Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions
Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk
Apologies were given by:
· Councillor Hague – Councillor Redsell was substituting in his place.
· Kim James, HealthWatch Thurrock
· Lynda Pritchard, Church of England Representative
· Sheila Murphy, Assistant Director of Children’s Care and Targeted Outcomes
The Chair took the opportunity to welcome the new Parent Governor Representative, Nicola Cranch and newly elected Councillor Alex Anderson, to the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He went on to state what issues he wished to be discussed in future meetings that included:
· The outcome of a whistleblowing complaint received in January 2018.
· Free schools programme – the Committee had no input in this and should have had equal say as it was going to Cabinet for decision next week.
· School standards.
· Plans of two of the schools in Ockendon which were not on the Forward Plan.
· Youth violence and struggles and the actions of the Youth Offending Services should be scrutinised.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 13 February 2018.
Members pointed out the name of ‘Jack Lumley’ in the Minutes section of the previous minutes should be ‘Jack Lobby’.
The minutes for the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 13 February 2018 were approved.
Items of Urgent Business
To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
There were no items of urgent business.
Declaration of Interests
There were no declarations of interests.
Items Raised by Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board
This item is reserved to discuss any issues raised by the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board.
There were no items raised by the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board.
Youth Work Presentation
A presentation of the Youth Work Team was given by the Officer, Patrick Kielty. The Youth Work Team consisted of youth workers and youth support workers who were part of the Youth & Outdoor Education Team and within Inspire. They ran clubs and activities across Thurrock for young people aged 11 – 19 years of age. There was no statutory duty to do so and the idea was to support the personal and social development of young people. The Youth Work Team sought funding for projects from a number of sources which included the police commission.
Recently established projects included:
· Tilbury Youth Club;
· Ockendon Youth Club which had gotten busier with a recent number of 70 young people attending;
· Street Football which was very popular with the World Cup 2018 currently being on; and
· #USound which was a music studio based in Grays.
The Youth Work Team benefitted young people as being involved helped to boost their confidence, improve their peer relationships and improve social skills.
The Parent Governor Representative asked whether the Youth Work Team had any young carers. The Officer answered that there was none but the Youth Work Team worked closely with young carers who were also able to access the Youth Work Team’s mainstream projects.
Councillor Okunade questioned how young people would be able to get involved with the Youth Work Team. The Officer replied that it was mainly through word of mouth and social workers would refer the Youth Work Team to young people. There was a growing presence of the Youth Work Team through online social media and the team would also walk around Thurrock to see where clubs were needed. Councillor Okunade referred to the recent 70 attendees in Ockendon Youth Club and asked if the club would have coped had there been more than 70. The Officer confirmed they would have coped but there was not always 70 attending every week. The average was 20 – 30. He went on to say that the Tilbury Youth Club was also looking to add on an extra night and that they had never had to turn away anyone.
Referring back to Councillor Okunade’s earlier question, the Chair sought clarification on whether it was the Youth Cabinet or the Council that advertised the youth clubs and activities. He also wished to know the number of followers the team had on social media. The Officer confirmed the youth clubs and activities were on the Council’s website and advertised through other mechanisms. There were just under 1000 followers on Twitter but word of mouth worked best. He believed social media applications such as Snapchat and Instagram may need to be used as most young people tended to use those.
The Committee further discussed how the Youth Cabinet reached out to disaffected young people. Some of the disaffected young people were reached through schools but when a youth club opened in the area, most of them would join. There had been a lot of work done by the Youth ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Corporate Director of Children’s Services, Rory Patterson, presented the report which provided an update to the revised Children’s Social Care Development Plan 2018 – 19. In March 2016, Thurrock had been rated by Ofsted to ‘Require Improvement’ which was how the Development Plan came to be. It was based on eight priority action areas for the service.
The plan was progressing effectively and was adjusted where needed to ensure the plan would remain on track. Some improvements included recruitment and retention which provided for a more stable workforce that was positive and committed to Thurrock. Challenges such as inconsistency in social work practice were being resolved with Signs of Safety training and were being rolled out to all staff. The aim was to provide a more consistent framework of intervention and improve assessment quality. To improve the service, the team looked closely at data and audited cases on a monthly basis. Feedback from social care workers were also taken into consideration.
The Development Board had been meeting on a monthly basis and continued to do so to ensure that recommendations and areas of improvement were implemented.
Councillor Redsell sought clarification on how quickly children (who were taken into emergency crisis situations) were reunited with their families. The Corporate Director replied that the service worked with the families to resolve issues and also looked at the extended family members to see who was able to look after the child. This helped to reduce the number of children coming into care. How quickly children went back to their families depended on the rehabilitation of the parents. Councillor Redsell went on to query the number of 60 agency staff back in May 2018 which had now been reduced to 39. The Corporate Director gave reassurances that this was due to the steady recruitment of permanent staff due to the popular AYSE scheme. It needed additional work as newly qualified social workers were unable to hold a big amount of casework at once.
Referring to foster care placements, Councillor Okunade felt the timescale of 8 months was too long and asked whether there was a process to fast track this. There was a risk in losing foster carers as they would turn to private placements as it was quicker. Agreeing with this, the Corporate Director stated the service looked at appropriate ways to speed up the process but the important checks still needed to be completed. Adding to this, Councillor Anderson sought clarification on the types of checks to ensure foster carers were of standard. The Corporate Director confirmed this was through regulations, checks and through the fostering panel which the service had oversight of.
Referring to the report, the Parent Governor Representative stated seeing no weaknesses reported. She asked where the trouble spots were and what the Committee could do to help. The Corporate Director mentioned quality, practises, assurances and recruitment of permanent staff being the weaknesses. To overcome quality assurance, the service looked at data and had set up workshops to ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The report provided an update to the children’s social care service where considerable work had been undertaken to manage the high level of demand experienced in Thurrock. A reduction had been seen in the number of contacts and referrals through the service’s improved early intervention service and management of MASH.
In regards to looked after children, Thurrock was closing more cases than its comparator group but the rate of new looked after children were still higher. The service continued to monitor all new looked after children and that they were only being looked after where necessary. For missing looked after children, a reduction could be seen when compared from 2017 / 18 – 291 and 2016 / 17 – 361.
Housing continued to be a key challenge for young people leaving care and this was addressed with the Head Start Housing scheme. This provided support to help young care leavers to manage finances and to find suitable accommodation.
Through the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) framework, Thurrock had completed their self-evaluation which had been shared with Ofsted as required. An Ofsted focused visit was expected before the end of 2018.
Referring to the number given in contacts and referrals, Councillor Okunade asked the reason for the reduction which could help to identify how the service was doing well. The Corporate Director believed it may have been due to the restructuring of the prevention service that could have had some impact but he was unable to confirm as there were always variations in contacts and referrals. The service’s multi-agency servicing hub (MASH) may have added to it as well. Councillor Okunade went on to query the number of unaccompanied asylum seekers to which the Corporate Director said that there was a still a flow coming in from the Tilbury Port. However, the service was in discussions with the Eastern regions to ensure the numbers coming in were spread out evenly and in line with protocols.
On missing children, Councillor Redsell wished to know more details on why and where children went missing. The Corporate Director offered to present a further report in a future meeting if this would help. He went on to say all missing children eventually came back although some would go missing often which tended to be the teenagers. There was concern for all missing children but more so on younger children and each case was assessed differently. Echoing Councillor Redsell, the Parent Governor Representative added that the statistics given in the report had no heart and soul, there needed to be details to give sincerity to the report.
Referring to MASH, the Chair queried it being described as the front door and how effective MASH was. The Corporate Director confirmed it was common usage in the sector but was happy to reconsider the term. Through peer and external reviews, MASH had proven to be working effectively but the service remained vigilant. The Corporate Director offered the Committee the opportunity to look at MASH.
Going through ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Members requested the following reports to be brought to the 9 October 2018 meeting:
· Outcome of whistleblowing complaint; and
· Report from the Youth Offending Service.
Further reports requested by Members to be brought to the 4 December 2018 meeting:
· School Standards.
A report on Reach 2 was also requested by Members for a future meeting.