Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People's Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel - Tuesday 27th July, 2021 4.00 pm

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Joanne Dixon 

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.


Minutes of the previous meeting of the Children & Young People's Social Care & Services Scrutiny Panel held on 19 April 2021 pdf icon PDF 245 KB

Copy of Minutes


The minutes of the previous meeting of the Children and Young People’s Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel held on 19 April 2021 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


Overview of Children's Services

The Executive Director of Children’s Services will be in attendance to provide the Panel with an overview of the main services within its remit and outline the key priorities, issues and challenges for the year ahead.  (Verbal)


S Butcher, Executive Director of Children’s Services, was in attendance at the meeting to provide the Panel with an overview of the main services within its remit and to outline the key priorities, issues and challenges for the year ahead.


The Executive Director explained that her post was a statutory role that all local authorities were required to have.  All local authorities were also required to have a Lead Member for Children’s Services and this role was currently being fulfilled by the Mayor in Middlesbrough. 


The Executive Director was responsible for children in Middlesbrough, both in terms of social care and education, heading up a single Children’s Services and emphasised the importance of all parts of the directorate working together as a single service to provide the best outcomes for Middlesbrough’s children.


Children’s Care and Education and Partnerships and sat within the Children’s Services directorate.


The following Services sat within Children’s Care, headed by the Director of Children’s Care:-


·        Early Help – Preventative work undertaken with children and families.  A shift towards more work being done at Early Help level had been identified as part of the ongoing improvement journey which was a positive sign as it meant more children and families were being helped at an earlier stage before issues increased to crisis point and statutory interventions were required.  Caseloads within Early Help were currently quite high so positioning of resources needed to be monitored.  An Early Help Strategy was in place.


·        Multi Agency Children’s Hub (MACH) – First point of contact for all agencies where there was a concern about a child or young person.  All contacts were filtered and measured against the threshold of need to determine where the referral should be directed.  Some would be referred to Early Help and those considered to require social care intervention would be referred to the Assessment Service.


·        Assessment Service – The function of this Service was to assess the situation with the family by carrying out a Single Assessment within 45 days from the point of referral.  The assessment would determine whether any further action was needed, whether the case could be stepped down to Early Help or whether the family required more significant help.  Where more significant help was needed, the family could be directed through the following routes:-


-        Child in Need – Middlesbrough currently had two managed Innovate Teams who were taking on a significant amount of Children in Need work.  The target timescale for completing work with Children in Need was 12 weeks.


-        Safeguarding and Care Planning – Where a case was considered to be more serious or significant risks were identified within the family, it would be moved to this Service.  This Service worked with children on Child Protection plans and it was highlighted that the numbers of children on Child Protection plans had started to reduce slightly, with a shift towards more Early Help provision.  Safeguarding and Care Planning was also the area with legal expertise and determined whether applications for Court  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21/3


Setting the Scrutiny Panel's Work Programme for 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 369 KB

The Panel is asked to consider which topics it wishes to include on its proposed Work Programme for 2021/22 for approval by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.


The Democratic Services Officer submitted a report inviting the Children and Young People’s Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel to consider its work programme for 2021/22.


A list of potential topics, which were anticipated to be of particular interest to the Scrutiny Panel, and the suggestions received in respect of the Scrutiny Panel's remit were contained in the report.


Members were advised that the topical issues and suggestions outlined in the report were merely proposals and the content of the work programme was entirely a decision for the Panel to make.

The Panel was encouraged to select two topics where scrutiny could make an impact, add value or contribute to policy development.


The Panel was reminded that it could also identify shorter 'one-off' topics and receive any relevant updates throughout the year as it considered necessary.


Paragraph 11 of the report set out the key considerations when agreeing to include a specific topic on the work programme.  The Panel’s chosen topics for inclusion on its Work Programme would be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Board on 28 July 2021 for approval.


The Panel held a discussion in relation to the suggested topics within the report and selected the following topics for the inclusion in the Panel’s Work Programme:-


Full Review topics:-


1.      Locality Working (in the context of Children’s Services).

2.      PACE bed provision.


Update on previous review


1.      Early Help - To receive an update on the latest position following the Panel’s review of Early Help in 2019.


Task and Finish


1.      Small task and finish groups to undertake visits to various service areas within Children’s Services, on a regular basis and to feedback information to the Scrutiny Panel.


Regular Updates


1.      Ofsted/Children’s Commissioner – continue to receive regular updates regarding visits, inspections and findings of Ofsted and the Children’s Commission and progress on the Children’s Services improvement journey.


2.      Covid Recovery – continue to receive updates as and when appropriate in relation to Covid recovery in Children’s Services.


AGREED that the topics, as listed above, be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for approval and inclusion in the Children and Young People’s Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel’s work programme for 2021/2022.


Update - Ofsted focused visit to Children's Services pdf icon PDF 1023 KB

The Executive Director of Children’s Services will provide the Panel with a verbal update in relation to the Ofsted focused visit to Children’s Services on 26 & 27 May 2021.

Additional documents:


The Executive Director provided the Panel with a presentation in relation to the Ofsted Focused Visit to Children’s Services that took place on 26 and 27 May 2021.  A copy of the Ofsted letter, dated 15 July 2021, detailing its full findings from the visit, had been circulated with the agenda prior to the meeting, for information.


To provide context to the focused visit, Ofsted’s overall aim was “How has England’s social care system delivered child-centred practice and care within the context of the restrictions placed on society during the pandemic?”  For Middlesbrough, this meant how this was delivered whilst continuing to improve.


The focused visit used the same methodology as for the November/December 2019 inspection, looking across the whole of Children’s Services.  The visit was undertaken by four Social Care Inspectors and one Education Inspector, who were ‘on site’ for two days, however, prior to being on site, Children’s Services supplied requested documentation and performance information and key personnel were also interviewed.


In relation to Covid, the strategic findings were as follows:-


·        Leaders invoked their major incident plan swiftly and effectively (corporately).

·        A framework for identifying and monitoring vulnerably children in their communities was established.

·        Opportunities for different ways of working were brought about across the Council as well as revitalising partnerships.

·        Weekly communications meetings with strategic partners were held to establish multi agency pathways – for example Domestic Abuse pathway (this had been nationally evaluated), and school networks.

·        Successful progress on much of the Improvement Programme but some elements inevitably effected by Covid.


The findings in relation to Covid from a practice perspective were:-


·        Some Social Workers were creative and persistent in their engagement with children despite restrictions imposed by lockdown. 

·        Staff had benefitted from Covid-safe working practices and technology to support engagement with children and families.

·        Despite the challenges of last year, staff reported feeling supported and liked working for Middlesbrough and understood the vision for change.

·        The numbers of Electively Home Educated (EHE) children increased during the pandemic, however, Children’s Services had effective systems in place to monitor electively home educated (EHE) children.


In terms of Leadership, Ofsted found that Leaders were positively engaged in a comprehensive programme of improvement and introduced:-


·        Audit to Excellence Framework – a comprehensive plan measuring quality of practice through auditing.

·        ‘Non-negotiables’ Practice Standards – expectations of how Social Workers should work using core standards.


Ofsted also found that Children’s Services had:-


·        Appropriately prioritised recruitment and the development of the Workforce Strategy.

·        Recognised the variability in practice which was not meeting their own expectations regarding quality of practice.

·        Did not yet have a sufficient understanding of children who were missing education.  (This applied to a small cohort of children)


The Panel was informed that the main overall findings were:-


·        Demand for Children’s Social Care Services had increased over the last year.

·        The MACH had continued to improve.

·        Caseloads were reducing but remained too high for some Social Workers.

·        Children were seen regularly and direct work was making a demonstrable difference to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21/5


Update - Covid Recovery in Children's Services

The Executive Director of Children’s Services will provide the Panel with a verbal update on Covid recovery in Children’s Services.


The Executive Director of Children’s Services, provided the Panel with a verbal update in relation to Covid recovery in Children’s Services.


The Panel was advised that the in the week commencing 17 July 2021, in Middlesbrough, there were 1,396 Covid cases per 100,000 population, this had reduced to 790 per 100,000 as of week commencing 26 July 2021, however the numbers were still high. 


Whilst schools had encountered a difficult time with an increase in positive cases leading up to the summer holiday, a programme of holiday enrichment activities was taking place in a number of secondary schools.


It was highlighted that there had been an increase in instances of covid amongst children and young people.  Between March and July 2021 the following numbers had been confirmed:-


·        Age 5-9 – 545 cases

·        Age 10-14 – 947 cases

·        Age 15-19 – 1,512 cases

·        Age 20-24 – 2,093 (this was the highest figure across all age groups from 0-90)


In relation to Covid in schools, it was reported that in September 2020, 45 staff had tested positive across Middlesbrough schools and this increased to 59 in July 2021.  The number of school pupils that tested positive was 74 in September 2020, increasing to 310 by July 2021.


The numbers of school staff isolating in September 2020 was 25, rising to 144 by July 2021 and the number of pupils self-isolating was 290 in September increasing to 1,750 in July 2021. 


Social Workers were still meeting children and families face to face whilst ensuring covid safety measures were followed.


AGREED that the information provided be noted.


Proposed Schedule of Meeting Dates - 2021/22 Municipal Year pdf icon PDF 193 KB


A proposed schedule of meeting dates for Children and Young People’s Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel for the 2021/22 Municipal Year was submitted for the Panel’s consideration.


AGREED that the proposed meeting schedule for 2021/22 be approved with the exception of the proposed date of 18 April 2022 being moved to Tuesday, 26 April 2022 at 4.00pm.