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To receive any apologies.
Apologies were submitted by Councillor McCarthy (Councillor Adeyemo – substitute) and Co-Opted Member Mr B Hall.
Declarations of Pecuniary or Conflicting Interests from Members
To receive declarations of interest from Members.
There were no declarations of interest.
Questions and Deputations
To deal with any questions or deputations received.
There were no questions or deputations.
To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd November 2020.
The minutes of the previous meeting, held on 3 November 2020, were presented. It was request for the following amendments to be made:
· That Co-opted Member Mr B Hall be recorded as in attendance.
· That resolution (iii) of agenda item 7 – Update: School Exclusions; Elective Home Education; School Attendance; Part-Time Timetables and Off-Rolling – be amended to read as ‘Agreed for the minutes of this meeting, as well as the information submitted by Solihull Parent Carer Voice and the North Solihull Additional Needs Support Group to be shared with the Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills.’
That the minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record, subject to the amendments detailed above.
To appraise the Scrutiny board of the challenges and learning from the delivery of children’s social care during the Covid-19 pandemic and the implications for staff wellbeing.
The Assistant Director for Children, Young People and Families presented the report, which informed the Board of the challenges and learning from the delivery of children’s social care during the pandemic, as well as the implications for staff wellbeing. The following points were raised:
· For Solihull Children’s Service, they had decided not to introduce many of the ‘flexibilities’ permitted by Government at the start of the pandemic – they had continued to provide an ongoing safeguarding service via a combination of both face-to-face and virtual support.
· There had been excellent working across Directorates to ensure appropriate PPE and guidance was issued to staff.
· The Department of Education provided laptops and routers, which staff were able to distribute to vulnerable children and young people across the Borough.
· There had been a significant increase in the numbers of children in care, as well as a rise in complexity of needs. These trends were reflected both regionally and nationally.
· This situation was further exacerbated by children not leaving care as planned, due to the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions, including upon court processes.
· In regards to impact on staff during Covid-19, many employees found it difficult to maintain a boundary between home and work life. Many staff found a number of aspects of their work took longer than normal, such as the challenges around conducting visits.
· Further funding was secured to provide additional agency Social Workers for the most affected teams.
· Managers had increased the volume of one-to-one supervisory meetings held, in order to provide greater support to staff. Additional psychological support had been arranged for staff, where required.
· Social Workers were offered the opportunity to take a longer break over Christmas and New Year, with managers and agency workers covering the two days staff would normally be in over this period.
Members were also provided an update on the ILACS action plan – specific details of progress against each of the ten recommendations were provided in the action plan included as part of the agenda papers.
Members raised the following queries and observations:
· Members highlighted the ILACS action plan update, noting a number of deadlines had been identified for November and December 2020 – they queried whether it had been possible to adhere all of to these. The Assistant Director for Children, Young People and Families explained that, due the pressures stemming from Covid-19, it hadn’t been possible in every instance. Where necessary, new deadlines had been identified and these were being regularly monitored by the ILACS action plan cell.
· Members raised the provision of laptops and 4G routers for vulnerable children and young people – they queried how many had been provided by the Department of Education and whether they had all been distributed.
· The Assistant Director for Children, Young People and Families confirmed they had had enough laptops and routers to distribute to all the identified vulnerable children and young people. It was noted there were some spares, so these were offered to children placed with adopters within Solihull. They were ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
To seek comments on the budget proposals identified for 2021/22 to 2023/24 within the Children, Education and Skills cabinet portfolio to go forward to the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board and the Full Cabinet in February 2021.
The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager presented the report, which sought Members’ views on the budget proposals identified for 2021/22 to 2023/24 within the Children, Education and Skills Cabinet Portfolio, to go forward to the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board and the Full Cabinet in February 2021.
The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager explained how, for that year, the focus of the strategy had been on reset and recovery, following the considerable impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of this, Cabinet Portfolios had not been asked to propose savings to fulfil a corporate target, instead the focus had been upon identifying options for mitigating service pressures. The Budget Strategy Group, as part of their review of the MTFS, acknowledged the pressure in respect of Children’s Social Care placements and had made recommendations for additional funding to be made within the MTFS.
Members were informed of the challenges and pressures facing the portfolio, as well as the proposed mitigations, as set out in Appendix A. The Children’s Services, Education and Skills Finance Manager also detailed the on-going work for the delivery of the Recovery Plan to support the High Needs Block – here, additional funding of £2.5m had been allocated by government for 2021/22. Members were advised that, for the Troubled Families programme, the continuation of funding had been confirmed for one further year, into 2021/22, as part of the recent Central Government settlement. It was noted that individual Authority allocations were not yet known. In addition, the settlement had also allocated a further social care grant which equated to some £295,000 for the Portfolio in 2021/22. This would support the on-going service pressures.
Members were invited to consider the proposed fees and charges for the Portfolio, as set out in Appendix B. The report and Appendix A also set out the various impacts of Covid-19 on the portfolio’s financial position, as well as additional funding allocated from Central Government to help mitigate various pressures.
Members queried that, if the mitigations as set out in budget proposals for the Portfolio weren’t achieved, how any deficit would be supported into 2023/24. The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager emphasised that, as part of the MTFS, the Council had an established budget strategy reserve – the purpose of this was to support Portfolios’ budgetary positions over time as circumstances changed.
The Director of Children’s Services and Skills expressed her thanks to the Resources Directorate and the Financial Operations and Planning team for all their support and commitment in preparing the Budget Strategy and particularly for taking account of the significant pressures currently facing the Children’s Services and Skills Directorate.
The Children’s Services, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board:
(i) Considered and noted the pressures and mitigating actions set out in Appendix A.
(ii) Considered and noted the budget proposals outlined in the report.
(iii) Considered and noted the schedule of fees and charges proposed for 2021/22.