Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall
Contact: Patrick Sebastian 0151 691 8424
Webcast: View the webcast
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors E Grey, P Hayes and G Wood. The Committee also received apologies for absence from Co-opted Members Julie Johnson and Chris Penn.
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.
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 Jean Robinson made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of her work in Early Years.
Councillor Julie McManus made a declaration of personal interest in respect of the agenda generally by virtue of her son’s employment in a Primary School in Birkenhead.
To approve the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 13 November, 2018.
That the Minutes of the meeting of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 13 November 2018 be confirmed as a correct record.
The Corporate Director for Children Services made a presentation to the Committee on the Children and Young People’s Services’ Improvement Journey. He provided:
· a summary of progress;
· feedback from Ofsted’s Monitoring Visit;
· details of areas for Improvement;
· information on the Peer Challenge and Annual Conversation;
· priorities for the next 12 Months;
· feedback from a Member visit with Children in Care and Care Leavers;
· performance details; and
· workforce information.
The Corporate Director reported that Children’s Services was no longer subject to monitoring visits as they had all been completed. The next Ofsted visit would be an inspection. It was expected that this would take place in April or May or possibly June 2019. The Corporate Director did not expect intervention at the end of this process and informed he was confident of a good outcome. He also informed that Wirral was a Council requiring improvement and the distance between that and good was considerable.
Members asked the Corporate Director a number of questions which were answered accordingly. Matters discussed included the following:
· Concerns about the Staying Put Scheme as it was evident that these children were ‘kicked out’ as soon as they were 18 years old. Some foster carers love the job they do but clearly others do it for the money they receive. Some children were being forced to leave after a number of years in care and housing for care leavers needed to be looked at.
· The robustness of Social Workers Performance Appraisals and monthly supervision. Most had undergone an annual appraisal last year (97%) and received regular supervision. The Team Managers were now beginning to coach best practice rather than just describing it. The Service was better at tracking performance issues, there was still some work to do but mechanisms were in place that made managing the Service somewhat easier.
· The forthcoming Workforce Survey which will ask direct questions about what it’s like working in Wirral with anonymity.
· The quality of first line management, turn over and HR support.
· Liverpool City Council’s intention to recruit 130 Social Workers. This seemed optimistic as the average life of a social worker was only seven years. Social Workers in Wirral may apply and be successful. The problems this may cause if they were seduced into going and the possibility of destabilising the whole of the Liverpool City region as Liverpool was offering higher salaries than most of the other Local Authorities in the City Region. There was a City Region development group which was led by someone from Wirral. Wirral needed to ask social workers who might be tempted to leave some questions about why they were thinking of doing that and make sure Wirral’s social workers were not seduced into doing something that would not be good for them professionally.
· The Managers were a stable group and the Head of Practice Improvement has constructed a work programme for Team Managers. They are being developed rapidly including their skills in effectively managing Teams. The Corporate Director was working with the ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
The Lead School Commissioner presented a report that provided an executive summary and a more in depth analysis for the pupil outcomes at the age of 16 (GCSEs) as well as a brief summary of GCE outcomes.
It was reported that comparisons had been made with the results nationally wherever possible. However, many of the national results had not been published yet. When the statistical first releases were published the report would be amended.
It was noted that there had been ongoing changes to the content and grading system of GCSEs, making the subject content and exams far more challenging. In 2018 grading of outcomes in all curriculum subjects moved to a 9-1 scale, with grade nine being roughly equivalent to a top A* grade and a grade four equivalent to a low to mid-grade C.
Members were informed that in Wirral the percentage of pupils achieving a grade 4 or above in English continued to improve and was above the national average. Outcomes in English continued to be higher than in mathematics. Also, more disadvantaged pupils attained grade 4+ in English so the gap narrowed by 1.1%.
Members were also informed that nationally there was a decrease in the percentage of pupils achieving a grade 4 or higher in mathematics. In contrast Wirral’s results continued to improve and were above the national average. More disadvantaged pupils had attained grade 4+ in mathematics so the gap had narrowed by 1.6%.
The percentage of Wirral pupils attaining a Grade 4+ in English and Mathematics was well above the national average and showed an improvement from last year.
The Committee noted that attainment of both boys and girls nationally had increased. It was a similar picture for Wirral pupils. Nationally the gender gap has decreased, however the gender gap in Wirral had widened because more girls achieved higher grades than the boys.
It was noted that overall the Progress 8 measure for Wirral had increased slightly to 0.04 and was above the national average of - 0.02 and the North West average of - 0.16. Wirral was ranked second in the North West.
The report provided a detailed analysis of pupil outcomes which could be used to measure the impact of work undertaken in the following pledges:
· Children are ready for school.
· Young people are ready for work and adulthood.
· Vulnerable children reach their full potential.
The report also provided a very detailed analysis of outcomes for all pupil groups at the end of Key Stage 4 and some very provisional key headlines for Key Stage 5 in the secondary phase of education.
Appended to the report was a paper that set out an Executive Summary in respect of the provisional outcomes at key stage 4 (November 2018).
Members asked the Lead School Commissioner a number of questions which were answered accordingly. Matters discussed included the following:
· South Wirral seemed not to be achieving but only because the figures were skewed when looking at this by locality. The A Level results would ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
Wirral has a complex post 16 education and learning landscape. Wirral’s young people who made the transition at age 16 into further education and training had a number of options and pathways including school sixth form, further education (including study programme provision) and Apprenticeships. Post 16 opportunities were accessible locally. However, young people may choose to travel for specialist learning to a neighbouring local authority or beyond.
The Lifelong Learning Strategy Manager presented a report that identified the numbers of young people transitioning into post 16 learning and training opportunities whilst also assessing how successful they were by pathway. An analysis of learner attainment on entry to post 16 learning (all learning routes) had been completed in addition to valued added performance for some sectors. The report analysed the current destination data for Wirral young people upon leaving key stage 4 at age 16 and key stage 5 sixth form provision at age 18. In doing so the report supported Pledge 3 from the Wirral 20:20 Vision: Young people are ready for adulthood and employment.
The Lifelong Learning Strategy Manager informed that young people’s post 16 participation rates in the borough were currently at or above sub-regional and regional averages. Challenges currently exist with recognised apprenticeship participation which was at an all-time low. To support this, schools and academies had to meet their statutory duty to provide robust, impartial careers education, information, advice and guidance. The Council must also ensure there was sufficient and suitable education and training provision to meet young people’s needs.
The Committee noted that the national perspective on what was required of the education system in relation to young people beyond the age of 16 had changed significantly over recent years, and was continuing to evolve. There had been a fundamental national reappraisal of the purpose of post-16 education and training, driven by the following three key factors:
· The Government’s Post 16 Skills Plan aims to revitalise technical education policy with vocational ‘T Levels’ at the same level as A levels. Wirral’s Further Education sector will need to ensure readiness to meet the opportunities presented by T Levels prior to 2020. The ability to offer quality work placements will underpin a shift-change in employer involvement.
· Government Apprenticeship reforms have resulted in all apprenticeships being real paid jobs; having a minimum duration of 12 months and involve sustained training and clear skills gain with at least 20% off-the-job training. The Government also introduced the Apprenticeship levy for large private and public sector employers from April 2017.
· There is an economic need to increase the number of young people receiving technical and vocational education to meet the demands of the future workforce. This demand is driven by a significant future need for new employees to replace those leaving an ageing workforce, and also the need for additional employees to meet the demands of economic growth. There is a political consensus that there should be an expansion in the number of young people taking apprenticeships and following work related ... view the full minutes text for item 34.
The Director for Strategy and Partnerships presented a report which provided the Committee with an update on the progress being made around tackling child poverty since the last update in March 2018. The report informed that the Improving Life Chances (ILC) Steering Group had worked actively on delivery of the strategy from 2015-2017. The Group had evaluated the causes and impact of poverty, and the work underway through other pledge areas and had agreed a focus on targeted action in geographical areas. Targeted ‘pilots’ had been established in St James, Seacombe and Beechwood wards and a range of initiatives had been put in place working directly with local groups. Members noted that the pilots had been completed in March 2018. However, the work in those areas was continuing and was linked to the Wirral Together model through the Community Services Pledge.
The Director also reported that in late 2017 the Wirral Partnership had agreed that having a separate Strategy Group meant that action to tackle poverty was not embedded throughout the other themes and, therefore, did not get the visibility required to ensure the right targeted action. An annual "Improving Life Chances" event was now being held once a year and 'champions' from this pledge attended other key Wirral Plan 2020 steering groups to ensure that reducing child and family poverty was a priority across the plan; champions could hold other pledge leads to account. From 2018-19 key measures were being transferred to other pledge reports alongside relevant ongoing activities.
Members asked the Director for Strategy and Partnerships a number of questions which were answered accordingly. Matters discussed included the following:
· Families in Birkenhead were struggling with financial hardship. There was a greater number than what there had been a few years ago and the data provided in the report was not matching this experience. It was agreed that things needed to be got right before birth if life chances were to be improved. The percentage of women booked to access professional maternity services on or before 12+6 weeks gestation had fallen to 78% in the last quarter which was lower than at the start of the Wirral Plan when it had been 80.8%. The target was for only 90% and that meant there was 10% of woman who were pregnant who did not have access to maternity services before their first few weeks of pregnancy which was a dangerous situation to be in. Members asked if there was a poverty indicator that balanced out income and outgoings. Some people had a high level of debt and debt management services were difficult to access. There was agreement that the data provided gave Members some indication of improvement but it did not show what really was going on and Members wanted to see a set of indicators which better reflected the lives of people that were in the very difficult situation that so many families in Birkenhead were actually in.
· Members queried the number of reports of anti-social behaviour that were ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
The Acting Director for Health and Wellbeing presented a report in response to the request from Members for an update on each of the following action to tackle increasing rates of obesity within Wirral:
· Local obesity statistics (with the inclusion of data on diabetes prevalence).
· ‘Eat Well Wirral’ programme.
· Takeaway licensing.
The Acting Director reported that this work was a key strand of the Wirral 2020 Plan Pledge ‘Wirral Residents Live Healthier Lives’ and sat within a much broader set of actions designed to tackle obesity. She informed that action to reduce levels of obesity needed to take a system-wide approach incorporating the following:
Planning; transport; housing; environment; behaviour-change; and social and health care systems.
Members noted that further work was required to develop a system wide response and that action on reducing childhood obesity would provide the focus of a report to the Committee in February 2019.
Members asked the Acting Director for Health and Wellbeing and a Planning Officer who was working on policies for the Local Plan to which planning applications would be determined (Eddie Fleming) a number of questions which were answered accordingly. Matters discussed included the following:
· Reference was made to a school on the Wirral were most of the children had a take-away on a daily basis and that was despite the fact that the majority of the children in the school were also on free school meals. There was a real dilemma here about education and meeting nutritional needs. It was proposed that consideration be given to how this awareness of poor quality could be tackled.
· In parts of the Borough there were numerous take-away restaurants grouped together. It was noted that to produce a planning policy and supplementary planning guidance there had to be an evidence-base and it had to be subject to statutory procedures before the Council could introduce it. Planning Officers where working with colleagues in Public Health and Environmental Health. They had a copy of the report and were looking at the best way to include it in an evidence base as the intention was to strengthen one of the draft policies in the Local Plan so that it could control the number of take-away restaurants in areas and particularly where there were schools. Recommendations would be made to the Cabinet and then the Council’s approval would be sought before it went out to public consultation. When all of the comments were received they would be inspected by the Secretary of State’s Planning Inspector and if the evidence was shown to be robust enough to defend a policy that restricted takeaways around schools or anywhere else that the Council deemed fit. That would become an adopted policy that would have to be adhered to when determining planning applications. The aim was to produce a draft Local Plan with Supplementary Planning documents for consideration by the Council in July 2019.
· Members wanted to know what needed to be done to ensure that there were not loads of very poor eateries ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
The Chair introduced a report which reminded the Committee of its agreed principle of undertaking a series of Reality Check visits by small groups of Members to enable Members to engage directly with frontline staff. Reality visits and subsequent recommendations would enable the Committee to complete part of its Work Programme.
The Committee was aware that key to the success of scrutiny was the ability of Members to check evidence from a variety of sources. Whilst Members routinely received reports from senior management and had access to performance monitoring reports, it had been proposed that greater access to frontline staff and service users would enable them to triangulate evidence with other sources and give them greater confidence in the outcomes of their scrutiny work. Therefore, it had been agreed to establish a programme of Reality Check Visits through which Members could engage independently and directly with frontline staff. The key operating principles for the visits were detailed in the report.
Appended to the report was a paper that set out the proceedings of the Reality Check Visit to St Catherine’s Hospital on 3 December 2019.
The Director of Quality and Patient Safety, Wirral CCG was in attendance at the meeting and discussed the following issues that were raised with Members:
· These visits were really worth doing and Members got a lot out of them. When Members spoke to the staff their Managers/Directors purposely left the room and frank conversations were able to be held.
· Members had been able to tour the building and have a look at the facilities.
· Members were able to meet Doctors and Nurses etc. who were involved in the journey of children who were looked after.
· The Health Passports had really impressed Members and they considered that they should be given to all Wirral’s care leavers.
· There were things that the staff wanted to work with Members on.
· There had been some improvements and there would be more.
· There were shortcomings with the Liquid Logic system.
(1) the report and the recommendations therein be noted; and
(2) the Director of Quality and Patient Safety, Wirral CCG be thanked for her attendance at the meeting.
The Chair presented a report by a Scrutiny Officer informing of a Scrutiny Workshop held on 5 December 2019 when Members had considered the 2019/20 budget proposals being put forward in respect of its remit. Attached to the report was a further report that detailed the proceedings of the Workshop.
The Workshop had provided Members with the opportunity to examine in greater detail a number of budget proposals. The budget proposals selected for further examination had been identified by the Chair and Group Spokespersons as those deemed to be of greatest significance in terms of value and the public interest. The report summarised the proposals scrutinised and the comments and suggestions of those Members who had been in attendance at the Workshop.
Those Members who had attended the Workshop were in agreement that the proposed budget savings options were measured and achievable. They had also agreed that the £20m invested last year had stabilised services and the focus was now on investing in the longer term and reducing this figure.
Members had also agreed that they wanted to look closer at the cost of placements for looked after children, and it had been proposed that this be added to the Committee’s Work Programme.
(1) the report on the Workshop (Appendix 1 to the report) be agreed as the Committee’s formal response to the 2019/20 budget proposals; and
(2) the report and its appendix be referred to the Cabinet for consideration at the time when it is making recommendations to the Council in respect of the Council’s Budget for 2019/20.
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 report provided the Committee with an opportunity to plan and regularly review its work across the Municipal Year. Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was a report on a Mental Health Workshop that Members had attended on 11 October 2018. The Work Programme was attached as Appendix 2 to the report, based on issues which were of interest to members of the Children and Families Overview & Scrutiny Committee in the municipal year 2018/19.
The Chair reported that there was a multi-agency Safeguarding Arrangement Workshop scheduled for 28 January 2019. Members had received information about it and they would explore the arrangements that could be put in place after the Safeguarding Children Board stood down. The Chair considered it very important that as many Committee Members as possible were in attendance at this meeting to help ensure appropriate scrutiny in respect of the new arrangements.
The Chair also reported that after receiving one of the Ofsted monitoring letters it had been decided to focus the next few reality checks on the Council’s partners. The next reality check had not yet been confirmed but hopefully Superintendent Ian Hassall would be in attendance to explore the Police’s safeguarding role.
(1) the content of the report be noted; and
(2) the proposed Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2018/19 be approved.