Agenda, decisions and draft minutes

Venue: Sedgemoor Room, Bridgwater House, King Square, Bridgwater, TA6 3AR. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services on (01823) 357628 or email:  democraticservicesteam@somerset.gov.uk 

Media

Items
No. Item

Councillor Evie Potts-Jones (Vice Chair) - in the Chair

1.

Membership changes

Decision:

The Vice-Chair updated the Committee on recent membership changes:-

 

(a) Cllr Pauline Ham and Cllr Marcus Kravis have been appointed as members on the Committee, replacing Cllr Caroline Ellis and Cllr Jenny Kenton.

(b)Mrs Eileen Tipper, longstanding co-opted member on the Committee has taken the difficult decision to stand down from the role. The Vice Chair said that she is a remarkable person and is extremely grateful for the time given to the work of the committee over the years and will forward on the Committees’ thanks and best wishes to her.

 

The Vice Chair read out the following statement from the Chair – “Eileen has been an amazing, co-opted member of the committee, she has been there as long as I have, always ready to challenge or delve, her knowledge, background and willingness to question or challenge has been so valuable to me and the committee over the years. I thank her for her service and support to me. Her experience will be missed by the committee, I really do thank her”.

Minutes:

The Vice-Chair updated the Committee on recent membership changes:-

 

(a) Cllr Pauline Ham and Cllr Marcus Kravis have been appointed as members on the Committee, replacing Cllr Caroline Ellis and Cllr Jenny Kenton.

(b)Mrs Eileen Tipper, longstanding co-opted member on the Committee has taken the difficult decision to stand down from the role. The Vice Chair said that she is a remarkable person and is extremely grateful for the time given to the work of the committee over the years and will forward on the Committees’ thanks and best wishes to her.

 

The Vice Chair read out the following statement from the Chair – “Eileen has been an amazing, co-opted member of the committee, she has been there as long as I have, always ready to challenge or delve, her knowledge, background and willingness to question or challenge has been so valuable to me and the committee over the years. I thank her for her service and support to me. Her experience will be missed by the committee, I really do thank her”.

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Decision:

Apologies were received from Cllr Leigh Redman (substituted by Cllr Brian Smedley), Cllr Andy Hadley (substituted by Cllr Gill Slocombe), Cllr Suria Aujla (substituted by Cllr Rosemary Woods) and Ruth Hobbs (co-opted member). Cllr John Hunt joined the meeting on line.

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllr Leigh Redman (substituted by Cllr Brian Smedley), Cllr Andy Hadley (substituted by Cllr Gill Slocombe), Cllr Suria Aujla (substituted by Cllr Rosemary Woods) and Ruth Hobbs (co-opted member). Cllr John Hunt and Jo Simons (co-opted member) joined the meeting online.

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive and note any declarations of interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.

(The other registrable interests of Councillors of Somerset Council, arising from membership of City, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes: City, Town & Parish Twin Hatters - Somerset Councillors 2023 )

Decision:

The following declaration of interest was made at the meeting:-

 

Cllr Pauline Ham – personal interests – (a) family member works for the Leaving Care Team; (b) family member who works for the NUT.

Minutes:

The following declaration of interest was made at the meeting:-

 

Cllr Pauline Ham – personal interests – (a) family member works for the Leaving Care Team; (b) family member who works for the NUT.

4.

Minutes from the meeting held on Tuesday 12 December 2023 pdf icon PDF 132 KB

To approve the minutes from the meeting held on Tuesday 12 December 2023.

Decision:

Resolved that the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee - Childrens and Families held on Tuesday 12 December 2023 be confirmed as a correct record.

Referring to Minute 7 (EHCP- progress update), the Vice Chair advised that Cllr Nicholson had sent in her questions – confirmed that the responses are being collated and will be shared with the committee and will be published.

Minutes:

Resolved that the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee - Childrens and Families held on Tuesday 12 December 2023be confirmed as a correct record.

Referring to Minute 7 (EHCP- progress update), the Vice Chair advised that Cllr Nicholson had sent in her questions – confirmed that the responses are being collated and will be shared with the committee and will be published.

5.

Public Question Time

The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.

For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.

We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, please see details under ‘click here to join online meeting’.

Minutes:

There were no questions asked, statements made or petitions presented.

6.

Scrutiny Committee - Children and Families Work Programme pdf icon PDF 173 KB

To receive an update from the Service Manager, Governance Scrutiny. To assist the discussion, the following documents are attached:-

 

(a)  The Committee’s work programme

(b)  The Committee’s outcome tracker

 

Please use the following links to view the latest Somerset Council Forward Plans and Executive Forward Plan of planned key decisions that have been published on the Council’s website:

 

Somerset Council Forward Plans

 

Somerset Council Executive Forward Plan

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee received and noted the current work plan and outcome tracker and Executive Forward Plan.

 

The Scrutiny Manager highlighted the following:

·         The item on children’s mental health / self-harm will be considered at the March meeting;

·         To note that the Annual Report of the Director of Public Health will be considered by the Adults & Health Scrutiny Cttee at their meeting on 8 February (an item for information).

·         The MTFP will be on the agenda for the Corporate & Resources Scrutiny Cttee meeting on 1 February and all scrutiny members will be invited to attend the meeting. Implications / issues for this committee can be brought to following meeting.

·         The next meeting of the Committee is on 13 March 2024, and will be held in the JMR at Deane House, Taunton.

Minutes:

The Committee received and noted the current work plan and outcome tracker and Executive Forward Plan.

 

The Scrutiny Manager highlighted the following:

·         The item on children’s mental health / self-harm will be considered at the March meeting.

·         To note that the Annual Report of the Director of Public Health will be considered by the Adults & Health Scrutiny Cttee at their meeting on 8 February (an item for information).

·         The MTFP will be on the agenda for the Corporate & Resources Scrutiny Cttee meeting on 1 February and all scrutiny members will be invited to attend the meeting. Implications / issues for this committee can be brought to following meeting.

·         The next meeting of the Committee is on 13 March 2024, and will be held in the JMR at Deane House, Taunton.

7.

Sufficiency Strategy for children looked after and care leavers – 2023-28 pdf icon PDF 658 KB

The Sufficiency Strategy is attached and to consider PowerPoint presentation.

 

Note – the Chair will allow 30 minutes for this agenda item.

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee received a presentation on the Sufficiency Strategy for children looked after and care leavers (2023-28) - outlined the Sufficiency Strategy for Somerset, the vision, priorities, challenges and the programme to improve outcomes and sufficiency / actions to be taken.

 

Agreed that will provide foster carers data to the Committee.

 

The Vice Chair thanked officers for the presentation and the Committee noted the update.

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Richard Selwyn, the Council’s Service Director Children’s Commissiong and Julie Breeze, Commissioner – Children in Care on the Sufficiency Strategy for children looked after and care leavers (2023-28) who provided an outline of the Sufficiency Strategy for Somerset, the vision, priorities, Somerset challenges and the programme to improve outcomes and sufficiency / actions to be taken.

 

Ms Breeze explained the sufficiency means ensuring there are enough high quality homes for our children in care and care leavers. The vision is to:

·      Better support children at risk of coming into care, before they come into care.

·      Increase the number of homes for children, especially foster care.

·      Design our in-house fostering, residential care and supported accommodation so we support the most complex needs.

·      Improve choice and match homes to children, significantly reducing out of county places.

·      Reduce costs so we are within budget.

 

The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

·      Asked about the processes for recruiting foster carers – this is done creatively, to help show that this is something people can do; there is a financial element but it is about focussing on and being clear about what the offer is and the level of support / training on offer.

·      Query about the ‘new generation of carers’ point and what means – advised that in the pandemic a number of younger carers had come forward but had returned to other work and stopped caring when the pandemic ended – have reviewed fees and allowances, for example.

·      Would encourage everyone to look into fostering; have found it a rewarding experience and age is not a barrier; you are part of a team and are supported.

·      Supported housing provision for the rising 16 – 24 year olds is a huge issue – recognise this is an issue and do work closely with housing colleagues and long term strategy and are exploring a rent guarantor scheme for our children in care and care leavers.

·      Helpful to see information (movement) on numbers of foster carers – officers are happy to provide this information.

·      Question about therapeutic education provision, part of Homes and Horizons project (providing homes for the most complex children in care) – explained the complex funding mechanisms and the ongoing conversations with the DfE around the model which has to be signed-off at Ministerial level; expect this to happen soon. It is hoped that the therapeutic education provision at Misterton will be opened in April and the Head Teacher has been in place since September and staff are working with the young people already who need that support. Officers also updated on progress on Homes and Horizons, which is providing homes for the most complex children in care and is successful and a genuine partnership; are planning for homes 7 and 8 and putting finance in place for further homes.

·      Query on Somerset challenges (slide 6) and the ‘increase in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

2023/24 Children's Services - Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 944 KB

To consider PowerPoint presentation.

 

Note – the Chair will allow 30 minutes for this agenda item.

Decision:

The Committee received a presentation on 2023/24 Children’s Services budget monitoring position - month 7, focussing on – external placements monitoring & forecasting, CLA key cost drivers and the 23/24 DSG budget monitoring (High Needs, home to school transport and SEND transport).

 

Noted that the council is refreshing the DSG Deficit Management Plan (DMP) and will bring this to scrutiny in March so the committee can see what is being proposed.

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Christian Evans, the Council’s Head of Business Partnering Finance and colleagues on the 2023/24 Children’s Services month 7 budget monitoring position. The presentation focussed on external placements monitoring and forecasting, CLA key cost drivers and the 23/24 DSG budget monitoring (High Needs, home to school transport and SEND transport).

 

Mr Evans explained that the discussion on the previous agenda item on the Sufficiency Strategy for Somerset had provided good context to this item.

 

The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

·      Query about the High Needs (HN) deficit (slide 8) – there is a programme of work going on to look at mitigations around reversing the deficit on the HN block and to return the in year overspends to zero; there is also the national context (problem) and Somerset is not ‘out of line’; the government put in place two different types of activity in place and Somerset is in tranche 1 of the Delivering Better Value project; have done work with Newton Europe but this work is very unlikely to reduce the deficit to zero entirely.; referenced the Deficit Management Plan which will be brought to scrutiny so can understand what are proposing.

 

Highlighted the main issue and concern that the deficit is effectively underwritten by the government but from 2026 the government is planning to essentially stop underwriting the HN deficit, which will have a huge financial impact on this authority, and probably nearly every upper tier authority in the country.

·      Ms Simons, who represents the Schools Forum on the committee mentioned that the Schools Forum is involved in the HN discussions and will update the committee on these discussions.

·      Question on the CLA key cost drivers (slide 7) and volatility in charges / costs in sector – this is due to several sort of different pressures and drivers in the system and some of the drivers are – needs and complexity, long term effects of covid, cost of living crisis, practical changes, working hard at all levels of the system, commissioning changes, the market trajectory and effects on availability in the market place, lack of sufficiency in fostering which means using more residential care and hence the importance of the work to increase the number of foster carers and keep improving both quality as well as reducing the overall cost.

 

The Vice Chair briefly summarised the discussions at the meeting – data driven, budget monitoring, cost drivers, noting that the council is refreshing the DSG Deficit Management Plan (DMP) and will bring this to scrutiny committee in March so the committee can see what is being proposed.

 

The Vice Chair thanked officers for the presentation and the Committee noted budget position.

9.

Update on short break provision (respite) pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To consider PowerPoint presentation.

 

Note – the Chair will allow 30 minutes for this agenda item.

Decision:

The Committee received a presentation on short break provision, which is holiday activities, daycare, fostering, residential and outlined the statutory guidance, gaps / opportunities, vision and plans for the future.

 

Agreed that the Action Plan is shared with Scrutiny and officers were invited to update the Committee at the meeting in May.

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Louise Palmer, the Council’s Strategic Commissioner, Children’s Services and Jo Manning, Head of Service on short break provision, which is holiday activities, daycare, fostering, residential and outlined the statutory guidance, current resources, gaps / opportunities, vision and plans for the future / next steps.

 

They referred to the ‘sprint’ held in December which highlighted the issues which needed to be addressed (for example, process to get short breaks is too long, transport, workforce). The aim is to re-design the assessment process to be faster and to increase access to local resources so that needs can be met nearer, faster. The action plan will be finalised during January with fortnightly meetings to progress and will return to the committee in May to provide an update.

 

The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

·      Change in mindset and paid tribute to the amazing work of families / parents; are there cost implications in what is being proposed – there will be cost implications and when come back with proposals will look at cost implications of doing, or not doing things. The ‘sprint’ is a good process and the families said that the current process feels adversarial and it is a ‘fight’ and want to have more flexible local support so likely to see right level of support, to help families when they need it and want to improve what families experience and reduce costs too. For example, dealing with complaints takes time and resources (tribunals) so having fewer may be able to get more money into the right place.

·      Query on the micro providers mentioned on the workforce slide (slide 11) – clarified are in the Adult Social Care Team and are independent of the Council and provide support to adults in the community – asked if they could work in children’s service as well – and are doing a lot of work with them to dispel myths.

 

Officers explained the position re the children’s homes for respite - have retained the home for children with mild physical or learning difficulties and one for children with very complex learning difficulties, which is very close to the hospital in case they need urgent medical treatment. The decision was taken to close a third home (Beech Tree) (for children with complex needs, particularly autism) and work going forward is to have some smaller homes, creating a more home-like environment.

·      Pulling these actions together (slide 13) and local provision; comment made that need to have joined up working across the organisation and to ensure that all parts of the council are supporting this approach and not letting people get away with doing something that does not help children.

 

The Vice Chair thanked officers for the informative presentation. It was agreed that the Action Plan is shared with Scrutiny and officers were asked to provide an update to the Committee in May.

10.

Education Place Planning pdf icon PDF 475 KB

To consider PowerPoint presentation.

 

Note – The Chair will allow 40 minutes for this agenda item.

Decision:

The Committee received a presentation on education place planning, providing an overview of statutory duties, the Somerset context, projection modelling, education growth and challenges, local first approach, developer contributions, extended / expanded childcare offer and expansion of wrap around provision.

 

The Vice Chair thanked the officer for the excellent presentation.

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Phil Curd, the Council’s Head of Education Places on education place planning. He provided an overview of statutory duties, the Somerset context, projection modelling, education growth and challenges, local first approach, developer contributions, extended / expanded childcare offer and expansion of wrap around provision.

 

The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

·      Question on pupil yields and SEND figure of 0.92 children per 100 homes (slide 7) – the calculation was explained; 2% of school aged children are in specialist provision and the yield data had been recalculated recently and is accurate. When looking at developing school places the approach is the local first approach (slide 8).

·      Query on yield data (slide 7)  - some housing developments have not yielded numbers and some areas of the county such as West Somerset have surplus number of school places.

·      Developed contributions (slide 9) and is the council making best / ensure that education gets the money it needs – the current challenge is securing the contributions we need; are streamlining the planning process and LGR provides a big opportunity, to amalgamate 4 teams and for a single approach to priority areas; this is an emerging situation but an enormous step forward; the new Somerset wide local plan too is being developed. Detailed work is also on going in the council around developer contributions via s106 process.

·      Expansion of warp around provision (slide 18) and how can increase numbers of schools offering after school provision until 6 pm  - this is around having sufficient economies of scale and is a challenge. Are more likely to see after school provision being available in more urban areas (where families tend to live closer to the school) than in rural areas (and transport is an issue), so its around viability (demand) and rural nature (transport).

 

The Vice Chair thanked the officer for the excellent presentation and the committee noted the update.

11.

Items for Information - Standing Item

This is a standing agenda item and will provide details of information sent to Committee members in between meetings, that cover the Committee’s policy areas.

 

(a)Housing related support and accommodation for 16 – 25-year-olds – update – Key Decision

(The new service will go live in April 2024)

(b)C&YP December Bulletin – circulated on 19 December 2023

 

If Committee members have any questions or comments on the information, please contact the Committee Administrator on democraticservicesteam@somerset.gov.uk in the first instance and before the date of the meeting.

Decision:

The Committee noted the following items for information:-

 

(a) Housing related support and accommodation for 16 – 25-year-olds - the new service will go live in April 2024

(b)C&YP December Bulletin – circulated on 19 December 2023

Minutes:

The Committee noted the following items for information:-

 

(a) Housing related support and accommodation for 16 – 25-year-olds - the new service will go live in April 2024

(b)C&YP December Bulletin – circulated on 19 December 2023