Agenda and minutes

Children’s Services, Education & Skills Scrutiny Board - Monday 11th September 2023 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Suite. View directions

Contact: James Hughes  Democratic Services


No. Item



To receive any apologies.

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Apologies were received from Cllrs J Butler, Y Clements and L McCarthy as well as Parent Governor Representative Kate Goode and Diocesan Representatives S Smith and P Davis.


The Chair informed the Board that former Parent Governor Representative Ms Golby would no longer be on the Board due to personal circumstances. He thanked Ms Golby for her work on the Board over several years. The Chair also informed the Board that James Hughes, the Board’s Democratic Services Officer, was leaving the Council and thanked him for his work and support.



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.)

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Cllr D Cole declared that he was a Governor of two schools in Kingshurst and that he had a family member receiving support from Childrens Services.




Minutes pdf icon PDF 404 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 5th July 2023.

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That the minutes of the previous meeting were agreed unanimously.



Questions and Deputations

To deal with any questions or deputations received.

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None received.


Action Tracker pdf icon PDF 378 KB

For the Board to receive the latest Action Tracker.

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Members were informed that some more data had been received relating to the disability team, this would be circulated after the meeting.


On the final action relating to unallocated cases, the Director of Children’s Services advised that an average time would not represent value to the Board but report on any cases that remain unallocated and the duration that they have been unallocated. This was the method used with OFSTED recently.


Cllr B Groom asked for the data provided by the Assistant Director for Education, the number of children who had been excluded/suspended, to be contextualised such as number of pupils suspended/excluded per 1000.


Improvement Journey Reports pdf icon PDF 523 KB

For the board to receive the latest reports pertaining to the Improvement Journey.

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The Director of Children’s Services introduced the Improvement Reports.


Questions from the Board were as follows:

·  Cllr R Holt – the Children In Need Visit Timeliness second bullet point, could we have more context to that data?


Ø  DCS – The stringency for Children In Need visits was not as prescribed as Child Protection, for example a child with a disability is classed as a ‘child in need’ but does not need a social worker visiting every couple of weeks. However, our reporting system was not yet sophisticated enough to accommodate these individualised approaches. However, I will acknowledge CIN visits are lower than where I would want it to be regardless of any system issue.


·  Cllr R Holt – I am worried about the perception that because they are a lower risk, they are a lower priority, can you reassure us?


Ø  DCS – We must not drop the ball on this, and it is a fair challenge.


·  Cllr L Kaye – On p.26 the Children Looked After per 10,000 it stated that we were exploring an edge of care system, I would argue we need greater pace to move from exploring to implementing.


Ø  DCS – The absence of preventative services has contributed to the high numbers we have here. I do have good news on the edge of care service, I cannot share wider details at this time, but I can say we have approached the Department for Education for funding to get the service off the ground. However, we will not see the care population drop rapidly, but it will gradually come down over time.


·  Cllr B Groom – Also on p.26 it is welcomed to see that the target you had set for Children Looked After visits had been increased after you achieved the previous target for a sustained period.


Ø  DCS – It is great to see, 95% is where I would expect a ‘good’ service to be and that is what we are ultimately aiming for.


·  Cllr A Burrow – How much are the figures in this dashboard actually used in the Service, for example at a Head of Service level?


Ø  DCS – The data is used, however one thing that will improve over time is the ability to capture ‘live’ data and use this to inform priorities and action. Our data use remains at an immature level currently. We are investing in and moving towards using Power BI, which other Local Authorities have used who have been on similar improvement journeys to ourselves, which will provide every manager with live data on their services.


Ø  AD-S – I would highlight the drop in Children In Need Visits in 28 days drop in June/July was because we made significant structural changes. So, a Social Worker will now stay with a child throughout their journey regardless of if they are escalated from a Child In Need to a Child In Protection, whereas before when that escalation happened, they were passed to a new Social  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


OFSTED Monitoring Visit Report pdf icon PDF 238 KB

For the board to be updated on the outcome of the first OFSETD Monitoring Visit.

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The Director of Children’s Services introduced the report. He informed the Board that they could expect another 4 or 5 visits before Christmas 2024. The next visit was scheduled for October and the focus would be on Children In Need.


Questions from the Board were as follows:


·  Cllr B Groom – 3.3 identifies there are a range of further improvement works required, how is this shaping the improvement plan?


Ø  DCS – These reports will drive the improvement plan and the priorities we take on as a service. Whilst the visits will inspect different areas of the service, they look for key reoccurring themes throughout such as the management grip on each area.


·  Cllr L Kaye – There is an emphasis in the inspection letter of work being needed ‘at pace’. Do you feel adequately supported by the wider Council to achieve this?


DCS – I think the key is for all improvement work we do to be embedded well as well as ‘at pace’. There is no point doing it otherwise. I think the support from the Council has been strong, I would say last year the service did not know itself, but we are in a better position. However, we do not have a huge team and we are juggling a lot of priorities.


·  Cllr S Gethen – What improvement has there been in terms of staffing?


Ø  DCS – We have to recognise our brand remains damaged by the OFSTED inspection and other negative headlines from recent times, but we are launching our academy and our reliance on agency staff is decreasing and we are launching a website focussed on recruitment.


Ø  AD-CP – Our Social Care academy will be launching this month. Retaining our Social Workers is essential to the workforce strategy. The academy will support newly qualified social workers for longer than the national requirement of 12 months by offering extensive professional support, training and wellbeing support. We have benchmarked our academy against others, and it is strong.



·  Cllr A Burrow – Do we have the turnover figures for Assessed and Supported Year In Employment Social Workers (ASYE)?


Ø  AD-P – I do not have the data to hand, but I know we do well in 1st year in retention but then that falls.


ACTION: Data to be provided on Social Worker retention including ASYE up to 3 years’ service.


·  Cllr D Cole – p.33 the last paragraph talks about parental consent being inconsistent. What are you doing to improve this?


Ø  DCS – It is important to get consent to work with the child who have come to our attention, but the forms we use, whilst they ask for consent it is not clear what the consent is actually for or the consequences of withholding consent. It is vital for the parents to understand the consequences to be able to make informed decisions. Our teams know that consent is a discussion, not a tick box exercise, but we are adjusting our systems to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


SPCV Report On The Parental Views Of The Services Provided By SMBC To Children And Young People With Special Educational Needs And/Or Disabilities. pdf icon PDF 3 MB

For the Board to receive a report from Solihull Parent Carer Voice Forum On The Parental Views Of The Services Provided By SMBC To Children And Young People With Special Educational Needs And/Or Disabilities.

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The Chair of the Board and Solihull Parent Carer Voice Forum Representative introduced the report and highlighted key findings.


Questions and comments from the Board were as follows:


·  Cllr R Holt – The findings give a real understanding for the experience of young people and parents accessing our services. Reading it strikes a chord and the information that parents present sends a shiver down my spine. Parents just seem to be bewildered by the process.


Ø  SPCV Rep – I think help early on for those parents who are starting on the journey with their children would be a massive help.


·  Cllr S Gethen – The ideal place we need to get to is for the Local Authority to have a relationship with schools to be able to support them in securing the education of that child.


Cllr A Burrow proposed the below recommendations and Cllr D Cole seconded them. The Board unanimously agreed the recommendations.



·  That the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children and Education formally respond to the report; and


·  That the SEND Task and Finish Group prioritise key themes in the report and make recommendations to the Board on its findings.



Development of Childrens Residential Homes for Solihull - progress update pdf icon PDF 762 KB

For members of the Board to note the progress made in the rollout of the three new Childrens Homes in the Borough.


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The Head of Service (Fostering, Children’s Residential Homes and Adoption) introduced the report.


Questions from the Board were as follows:


·  If we do not get the extra funding, we have requested then where will the money we need to complete the project be coming from?


Ø  HoS – We are hopeful that we will be successful but if we are not then it would be through the Medium-Term Financial Strategy process.


·  Cllr B Groom – The delivery of the final home is very close to the end of the period we have to spend the grant money. Are we closely monitoring this?


Ø  HoS – Absolutely we are. We have had a long lead in time for this so I am confident we will spend the grant.


·  Cllr A Mackenzie – On 5.4 is there a “no” missing before children?


Ø  HoS – Unfortunately not.


·  Cllr A Mackenzie – How many children are in unregulated homes then?


Ø  HoS – We have three children in unregulated homes; however, we have a plan in place and are regularly searching for regulated homes that are suitable.


Ø  AD-P – We have daily and weekly scrutiny of the plans in place for these children at the Assistant Director level.


·  Cllr A Mackenzie – How are we ensuring these children are safe?


Ø  AD-S – We visit the children weekly when they are in unregulated settings to ensure that they remain safe. I Chair the placement panel weekly and we request updates on these children which is then scrutinised by the panel as a whole. Where places have been identified we are also receiving regular updates on the progress of the placement.


·  Cllr A Burrow – What does an unregulated setting look like? Who looks after them? How long have they been in them?


Ø  AD-S – If we start with 16 and over, they can be in an unregulated/unregistered setting, which means they have not been regulated by Ofsted. However, legislation changed in April 2023 which will mean 16 to 18 year olds will have to be in registered settings so our commissioning teams have been working with our settings to get them through the Ofsted registered process over the last 3-4 months. We then have providers who have a home for young people staffed by care workers, who provide 24/7 care for them and meet their needs, but the difference is they are not registered with Ofsted, so we continuously visit the children. Some can also be CQC registered where they are meeting a health need. But all of the settings are checked and approved by our commissioning service. In relation to the length of time I do not have this detail to hand. For some of them though we have had instances where we have found placements for the child and then they present behaviour at the setting, so the home serves notice, and we have to find them alternative provision for them. There is a national resource shortage for both  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Update on key initiatives to support school attendance for children and young people with additional needs. pdf icon PDF 461 KB

For the Board to be informed of the key initiatives to support school attendance for children and young people with additional needs.

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The Assistant Director for Education presented the report as set out in the Agenda Pack.


Questions from the Board were as follows:


·  Cllr D Cole – Are there any schools that are particular hotspots? Has the number of fines gone up?


Ø  AD-E – There are certainly some hotspots in the North of the Borough which can be linked to deprivation and poverty as you can imagine. That is why we are supporting those schools with a team around the school approach. I do not have the fine data to hand but can provide you with the details in writing.


ACTION: Number of fines issued to be circulated.


·  Cllr D Cole – Do we include out of Borough children in the statistics? Does this skew our results?


Ø  AD-E – Yes, we do include out of Borough children in the statistics, however, it does not skew our results. It is also worth noting that other Local Authorities would also have to report our children in their statistics.


·  Cllr S Gethen – Do you have the data to be able to break it down to the level that would show those who are off for an identified SEND need and those who are truanting?


Ø  AD-E – Yes, we do hold that, but I do not have it to hand this evening. We also track children according to their vulnerability so that it is cross matched.


ACTION: Data breakdown to be provided.


·  Cllr S Gethen – On the issue of penalty notices, how does issuing a penalty notice help a family who is struggling with a genuine need?


Ø  AD-E- Issuing a penalty notice should be the last resort, we would be expecting the inclusion service to be helping and supporting the child.


·  Cllr A Wilson – There is an expectation for schools to reward attendance, is there an overlap between that and the proposed nurture approach we are taking? Do you think it will happen in a timely manner?


Ø  AD-E- Yes, the nurture work we are funding for all schools is part of our Delivering Better Value Work in order to improve attendance and inclusion. That forms part of our early help approach which dramatically supports children in transitioning from early years into educational settings and then maintaining attendance. One thing I would say is that we have to recognise the different circumstances of each and every child and their different needs and we encourage schools to take a differentiated approach accordingly.


·  S Freeman – Lots of families have received a large amount of information from schools as late, especially coming back to the new school year. Prof. Sir Chris Witty produced guidance about children going back to school that are ill, rather than publishing the whole document, some schools have extracted only parts to share. Are we going to make sure as an Authority we are sharing all the information?


Ø  AD-E- We send out all national guidance and advice for schools to communicate this onwards. If you  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.