Agenda and minutes

Children’s Services, Education & Skills Scrutiny Board
Tuesday 11th January 2022 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Suite

Contact: Joseph Bright, email:  jbright@solihull.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

57.

Apologies

To receive any apologies.

Minutes:

The following Members submitted their apologies:

Councillor Clements (Councillor M McCarthy – substitute)

Councillor Gibbin (Councillor O’Nyons – substitute)

Mrs S Freeman – Co-opted Member

 

58.

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.

59.

Questions and Deputations

To deal with any questions or deputations received.

Minutes:

No questions or deputations were submitted.

60.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 235 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd November 2021.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting, held on 3rd November, were presented.

 

Sajida Golby, Parent Governor Representative, queried agenda item 5 – Support for Children and Young People (Aged 0-25 years) with Additional Needs, Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities. She highlighted the last bullet point of the minute, which stated Members were supportive of the proposed Additional Needs Strategy. She requested for it to be recorded that she was not supportive of the Strategy.

 

The Parent Governor Representative also flagged up resolution (iv) for this agenda item and requested for it to be amended as follows:

 

(iv) Agreed for a further report to be scrutinised in 12 months’ time to review the progress made in the delivery of the Additional Needs Strategy.

 

  RESOLVED

That the minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record, subject to the inclusion of the amendments detailed above.

61.

Careers Advice and Support for NEET young people pdf icon PDF 677 KB

To outline details of careers advice provided by local education and training providers. To include:

a) Engagement with local employers.

b) The ongoing impact of COVID-19 upon career and employment opportunities.

c) Any potential changes stemming from the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.

 

To outline how young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) are identified and supported with suitable education and training provision.

Minutes:

Officer presented the report, which outlined details of careers advice provided by local education and training providers. They also informed Members how young people who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) were identified and supported with suitable education and training provision.

 

Members raised a number of queries and observations which, in summary, included the following:

  • Members highlighted how the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill included proposals for the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) which should make it easier for young people and adults to study flexibly. They queried what measures could be undertaken to ensure a good uptake of this loan by young people and adults from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The Head of Inclusive Growth detailed how they would be working with Solihull College and other partners to develop a strategy for the adult education budget within Solihull. As part of this, there would be focus upon linking this budget with the LLE, to help ensure adults and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were able to access funding and loans, where necessary.
  • Members flagged up how the report stated there had been some delays in rolling out the Kickstart programme, due to a low number of referrals from Job Centres – they requested a further update on this.
  • The Employment and Skills Strategic Programme Manager detailed how, at the end of last year, Job Centre Plus Work Coaches had been co-located within the recruitment and training centre, the Youth Hub. This had really helped day-to-day communication and ensuring people were referred to the vacancies available. There had also been focus upon promotion of vacancies available – this had included workshops, where young people had been supported through the application process.
  • Members noted how the Careers Hub provided support, including the production of a suite of video content to showcase roles, as well as reflect organisational equality, diversity and inclusion. They queried whether this included support for disabled children.
  • The Employment and Skills Manager confirmed it did and also detailed the work undertaken by the Council and Careers Hub with local special schools and alternative provisions. She also explained how they were developing specialist resources for pupils with additional needs undertaking transitions.
  • A Member flagged up how one of the main elements of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill was to ‘put beyond doubt the ability of the Office for Students to determine minimum requirements for quality by reference to absolute performance levels for student outcomes’ and requested clarification on this.
  • The Head of Inclusive Growth explained how they believed the ‘absolute performance levels’ was referring to minimum performance levels and the Office for Students would lead upon determining this. She confirmed she would seek further clarification and provide an update for Members.
  • Members detailed how local businesses had expressed interest in hiring apprenticeships and queried how they could signpost them to support. They also sought clarification on the support available, if any young people approached Councillors about apprenticeship roles as well.
  • The Employment and Skills Strategic Programme Manager detailed the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.

62.

MTFS Update – Budget Strategy 2022/23 – 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To seek comments on the budget proposals identified for 2022/23 to 2024/25 within the Children Services and Skills cabinet portfolio, to go forward to the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board and the Full Cabinet in February 2022.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager presented the report. Member comments were sought on the budget proposals identified for 2022/23 to 2024/25 within the Children’s Services and Skills cabinet portfolio, to go forward to the Resources and Delivery Value Scrutiny Board on 1st February and to Full Cabinet on 10th February.

 

The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager explained that the focus of the budget strategy this year had been on managing the significant financial challenges faced by the Council. As part of this, Cabinet Portfolio Holders had once again not been asked to propose savings to meet a corporate target, but instead had identified options for mitigating service pressures.

 

In addition, the Scrutiny Board was informed how the Budget Strategy Group had also considered some specific pressures and agreed to recommend the inclusion of additional funding through the medium term financial strategy (MTFS) for a number of priorities, including significant investment in children’s placements, children’s social care and the implementation and monitoring of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities improvement plan.

 

The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager detailed how, following the publication of the report, there had been updates from Central Government, following the Spending Review published in October 2021. The specific funding allocations receivable for Solihull had now been confirmed. As such that an additional £1.5m funding per annum for children’s placements for the next 3 years, plus a £0.5m one off contribution to the reserve fund was to be proposed for the Portfolio. It was noted this was in addition to the funding identified by the Budget Strategy Group, outlined in paragraph 3.2.

 

The specific portfolio considerations were highlighted, in particular paragraph 3.11 (e) – Other Risks. It was explained confirmation had now been received that the £2.689m of social care grant funding would continue beyond the current financial year.

 

Members were also invited to consider the proposed schedule of fees and charges relevant to this Scrutiny Board, attached at Appendix B.

 

Having received the presentation, Members raised queries and observations, which in summary included the following matters:

  • The Chairman emphasised how he welcomed the approach taken by the Budget Strategy Group, in recommending the inclusion of significant additional funding through the MTFS for a number of priority areas within Children’s Services.
  • Members highlighted the key pressures outlined in the report regarding Children’s Social Care Placements – it was noted how, in terms of UASC, there had been an exceptional increase in costs for some young people with very complex needs, who had been subject to Trafficking and Modern Slavery. This had resulted in the Local Authority needing to place these young people in secure or high cost residential placements, which had meant the Council was paying considerably more than the amount provided by the Home Office. Members requested an update on the work being undertaken to help secure additional funding from the Home Office.
  • The Children’s Services and Skills Finance Manager detailed how the Leader and the Chief Executive had made representations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 62.

63.

Work Programme - 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 436 KB

To consider the Children’s Services, Education and Skills Scrutiny Board work plan for 2021/22.

Minutes:

A copy of the Board’s Work Programme for the rest of the Municipal Year was included as part of the agenda. No additional comments or observations were made at that point in time.

 

  RESOLVED

  That the contents of the Work Programme be noted.