Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall
Contact: Patrick Sebastian 0151 691 8424
Apologies for absence
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Cherry Povall; Councillor Ian Lewis attended as deputy. The Committee also received an apology for absence from Ms V McGee, Chief Operating Officer, Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust.
Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest
Members are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members are reminded that they should also declare whether they are subject to a party whip in connection with any item(s) to be considered and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the whipping arrangement.
Members were asked to consider whether they had any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members were reminded that they should also declare whether they were subject to a party whip in connection with any item(s) to be considered and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the whipping arrangement.
The following declarations were made in respect of business on the agenda:-
Councillor Chris Meaden made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of her daughter’s employment in the Children and Young People’s Department.
Councillor Tom Usher made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of his mother’s employment in an early years setting.
Councillor Wendy Clements made a declaration of personal interest in respect of agenda items 3 "2017/18 Quarter 4 and Year End Wirral Plan Performance" and 4 “Wirral Improvement Board Databook” by virtue of her employment in an early years setting.
Councillor Anita Leech made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of holding a position of School Governor.
To approve the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 22 March 2018.
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 22 March 2018 be approved as a correct record.
The Committee received a report presenting the 2017/18 Quarter 4 (January – March 2018) performance report for the Wirral Plan Pledges under the remit of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The performance report, included as an Appendix to the submitted report, provided a description of progress in Quarter 4 and available data in relation to a range of outcome indicators and supporting measures. Further appended to the report was the 2017/18 year end close down report providing a summary of performance improvement against measures and Wirral Plan delivery of Pledge strategy actions at year end.
The appended performance reports contained details of the progress made, and with regard to the quarterly report overviews of that progress from the Lead Cabinet Member, in respect of individual measures being pursued with regard to the following Wirral Plan Pledges pertinent to the Committee -
· Children are Ready for School;
· Children are Ready for Work and Adulthood;
· Vulnerable Children Reach their Full Potential;
· Reducing Child and Family Poverty (Improving Life Chances);
· People with Disabilities Live Independent Lives; and
· Zero Tolerance to Domestic Violence.
The year-end report highlighted both key achievements and areas for improvement, considered outcomes for residents measured against both the previous year and since the start of the Wirral Plan, and presented the next steps for action.
Paul Boyce, Corporate Director for Children, presented the performance and year end reports and invited comment from Members on the content contained therein –
With regard to the ‘Children are Ready for School’ pledge, Councillor Moira McLaughlin noted the improved performance of the supporting measure ‘percentage of infants who received a 6-8 week Development Check by the time they were 8 weeks’. However, while the trends for this and the measure for receipt of a 2-2½ year Health Visitor review were improving they remained below target, and with the access to midwifery services measure worsening, Councillor McLaughlin stressed the importance of all indicators needing improvement in order to improve life chances for children. With regard to midwifery services, the Chair indicated that a response to the position would be obtained from the health service.
In response to a query from Councillor Wendy Clements as to the contribution of the Council to the improved percentage of early years providers rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, the Corporate Director noted that good partnership working in the sector had developed effective early years services. Further to a query in respect of the decline in performance relating to the percentage of Foundation Stage looked after children achieving a good level of development, Simone White, Deputy Director for Children, advised that this was a difficult measure as the point at which children came into the service varied meaning there was sometimes limited time to work towards the target or even to check attendance.
Members noted the worsening trend with regard to obesity. Councillor David Burgess-Joyce queried the five year rolling average used as the basis for the measure given issues of early onset diabetes related to obesity. The ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Improvement Journey - Update
To receive a presentation from the Director of Children’s Services providing an update on the Council’s Improvement Plan and actions taken since the previous meeting of the Committee.
Paul Boyce, the Corporate Director for Children, introduced a presentation relating to the Council’s Improvement Plan. The presentation took the form of a stocktake, considering the position of the Council two years on from the OFSTED inspection of July 2016 and 12 months since Operation Corzola, through six subsequent Ofsted monitoring visits and looking ahead to the forthcoming 12 months and the Ofsted re-inspection.
Work to date had focussed on getting the basics right, and extensive work had been completed or was underway to ensure clear processes and systems were in place to embed good practice across all areas of the service. Staff issues had been addressed with ‘back to basics’ training for all staff, improvements made to the frequency and quality of supervision, and working towards manageable caseloads. Attention had also been focussed on quality assurance and improving the data available to inform decision making. Impacts of the work undertaken could be identified both through positive messages in OFSTED monitoring reports that practice and processes were demonstrating clarity and being embedded, and through the numbers of children in the system better reflecting what might be expected for an authority of Wirral’s size.
Organisationally, a permanent senior leadership team was now in place, and an integrated children’s services structure was out for consultation. The partnership arrangement entered into with Knowsley Council was having a notable impact, and the staff move to Cheshire Lines and the introduction of agile working was positively affecting organisational culture and changing people’s attitudes.
In summary, the approach to getting the basics right was having a positive impact confirmed by monitoring visits. Practice was improving, but much remained to be done. Staff recruitment and retention remained a risk in certain areas, particularly in social work, but most people were now on board and on message with the direction of travel for the service. Looking ahead, there was the need to ensure that the pace of development was sustained, to continue to strengthen partnerships both operationally and strategically, to learn from the lessons of the past and embed the learning gained, and to design new safeguarding arrangements.
Councillor David Burgess-Joyce, commenting generally on performance data presented elsewhere on the agenda, queried at what point overall on the curve to success was the Council considered to be at and the implication of the comment that most staff were now on board. The Corporate Director advised that matters were being progressed and that a point would be reached, with appropriate staffing, of momentum driving improvement. With regard to a query from Councillor Ian Lewis concerning staff mandatory training, the Corporate Director advised that while courses were re-run, a requirement due to staff turnover, issues related to non-attendance were being considered and that mechanisms, including written warnings, were options.
Councillor Lewis, noting the OFSTED report had stated Wirral’s social work caseloads were not particularly high but noted that cases were passed around social workers, that there were issues with case notes etc., queried whether the Corporate Director was satisfied ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Simone White, Deputy Director for Children, introduced the Wirral Improvement Board Data Tracker for May 2018. The Data Tracker, which set out performance for a set of key performance measures related to the child’s journey, plus measures related to staffing in Children’s Social Care, is produced monthly for the Improvement Board and shared with the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board. Submission to this Committee had arisen following a Reality Check Visit undertaken in February 2018 and reported at the meeting of this Committee held in March 2018.
In introducing the report, the Deputy Director advised on the construction of the Data Tracker. Of the data provided, some was demand led, some processed efficiency data, some outcome data, or was data required to do the job. The outcome data, while the most important produced, was the most difficult to measure and assess. As an example of the difficulty, an increase in the number of children in care might be a ‘good’ result if this was right for the children involved, or a ‘bad’ result if it was wrong for the children involved. Other outcome data such as educational achievement, or care leavers in education / employment or in good accommodation, were likewise all capable of being read in other ways or of needing supporting detail.
Demand led data was presented by benchmark or trend, and as presented followed a child’s journey through the service. If figures showed a variance with the benchmarks or trends, this was investigated to see what had changed. An example in the submitted report was where the number of recorded contacts appeared to have risen significantly; this was as a result of all contacts now being recorded in one system which gave a better analysis and clear oversight of practice, ensuring all information on cases was recorded to help improve practice. Process efficiency data considered timelines such as assessments, conferences etc. which were important, but a parallel consideration was quality and there was the issue of how to measure the quality of, for example, assessments and apply this against other considerations.
Particular issues highlighted arising from the monthly Data Tracker included –
· the number of assessments completed within timescales in April was better than the year end figure, but remained too low. Action was being taken to ensure the timely opening of cases on the system, which should not be done until such time as they are to be completed;
· there had been no major changes in child protection numbers or plans, or in the overall numbers of children looked after. While there was a need to safely reduce the numbers of children looked after, the number had now remained steady for five months, rather than continuing to increase;
· there was little significant change to report in staffing. It was, however, an identified area for improvement to reduce the current social care vacancy rate and sickness rates in the service as part of the wider approach to create a stable, high quality workforce.
Councillor David Burgess-Joyce commented on ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Chair introduced his report advising that this Committee, in co-operation with the other three Overview and Scrutiny Committees, was responsible for proposing and delivering an annual scrutiny work programme. The work programme should align with the corporate priorities of the Council, in particular the delivery of the Wirral Plan pledges which were within the remit of the Committee.
The Chair’s report provided an update regarding progress made since the Committee meeting held on 22 March 2018 and, arising from a progress meeting held on 21 June 2018, a proposed work programme for 2018/19 made up of items carried over from 2017/18 and comprising a combination of scrutiny reviews, workshops, standing items and requested Officer reports was appended. The addition of an item related to childhood obesity (Minute 4 above refers) was noted.
That the submitted Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee work programme 2018/19, with the addition of an item related to childhood obesity, be approved.