Agenda and minutes

Children,Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 13th January, 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams Meeting

Contact: Earl Piggott-Smith  Tel: 01902 551251 or Email: earl.piggott-smith@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Introductions

[The Chair to welcome everyone to the meeting. The Scrutiny Officer will then read out a list of those invited to the meeting to confirm who is in attendance.]

Minutes:

 

Cllr Rita Potter, Chair, welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting and advised it was being live streamed to the press and public. Cllr Potter advised that she was not expecting any exempt or restricted items on the agenda. A recording of the meeting would be available for viewing on the Council’s website at a future date.

2.

Meeting procedures to be followed

[The Chair will explain how the meeting will proceed, how questions are to be asked and any matters of meeting etiquette.]

Minutes:

Cllr Potter explained the protocol to be followed during the meeting for asking questions and reminded everyone that microphones should be muted and cameras off, unless they have been invited to speak.

 

Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, invited all attendees to introduce themselves to confirm they were present at the meeting.

3.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following member of the panel:

 

Cllr Claire Simms

4.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest recorded.

5.

Minutes of the previous meeting ( 11 November 2020 ) pdf icon PDF 487 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record]

Minutes:

That the minutes of the meeting held on 11 November 2020 be approved as a correct record.

 

6.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]

Minutes:

There were no matters arising from the minutes.

 

7.

Spotlight Review - Safeguarding the most vulnerable pdf icon PDF 381 KB

[Alison Hinds, Deputy Director, Children’s Social Care, to present report]

Minutes:

Alison Hinds, Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care, presented the report about the work done to support vulnerable children. The Deputy Director outlined the response of the service since the 23 March 2020 when the Council workforce including social workers and members of the MASH team were advised to work from home due to national lockdown restrictions. The Deputy Director commented that the majority of staff adapted well to changes .The service has worked closely with partner agencies to support vulnerable children during the period.

The service introduced alternative methods to communicate with children and families such as social media apps. The service had quickly implemented risk assessments of all children registered to help understand where the risk of vulnerability was and their need for safeguarding. All cases were rated according to outcome of risk assessment. The Deputy Director commented that some children liked the option of virtual meetings using either Teams or WhatsApp while others wanted to continue with face-to-face meetings. The service monitors daily performance information to ensure proper oversight and reassurance that children are being seen according to their risk assessment.

The Deputy Director commented on the charts detailing visits made to vulnerable children and changes in performance since the start of the lockdown. The number of visits reduced in March but has improved in later months.

The Deputy Director commented on the work done with parents of children in need of support and the work done to encourage them to send their children to school.The Deputy Director presented a chart on number of vulnerable children attending school. The DFE has offered support to vulnerable children through a rollout of Government laptops loan scheme to allow them to access online learning resources.  

The Deputy Director advised the panel that meetings concerning vulnerable children have continued remotely using Teams. The feedback from children and young people has been positive and attendance rates has also improved which has helped to improve multi agency decision-making. The learning from the experience will be used to adapt the approach taken in the future to get the most out of the opportunities when working remotely with children. The service initially suspended face-to-face family meetings at the start of the pandemic but there are now increased opportunity to do this with reopening of the Family Time Centre.

The Deputy Director commented there has been a significant decrease in the number of referrals to the MASH during early stages of the lockdown. The majority of referrals were made by the police and there was a high incidence of referrals involving domestic abuse due to children being at the home. The increase in referrals reflects the situation of what was happening nationally.

The Deputy Director commented on the range of support offered to care leavers.

The Deputy Director commented on improvements in the stability of placements, particularly internal foster placements. The service continues to encourage children to be involved with participation and engagement groups, which have continued virtually. Health assessments for children in care have also  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Children's Social Care Self Evaluation pdf icon PDF 1 MB

[Alison Hinds, Deputy Director, Children’s Social Care, to present report]

 

Minutes:

Alison Hinds, Deputy Director, Children’s Social Care, presented a report which detailed the findings of a mid-year review of children and young people’s services as part of a self-evaluation exercise.

The Local Authority is required to produce a self-evaluation report. The information collected is helpful in understanding how the Local Authority is delivering its services, what is being doing well and what needs to be improved. The information is also a useful source for Ofsted when reviewing the performance of services. The Deputy Director referred to previous comments on the impact of the national pandemic on the service.

The Deputy Director commented on the implementation of a new electronic children’s record reporting system called Eclipse. The system went live on 21 September 2021 and enables the service to record the whole of a child’s journey to be recorded on one system.

The Deputy Director commented on the successful migration of data from the old to the new system, with only a small number of issues and overall, the whole transition has been really positive.

The Deputy Director commented on demographic profile of the City’s population and advised the panel that there are 263,357 people who live in the City, 62,276 of these are children under the age of 18. The Deputy Director provided an analysis of the number of children receiving support as at the September 2020 and commented on the reduction in the number of children and young people in care.

The service is continuing to see a reduction in the number of children young people in care and there is a program of making sure services are directed at the right level to children and families across the City. The service continues to work virtually and monitor children with a Child Protection Plan.The Deputy Director commented on the decrease in the numbers of children in need, which is lower than usual, but this may be due to impact of Covid. The Deputy Director commented on the early provision of services and the work with local partners to offer families professional support.

The Deputy Director commented on the values of the Children Services and gave details about the progress made to apply them in practice. The provision of services for children in need of help and protection The services was last inspected by Ofsted in March 2017. Ofsted made a further inspection visit in September 2018 and the findings highlighted areas for development, which have been included in service improvement plan.

 

The service is committed to giving children the best start in life. The Deputy Director commented on the key themes in the Plan on a Page 2020-2021 document and highlighted examples of work being done to achieve them.

 

The Deputy Director commented on the findings from quality assurance work and explained how the service has significantly improved the way in which audit is undertaken and the value of the information collected during the process in helping managers to understand the impact of services delivered to children and families.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Welfare Rights Briefing pdf icon PDF 1 MB

[Alison Hinds, Deputy Director, Children’s Social Care  and Helen Winfield, Head of Community Financial Support  to present report]

 

Minutes:

Helen Winfield, Head of Community Financial Support, introduced the presentation. The Head of Community Financial Support in response to a query advised the panel that there was no news about the continuation £20 weekly benefit increase currently given to people receiving Universal Credit after March 2021.  The LGA and other organisations are lobbying the Government to extend the scheme.

The Head of Community Financial Support advised the panel of the structure of the Welfare Rights Team and explained that the service provides advice and information to social workers in order to support families through the benefits claiming process. The service also undertakes complex casework to challenge DWP decisions.

There is a recognition that the need for Council services and resources is often due to financial instability as a result of benefit loss or underpayment. The Head of Community Financial Support commented on the impact of the implementation of Welfare Reform measures onsocial security benefit claimants.

The underpayment of social security benefit was highlighted as contributing to the issue of financial instability more so than other welfare reform measures such as the benefit. More recently the pandemic has affected people who were perhaps financially secure before with the expectation that as restrictions are relaxed their situation will improve and therefore this will decrease the need for Council services and resources.

The Head of Community Financial Support presented a chart detailing a comparison between the potential and actual benefit and explained the reasons for the decline in gains 2019/2020 compared to previous years. The Head of Community Financial Support added that the service is supporting children and families who need financial support calculations or who going through a process of permanent placements for children and young people in care.

The Head of Community Financial Support advised the panel that CYP Financial Officers have been undertaking Financial Support Calculations (FSCs) for permanent placements for children and young people in care since 2015.

 

However, in November 2017, the FSC Policy was revised. This resulted in an increased amount of work for the Welfare Rights Officer as the calculations were more complex. As a result of the revised policy there was, and continues to be, increases in revenue gains. However, this has increased the amount of work involved in the FSCs and reduced the Welfare Rights Officer’s ability to do benefit maximisation work, hence the decline in benefits gains figures since this time.

 

The panel queried how the service is promoted to the public who may need help and the referral process.

The Head of Community Financial Support responded that it is second tier service and its primary function is to support social workers and people in the voluntary sector.

 

If the benefit case becomes complex and representation at a tribunal is needed then there is a referral process for the voluntary sector.

 

The panel welcomed the report.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.

 

10.

Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel 2019 20 - Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 554 KB

[Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer,to present report]

Minutes:

Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, introduced the report and detailed the agenda for the next meeting on 10 March 2021. The Scrutiny Officer advised that the issues discussed at the meeting will be used to inform the work programme.

 

The panel discussed the issue of the difficulties experienced by children being taught remotely, which has highlighted the digital divide. The panel requested a report to be presented on the work being done to meet different needs and support remote learning.  Cllr Beverley Momenabadi, Digital Innovation Champion, advised the panel of sources of help available schools who are struggling with accessing sufficient laptops or mobile devices and other challenges such as the lack of mobile data and broadband or children having to share laptops. The panel were also advised that Councillors can also use their local ward funds to help meet needs from schools. The panel were advised to contact the Councillor directly to discuss the different options available to support schools in meeting their needs.

The panel agreed to receive a report to a future meeting to discuss the issue of the digital divide and the work being done to get children online.

 

The panel discussed concerns about the mental health impact on young people as a result of the pandemic and also on their emotional wellbeing. The Director of Children’s and Adult Services advised the panel that on the agenda for the next meeting is a spotlight on health and well-being. The report will include an update on the emotional well-being of young people.

 

The panel suggested that an update report on the school improvement strategy which comments on an gaps in provision and also progress made. The panel agreed to add this issue as a future work programme item

 

The panel discussed the apprenticeships and job opportunities for care leavers, particularly given the challenging employment situation. The panel agreed to add this item to a future work programme.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to update the panel work programme to include the items suggested during the discussion.