Agenda and minutes

Children’s Services, Education & Skills Scrutiny Board
Tuesday 9th June 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Virtual meeting, access on the Solihull MBC Youtube page https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7DDSVoAIgTnwgp0Ku8iFLQ

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

To receive any apologies.

Minutes:

Mrs J Hildreth submitted her apologies.

2.

Declarations of Pecuniary or Conflicting Interests from Members

To receive declarations of interest from Members in accordance with the Code of Conduct (Members are directed to the guidance attached.)

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Questions and Deputations

To deal with any questions or deputations received.

Minutes:

No questions or deputations were submitted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 413 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 12th March 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the Scrutiny Board meeting held on 12th March 2020 were presented.

 

  RESOLVED

The minutes of the meeting held on 12th March 2020 were approved as a correct record.

5.

Council support for educational settings and pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic pdf icon PDF 434 KB

To outline the council’s approach and support for schools/early years and pupils since the closure of educational settings to most pupils and the more recent announcement for the wider opening to more pupils.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director for Inclusion and Additional Needs presented the report, which updated Members on the Council’s support for schools/early years and pupils since the closure of educational settings to the majority of pupils, as well as the recent announcement for the wider opening to more pupils. The points raised included the following:

·  Following the Government’s announcement, all education settings closed from Friday 20th March and from Monday 23rd March, they had been open for keyworker and vulnerable children only.

·  The Assistant Director emphasised the breath-taking pace of change at the beginning of the closure of Schools and the Council’s response developed rapidly. During the week beginning 16th March emergency meetings were held with officers from across the Council, and the Schools Cell was established, which led the response for Schools and Early Years. The Council engaged immediately with Schools and an emergency meeting was held with the Solihull Schools Strategic Accountability Board (SSAB).

·  An attendance system was established rapidly, to track the attendance of vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers. They initially had less than 600 pupils attending School during week one of the lockdown, including 75 vulnerable children. Schools quickly adapted to the need to track and monitor their most vulnerable children. Systems were established with the Council to ensure vulnerable children were provided regular welfare checks and supported by the relevant agency.

·  The attendance of vulnerable children increased significantly – by week 8 there were 233 in attendance.

·  From 27th April, the Schools Cell shifted focus to the issues arising from Schools and Early Years settings beginning a phased reopening. On 10th May, the Government introduced its roadmap towards recovery, which included plans for the extended opening of Schools for more pupils.

·  In considering the phased reopening of Schools, the number one priority for the Council and its partners had been the safety of our Schools for pupils, their families and the workforce.

·  In regards to the impact of lockdown upon children, it was detailed how the majority had fared well. However, it was emphasised that, for other children, it had been a different story. It was anticipated the pandemic would have a significant impact upon the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

·  In responding to the challenges of the pandemic, the Assistant Director commended the Schools Cell, and emphasised the considerable work undertaken by School head teachers and staff throughout. He also specifically highlighted the work of the following three Council Officers - Steve Fenton, Head of Access & Development, Claire McNeil, Education Improvement Team Manager and Denise Milnes, Senior Public Health Specialist.

 

Councillor Gough thanked the Assistant Director for presenting the report. He also requested to put on record his thanks to School head teachers, staff and Council Officers, for all of their work throughout the pandemic – Members confirmed they endorsed this.

 

The Assistant Director responded to a number of questions that were submitted in advance of the meeting:

·  Small groups or bubbles would be suitable for many  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Children's Safeguarding arrangements during COVID 19 pdf icon PDF 185 KB

To update the Children, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board on our Directorate - Children’s Social Work, Youth Offending and Family Support Services - response during Covid-19.

Minutes:

The Assistant Director for Children, Young People and Families presented the report, updating Members on the Council’s Children’s Social Work, Youth Offending and Family Support Services response during Covid-19. The points raised included the following:

·  The MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) services had continued to be delivered throughout the lockdown. There had been a decrease in some aspects of Child Protection work; however, there had been an increase in the complexity of cases received. The Family Support Services had seen an increase in the number of Children in Need – the response to this was supported by additional social work capacity from across the service.

·  For all service areas, work had continued throughout the pandemic – however, they pursued the flexibilities the DfE and the Government had allowed, by undertaking the work virtually, such as video and teleconferencing. It was noted these changes in practice had been approved by the Local Safeguarding Children’ Partnership.

·  All statutory visits for children in care had taken place, usually virtually, however face to face visits had been undertaken, if required. 

·  Support and contact with Foster Carers had been maintained throughout the pandemic. The Council had focused upon maintaining existing placements throughout, with the agreement from both the child and carer.

·  The Council had continued to offer support to its Care Experienced Young People, with face-to-face meetings and drop-in clinics for any young people that required help with food, clothing or money/allowances.

·  The Youth Offending Service had maintained services throughout lockdown, with virtual working where required.

·  Overall, the Assistant Director confirmed that the Children’s Safeguarding Social Work teams had maintained a safe and effective delivery of services during lockdown, ensuring statutory requirements were met.

·  The Assistant Director emphasised the efforts of staff throughout the pandemic. He highlighted the impact upon employees emotional well-being and resilience, taking into account the challenges of the social work roles, especially whilst working remotely. Members were informed of the range of support for staff, which included additional one-to-one support virtually, as well as face-to-face meetings with line managers.

·  It was recognised lockdown had a significant impact upon children’s mental health and emotional well-being, especially for those already living in challenging circumstances. It was confirmed that psychology services for children and young people had been maintained. Kooth, the online counselling and support service, continued to be available and had been widely publicised by Schools and on social media.

·  The Assistant Director explained how, across the service area, they were developing reset and recovery plans. They were looking at the planned and phased re-introduction of services, including face-to-face contact with service users. They were also working with the Facilities and Asset Management Team, to assess the safety of the buildings and facilities used.

·  As part of the recovery and reset of services, they were expecting an increase in demand and referrals, as lockdown restrictions were lifted and children returned to School. The Assistant Director emphasised they anticipated an increase in domestic abuse referrals. He confirmed they were working across the service area and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.