Agenda and minutes

Children’s Services, Education & Skills Scrutiny Board - Monday 12th September 2022 6.00 pm

Venue: Civic Suite

Contact: James Hughes  Democratic Services


No. Item



To receive any apologies.

Additional documents:



Anna Stephens sent her apologies. Cllrs L McCarthy and A Wilson attended virtually.


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.)

Additional documents:


None declared.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 241 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 9th June 2022.

Additional documents:


The minutes were received as an accurate record of the meeting held on Thursday 9th June 2022.


PROPOSED: Cllr D Gibbin

SECONDED: Cllr A Burrow


Questions and Deputations

To deal with any questions or deputations received.

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There were no questions or deputations received.


Update report - Corporate Parenting in Solihull pdf icon PDF 331 KB

1.1 To inform Board members of the progress and current position in relation to corporate parenting in Solihull.

1.2 To outline how Solihull MBC and its partners have supported our children in care and care experienced young people, by striving to be excellent corporate parents, taking corporate parenting into service areas and ensuring that teams understand what it is and how they can support.

To raise awareness both of the needs of children looked after and care experienced young people and OVOS (Our Voice Our Services) our children in care council, which gives a voice to children and young people through monthly meet ups and supports them to take part in local and national forums, chair their own review meetings, as well as planning events and activities for all Solihull children and young people who are looked after or care experienced.


Additional documents:


Iona Payne, Assistant Director for Safeguarding introduced the report (Pages 11-17).


Questions were as follows:

·  Cllr R Holt – what is the home set up allowance and what can it be used for? Does a deposit for a property come from the allowance?

o  Iona Payne – It currently stands at £2,000 and is used for whitegoods/furnishings. The deposit doesn’t normally get used from the allowance and in some cases the Council will act as a guarantor for a child.

·  Cllr D Gibbin – Is it correct that the allowance was last reviewed in 2014?

o  Iona Payne – Yes, that is correct.

·  Cllr A Rebeiro – How are looked after children doing academically compared to children who aren’t looked after?

o  Tim Browne – Results are being verified by exam boards at the moment, once this has been completed the service will bring a report to the board for scrutiny.

ACTION: James Hughes to add this to work plan and liaise with directorate.

·  Cllr J Hamilton – How successful has the service been in supporting looked after children in securing dental appointments. This is mentioned in the report but is there any data on success?

o  Iona Payne – I do not have the information on that to hand but would be happy to come back with a written response.

ACTION: James Hughes to follow up for a written response.

·  Cllr D Gibbin – Is it still the case that all looked after children are placed into OFSTED rated Good or Outstanding schools?

o  Tim Browne – This is the expectation in the service; however, schools are being inspected all the time and ratings can move up or down.

·  Cllr A Wilson – The report references training in relation to Corporate Parenting for staff, is this offered to schools’ staff, and can it be offered to Councillors?

o  Iona Payne – Yes this can be offered.

Corporate Parenting Training Is Already Offered In Councillor Training.

·  Cllr A Wilson – How many children participated in the Commonwealth Games ticket scheme?

o  Ioane Payne – There were 400 tickets available and a substantial number of children took part. The tickets would have also been offered to their carers too.

·  Cllr A Burrow – Picking up on the educational outcomes of looked after children, how much effort goes into looking at the full suite of educational outcomes, including trade professions?

o  Ioana Payne – All routes are looked at for the children including apprenticeships.

·  Cllr A Mackenzie – The number of looked after children has risen over the last few years. Are there enough staff to cope with the increase and ensure the children are getting the best service?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – This is covered in more detail under Item 9 on the agenda.

·  Cllr S Gethen – SOLAR is mentioned in this report. What support is offered to children and how long do they have to wait?

o  Julie Hackett – SOLAR has recently gone through reorganisation to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Update on Delivery of the Placements and Sufficiency Strategy for Children Looked After and Care Experienced Young People 2020-2024 pdf icon PDF 206 KB

To provide Scrutiny Board with an update on the delivery of the Placements and Sufficiency Strategy for children looked after and care experienced young people.


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Julie Hackett, Head of Service – Commissioning for Children and Young People, presented the report. This strategy was approved in 2020 and appears before the Scrutiny Board annually, this marks the second review.


Questions included:

·  Cllr B Groom – Focusing on Item 4.1.1 (c) and (e) (Pages 22-23) what signals are coming out of the Competition and Market Authority about their solution?

o  Julie Hackett – We know they are looking at a number of options including more of a regional focus, but we are waiting on the final decision to be made by CMA and HM Government. What it does highlight though is the need to have as many in-house Foster Carers as possible so that we are not beholden to the private market.

·  Cllr J Tildesley – Focussing on 3.5.2 (c) and (d) (Page 21) where are we at with the Childrens residential homes. I understand each home will only take 3 children, is this really going to be enough?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – I understand the leases on the three homes are to be signed imminently.

o  Julie Hackett – We should get our OFSTED rating in Spring of next year where we will start to see real progress. 9 places are a significant amount for the Council, there are only 24 children in the borough whom are placed in residential care. If we need more then the service will look at that, but the focus is on getting the 3 set up and working well. So far, the children have been heavily involved in the set up of the 3 homes and are excited.

·  Cllr J Tildesley – In relation to foster career recruitment, this has been an issue for some while now, is it not the case we have to pay them more money?

o  Julie Hackett – It is true to say we have struggled for a while; we have now employed a marketing agency to help drive up the number of foster carers we have in the borough. On the issue of whether we should be paying our foster carers more, we are on a par with other Local Authorities in the West Midlands, but we are keeping an eye on the level of payment in light of the increase in Cost of Living.

·  Cllr A Wilson – What proportion of children are placed outside of the local authority area?

o  Julie Hackett – Currently 11% of Children are placed more than 20 miles away, however this does include those children whom are placed with connected carers so we are looking at how we can better report on the data.

·  Cllr A Wilson – In relation to item 3.5 (c) (Page 20) which talks about the struggle of recruiting foster carers. Are there suitable existing foster carers who don’t have room in the house but want to take on a child or increase the number of children they look after? If there are what can we do with Solihull Community Housing to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


September Children's Services Performance Data pdf icon PDF 762 KB

To provide the Scrutiny Board with the data requested at the last meeting.


Additional documents:


Cllr D Gibbin introduced the item and advised members that this would be a document that would come before the committee on a regular basis and the format was a working progress. Cllr D Gibbin advised that he was working with James Hughes to look at what other Childrens Scrutiny Boards at other local authorities, who had received an OFSTED rating of Outstanding, were doing in regard to data reporting.


Questions included:

·  Cllr A Burrow – 26% social worker turnover is a scarily high number – can I seek clarity?

o  Tim Browne – This is a market issue nationally; other local authorities are experiencing the same issues as Solihull. There is a piece of work ongoing to improve the retention rate within the authority.

·  Stephanie Freeman (Independent Co-Opted Member) – What is the target we are aiming for in relation to completing EHCP plans within the timescales by the end of the year? What are we also doing to learn from the tribunals that we lose?

o  Tim Browne – I don’t have the target data to hand, but I know as of last month the rate stood at 89%. In relation to tribunals there is a Quality Assurance process in place so that we can learn from mistakes, but I would be happy to get more data for you to look at in relation to tribunals.

ACTION: Tribunal data to be added to the next meeting.

·  Cllr S Gethen – How many EHCP’s go to 20 weeks and then appeal the outcome. Is it possible to get the reasons why they appeal?

o  Tim Browne – We can look at how we present the data in the table to include this.

·  Cllr B Groom – I think the data is really useful and I would like to see this on a regular basis. On item for 4 is it possible to get more data on the resolutions that have taken place?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – Yes we can look at securing this data.

·  Cllr D Gibbin – Would there be scope to look at a Councillor resolution process for EHCP tribunals?

o  Tim Browne – No there wouldn’t be as this is a statutory process.

·  Cllr A Wilson – Is it really that low of a number of EHCP’s that go to a tribunal process?

o  Tim Browne – Yes, it is a low number in proportion to the amount of EHCP’s that we undertake.

·  Cllr R Holt – Is it possible to see the number of unallocated cases without social workers?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – We can request the data.

·  Cllr S Gethen – Can we see data relating to the annual reviews of EHCP’s?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – We can request the data.

·  Cllr A Burrow – Can we see data over more of a time period to give more of an overview?

o  Cllr D Gibbin – Yes we can request that.



National Education Changes: Schools White Paper & SEND Green Paper DOTX 84 KB



To update members on the changes to the education system which will be introduced by the Schools White Paper and are proposed through the SEND review green paper “Right Support, Right Place, Right Time”.


Additional documents:


Tim Browne, Interim Director of Childrens Services, introduced the report. He said it was a report of two halves and that Clair McNeil, Head of Service Education Outcomes & Intervention, would introduce the Schools White Paper and then he would introduce the SEND Green Paper.


Cllr D Gibbin asked the board before they considered the report which members would be in favour of the Local Authority exploring setting up a Multi Academy Trust (MAT), 10 members indicated they would be. Clair McNeil then presented the first half of the report.


Questions and comments included:

·  Cllr R Holt – There is a big difference in the sector between the levels of Primary and Secondary schools that were academised; it often tends to be that primary schools are not operated as academies whereas secondary schools were. He aired great reservations in relation to the academisation process and stated if the Local Authority was going to explore setting up a MAT, then the question has to be how to we make good and outstanding schools even better than they already are in the process.

o  Clair McNeil – This is why we want to see the results of the Local Authorities taking part in the pilot trial to see how they set up the process and resource and whether it does make a difference. As things stand there isn’t enough detail to make any decisions.

·  Cllr J Tildesley – Thanked officers for bringing forward the report. It is my view that this legislation is not for those authorities who have good/outstanding educational services like Solihull but for authorities where it is failing. There is a concern around who the Regional Improvement Directors will be accountable to, they aren’t elected, and they will have oversight of the services instead of the Local Authority. The legislation also alludes to the fact that Local Authorities would be able to create multiple MAT’s not just one – is that correct? Finally, the north of the Borough is crying out to be an educational investment area – can we push for it to be created as such?

o  Clair McNeil – We have great relationships with all of our educational partners both schools and Department of Education officials and we would seek to build a strong relationship with the Regional Improvement Directors but also continue to have difficult conversations with schools where the Local Authority felt the school wasn’t performing to the standards they expected. It is also true to say that under the existing White Paper the Local Authority could set up multiple MAT’s not just one.

o  Tim Browne – On the point regarding Educational Investment Areas the Department for Education has guidelines on the areas that would qualify, and they remain very clear.

·  Cllr B Groom – On Educational Investment Areas do they [Department of Education] take into account the whole borough or just areas of the borough?

o  Tim Browne - Department of Education look at them centrally and it would include the borough as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Update on Children's Services financial position for 2022/23 (in year) and the implications for the forthcoming Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) pdf icon PDF 559 KB

Update on Children's Services financial position for 2022/23 (in year) and the implications for the forthcoming Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS)

Additional documents:


Tim Browne, Interim Director Of Childrens Resources, introduced the report and would be supported by Paul Johnson, Director of Resources & Deputy Chief Executive, when taking questions. Tim highlighted the financial pressures on the service in the report were not exclusive to Solihull and many other Local Authorities were in the same situations.


Questions and comments were as follows:

·  Cllr B Groom – Years 23-26 it looks to be that there are pressures of just shy of £20 million with a number of cells left ‘TBC’. It seems to be we have two options in front of; either raise Council Tax or cut services further. Neither of these are appealing with the current rise in the cost of living. My question really is How? How are we going to do this?

o  Tim Browne – We have difficult decisions to make but at the heart of every decision we will make will be ensuring that children remain safeguarded. The budget strategy is coming up and we will welcome members participation in that process.

o  Paul Johnson – This report has been through a number of meetings both with officers, Executive and further Scrutiny Boards. At the end of the budget strategy meetings, which are cross party, this board will receive a recommended budget for Childrens Services. It is important to note thought that these pressures already take into account raising Council Tax.

·  Cllr B Groom – With inflation and issues in retaining and recruiting staff that we have already spoke about this evening are we going to see this number get bigger?

o  Paul Johnson – We will have to look at the number of agency workers we are using and how we can recruit more permanent staff.

·  Alan Rebeiro – I understand that this service area is very hard to predict demand and numbers can fluctuate within the year, so it makes planning services very hard. Have we ever considered looking at a funding precept akin to the Adult Health and Social Care precept we levy?

o  Paul Johnson – This would need a change in national legislation for us to do.

·  Cllr J Tildesley – I wanted to thank officers for their work in putting this report together. It is a very brave and brutally honest report but one we need to see. It shines a light on the difficult situation that Children Services are operating within, and I stand behind the directorate in supporting their work.

·  Cllr M Gough (Portfolio Holder for Children & Education) – This report does show that we have some very difficult political decisions to make about the service and I thank the board for their input in the process ahead.

·  Stephanie Freeman (Independent Co-Opted Member) – When are we going to get better Level 2 Early Help offer in place? We are failing to get the help in early enough and then this is leading to a higher need and ultimately more money.

o  Delyth Berni (Assistant Director Improvement and Partnerships) – We are  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Multi- Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) - Multi-Agency Audits and LSCP Data Set pdf icon PDF 372 KB

This report sets out to provide an overview and update of the work of the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) both in relation to multi-agency audit activity taking place and the LSCP multi-agency data set work currently taking place.


Additional documents:


The report was presented by Anthony McGregor. He informed the board they are only just looking at Q1 data and the audit work is in the early days.


Comments and questions included:

·  Cllr D Gibbin – The report seems to highlight a lot of meetings but we don’t have the data in the report to be able to scrutinise. Can the data be brought to the board when it is available.


OVOS Visit - Verbal Update

To update members of the board on the recent visit to OVOS.

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Cllr D Gibbin thanked officers for facilitating the visit. He informed the board that there was to be another visit. James Hughes informed the board that the next visit date had been set to 5th October 16:30-18:30pm and that only three members can attend.


Cllrs D Gibbin, A Mackenzie and Y Clements all said they were able to attend.



Work Plan pdf icon PDF 444 KB

To review and note the work plan of the Scruitny Board for the remainder of the Municipal Year.

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The work plan was noted by the board. James Hughes advised the board that the Task and Finish Group they wished to set up looking at the Josh McAllister Report alongside the Looked After Children Service would need terms of reference.


The Terms of Reference were set out as below:


1.  To review the Josh McAlister report and its potential impact on Childrens Services in Solihull and make recommendations to the board on action that should be taken.

2.  To review the Looked After Children service as is, where the service could be in the future and make recommendations to the board on its future.

3.  To present the CSESSB with a report detailing its findings and the recommendations the Task and Finish Group have decided upon.

Membership of the group is to include Cllrs D Gibbin, L McCarthy, B Groom, A Burrow, R Holt as well as Independent Co-Opted Member S Golby. Cllr M Gough as the portfolio holder will be invited to attend.


RESOLVED: To adopt the Terms of Reference.

PROPOSED: Cllr D Gibbin

SECONDED: Cllr A Mackenzie.