meeting Held on 13 March 2024 pdf icon PDF 209 KB

To be confirmed and signed by the Chair.

Minutes:

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 13 March 2024 be confirmed as an accurate record.

 

4.

Strengthening the Youth Offer across Lancashire pdf icon PDF 450 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed County Councillor Cosima Towneley, Cabinet Member for Children and Families and Kathy Ashworth, Head of Service, Children and Family Wellbeing Service to the meeting.

 

The report and accompanying presentation circulated with the agenda pack provided an overview on the key developments which have strengthened the youth offer in Lancashire. The information included a review of the development of youth activities and services within the council and in partnership with the wider youth sector in Lancashire. Further to this, the report provided information on the specific youth provision available within the council's Targeted Youth Support provision.

 

Members were invited to ask questions and a summary is outlined below:

 

·  It was queried if there was a targeted approach and investment to reduce knife crime in young people. It was explained to the committee that the Contextual Safeguarding Team worked with young people at risk of knife crime and young people choosing to carry knives, it was also highlighted to members that the Violence Reduction Network in Lancashire carried out work specifically surrounding the impact of knife crime and gang affiliation in young people and the voluntary sector was also commissioned to target youth violence.

 

·  The committee queried the current number of vacancies. Members heard the number of vacancies in youth work was relatively low across all positions, furthermore it was explained that the hardest position to recruit and retain was Assistant Youth Support Workers and this was due to the culture changing surrounding this work, and this was a nation-wide challenge in youth services. It was confirmed to members that there were currently 5.2 full time equivalent vacancies in youth work.

 

·  Further to this, the committee queried if there was a strategy in place to address the difficulties with recruitment and retention. Members were informed that reports from other local authorities presented a similar level of challenge, this could be attributed to many universities no longer offering a youth work training programme.

 

·  Regarding the part of the report detailing how all young people should have access to sufficient youth provision, the definition of sufficient access was queried, and it was further queried how sufficient access to provision was provided universally across Lancashire, specifically to rural areas. It was explained to members that there was no specific guidance around what was and was not 'sufficient' provision, the statutory duty for youth offer was light touch, however Lancashire had a very strong offer as a local authority and benchmarking figures against other local authorities showed that Lancashire was in the higher quartile of investment in youth provision. Furthermore, it was highlighted to members that the voluntary sector in Lancashire was strong and many uniformed organisations offered provision in rural areas. It was also acknowledged that the youth councils had consistently fed back to the authority that transportation in rural areas was a challenge, and provision such as mobile youth centers were in place.

 

·  Regarding the Youth Provision Audit 2024, attached at Appendix B, it was queried how organisations were selected  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Youth Justice Board Annual Report pdf icon PDF 128 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed County Councillor Cosima Towneley, Cabinet Member for Children and Families and Georgine Lee, Head of Service, Front Door, Assessment and Adolescent Services to the meeting.

 

The report and presentation circulated with the agenda pack provided information on the Child and Youth Justice Annual Plan, with information on the priorities for this year, progress made and the priorities for 2024/25.

 

Members were invited to ask questions and a summary is outlined below:

 

·  Where young people are not in education or training and instead attending a programme (the 'Chuckery' project), members queried if this was the only location of its kind and the possibility of expansion. Members were informed that the number of young people not in education, employment or training was low. It was confirmed that 'Chuckery' was the only programme of its kind and ringfenced to one location, however the training officer would make connections across other areas with business and organisations for young people to attend. It was further highlighted that the interests and needs of the child or young person were taken into account, as this provision may not be suitable for everyone.

 

·  Further to the above, it was queried by members if children and young people could gain qualifications from the 'Chuckery' programme. It was explained to members that no formal qualifications were offered, however other organisations did give the opportunity to gain qualifications.

 

·  Regarding the re-offending YOT comparisons, it was noted that most authorities saw an increase in reoffending. The committee queried what Swansea had done to gain such a significant, 15% decrease in reoffending. suggested that a benchmarking activity with authorities such as Swansea could be considered to see what the authority had done to see such a significant drop in reoffending figures.

 

·  Members commented it would be useful to have sight of a breakdown of Key Performance Indicators for each area in Lancashire, to inform a focused approach for future investment. It was confirmed the figures within the report had a focus on disproportionality, and work was currently being done to provide a detailed breakdown by age, gender, ethnicity etc. for each area in Lancashire. The dashboard tool was currently being developed and this would hopefully provide a more detailed breakdown of the figures and would allow focus to be placed on areas most in need and this was an aim for this year.

 

·  It was suggested that for future reports, the figures within the report should always be provided along with the percentages.

 

·  Regarding the Key Performance Indicator figures within the report, it was queried if these was decided locally or nationally. It was confirmed the Standard Key Performance Indicators were decided nationally, and an action plan was developed for areas identified as needing support.

 

Resolved: That the following recommendations be shared with the Cabinet Member for Children and Families:

 

  i.  Consideration be given to a benchmarking exercise to consider what Swansea have done to obtain a significant decrease in youth reoffending figures.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Annual Quality Assurance Checks pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed County Councillor Cosima Towneley, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Andy Smith, Head of Service, Safeguarding, Inspection and Audit Service and Catherine Bailey, Senior Manager, Safeguarding, Inspection and Audit Service to the meeting.

 

The report circulated with the agenda pack contained the Quality Assurance annual report and provided information on the progress made over the last 12 months regarding Quality Assurance activity across Children's Social Care (CSC).

 

Members were invited to ask questions and a summary is outlined below:

 

·  It was queried by members why the audit numbers were lower for children with disabilities and children leaving care. The committee were informed that the Audit Team previously only covered Childrens Social Care and Early Help, however this has now expanded to cover all services of Childrens Services and work was being carried out to produce a complete framework for all of Childrens Social Care. Previously, only the statutory duty was met, and this would come to the Independent Team to ensure work could be critical.

 

·  Regarding the low uptake for the trained delivery programmes, members queried if this could be made mandatory. It was acknowledged the uptake was low, and the service wanted to make this mandatory for all new managers. It was further explained that feedback had been obtained from individuals who signed up for a course but did not attend, and this was being monitored to improve and was being regularly reviewed with a view to make the training mandatory.

 

·  Members queried how the external audit (e.g. OFSTED) was working. It was confirmed that at the beginning of the year, it was set out what activity the external audit would review within Childrens Social Care.

Resolved: That the following recommendations be shared with the Cabinet Member for Children and Families:

 

  I.  That the committee support the recommendations detailed in the report to strengthen the focus and drive in 2024 – 25:

 

a.  Developing additional training for practitioners to understand the role and importance of Quality Assurance. 

 

  1. Further develop our children and families involvement in quality assurance and ensure their voice and views are heard and shared.

 

  1. To work closely with the Principle Social Worker, Practice Development managers and Children's Safeguarding Partnership to ensure learning from findings are shared and that impact of learning is measured. 

 

7.

Lancashire Education Strategy 2025 - 2028 pdf icon PDF 140 KB

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Aby Hardy, Head of Education Improvement to the meeting.

 

The report circulated with the agenda pack provided information on the current position and priorities of the Education Strategy and the proposed move to a combined strategy of Education and Inclusion in 2025.

 

Members were invited to ask questions and a summary is outlined below:

 

·  The committee raised concern over the increased demand for an EHCP (13% rise from 2022-2023) and the increased demand for an assessment (36% rise from 2022-23) and further queried the cause of the increased demand. It was explained to members that demand rose steadily until 2017, when the demand significantly increased however funding and staff remained the same. It was acknowledged that the pandemic impacted demand, as children missed social development opportunities. Members were informed that SEND units had given the opportunity to assess a child as they presented and potentially return them to mainstream education if it was a pandemic based problem causing speech and language difficulties opposed to a learning difficulty or autism.

 

·  Members raised concern regarding young people's increased access to the internet and social media and whether this had affected children (e.g. decreased concentration). It was explained to members that the impact of social media was difficult to measure, and it could not be confirmed if SEND children were more impacted by this. It was confirmed that there were widespread studies looking at the impact of significant screen time use by children as it was a widespread issue.

 

·  Concern was raised regarding poor communication between families awaiting an EHCP and the officers responsible for the case. Furthermore, concern was further raised regarding officers not communicating with councillors on behalf of families. The committee were informed that the priority was protecting the workforce, as each officer had approximately 500 cases to manage. It was confirmed that senior managers were dealing with queries from both families and councillors to help lessen the officer's workload.

 

·  Regarding the increase of children arriving in area and into country (doubled in the last 3 years), the committee queried if there was a cause to this increase. It was confirmed for the committee that this figure was children arriving in area or into country and specifically being enrolled into mainstream schools. Regarding the reason for increase, it was explained that several reasons contributed to this, for example hospital recruitment programmes from overseas.

 

·  It was noted the SEND Performance Dashboard was approaching completion.  Members queried if this would be accessible to parents. It was explained that most local authorities utilised an EHCP App for families, and this allowed families to track their case and progress and it was confirmed the county council was looking to implement a similar app for families.

 

·  Further to the concern regarding communication delays between the authority and families, it was queried if this led to complaints. The committee were informed that in order to reduce the number of complaints and court cases, the solution was to increase the work force to reduce  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Deep Dive Session on Inclusion April 2024 pdf icon PDF 132 KB

Minutes:

The report circulated with the agenda pack provided information on a Deep Dive Session (informal meeting of the committee) that took place on 23 April 2024 which focused on Inclusion, what it meant to councillors and why it matters. Members of the committee also heard from young people about their experiences of Inclusion.

 

County Councillor Mark Clifford provided an overview on the Deep Dive Session, including the focus of the session from the young people.

 

Resolved: That the following recommendations be shared with the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills:

 

  I.  That the committee support the suggestions and recommendations as detailed in the report to:

 

a.  Parent/Carers of SEND children to be invited to regular SEND Forums based at LCC Family Hubs allowing for face-to-face interaction regarding any concerns. (Important to be listened to in person rather than emailing and phone calls and a useful platform for parents/carers to meet socially over a coffee).

 

b.  A unique record or book relating to each child – (as described by Brendan Lee in another meeting about safeguarding – so that parent/carers don't feel they have to start at the beginning each time with new people).

 

c.  Consider best practice across the country which could inform our SEND provision, for example other local authorities who had digitised the EHCP. Best practice within Lancashire to be shared by those schools that had been identified as 'shining in their SEND provision' in the form of 'Twilight Inset' sessions for local clusters.

 

d.  Key Performance Indicators to be used where possible to inform the Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee about progress for SEND provision on a regular basis.

 

e.  IEPs and SEN Support monitoring and exclusion monitoring could be used to reassure members and parents that children without an EHCP were being well supported.

 

9.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Report pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report circulated with the agenda pack provided the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman further to a complaint that was raised regarding the delays in issuing an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for a Lancashire resident.

 

The committee acknowledged the seriousness of the report and further to the recommendation detailed in the report agreed to review the issue in greater depth at a future meeting of the committee.

 

Resolved: That the following recommendations be shared with the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills:

 

  I.  That the committee review the issue in greater depth at a future meeting of the committee where a detailed report from the service be provided.

 

10.

Work Programme 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 127 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee received a report which provided members of the Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee with the work programme for 2023/24.

 

Resolved: That the Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee work programme be noted.

 

11.

Urgent Business

An item of urgent business may only be considered under this heading where, by reason of special circumstances to be recorded in the minutes, the chair of the meeting is of the opinion that the item should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency. Wherever possible, the chief executive should be given advance warning of any member's intention to raise a matter under this heading.

Minutes:

None.

12.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee will be the Annual Portfolio and Service Area Update held on Wednesday 12 Juneat 10.30am in Committee Room C – The Duke of Lancaster Room, County Hall, Preston.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Children, Families and Skills Scrutiny Committee will be the Annual Portfolio and Service Area Update on Wednesday 12 June at 10.30am in Committee Room C – The Duke of Lancaster Room, County Hall, Preston.