Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People's Scrutiny Panel - Monday 11th March, 2024 4.30 pm

Venue: Mandela Room

Contact: Chris Lunn 

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Declarations of Interest


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


Minutes- Children and Young People's Scrutiny Panel - 15 January 2024 pdf icon PDF 140 KB


The minutes of the previous meeting of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel held on 15 January 2024 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


Increased Residential and Supported Accommodation for Children in our Care and Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 879 KB

The Director of Children’s Care will be in attendance to provide the Panel with a presentation in relation to proposals to increase residential and supported accommodation for children in our care and care leavers.


D Alaszewski, Director of Children’s Care, accompanied by R Brown, Director of Education and Partnerships, was in attendance at the meeting to provide the Panel with a presentation in relation to proposals to increase residential and supported accommodation for children in our care and care leavers.


It was recognised that children’s homes provided support and care for some of Middlesbrough’s most vulnerable children and young people and Middlesbrough Council wanted each child in care to be provided with the right placement at the right time, and for residential children's care to be a positive, beneficial choice for the children and young people living in children’s homes.


The Panel heard that there had been a historical agreement to renovate two properties in Middlesbrough, at a cost of approximately £2 million, however, alternative options had been examined to attempt to obtain properties that were already fit for purpose at a lower cost.  There was now an option to purchase a nearly new property with parking in a less built-up area of Middlesbrough.  A similar presentation had been submitted to the Council’s Executive recently and the proposals were approved.


As of January 2024, Middlesbrough had 97 children living in residential placements - 76 of which were external placements, having utilised almost all in-house placements.  It was acknowledged that the use of external residential placements was a significant issue nationally and not just in Middlesbrough.  In addition, there were 372 children in foster care and 59 children in ‘other’ placements.  This equated to 528 children in care in Middlesbrough, however, it was highlighted that this figure fluctuated on a daily basis.


A breakdown of the residential placements was provided which included 18 high-cost group home placements and 14 high-cost post-16 placements (more than £2,500 per week).


It was explained to the Panel that Middlesbrough Council planned to increase its residential and supported accommodation by a total of a minimum 15 beds.  In 2024/25 it was planned to purchase two properties to convert into children’s homes, offering a total of six beds.  The approximate cost of this would be £800,000. A further property would be purchased in 2025/26 to provide three beds and it was planned to purchase an additional two properties in 2026/27 to provide a further six beds in total.


These proposals had been approved by the Executive and an offer had been made on one potential property already.  Once the property had been secured, suitable staff would need to be recruited and appointed in accordance with registration procedures – which could take up to six months.


It was proposed to increase the supported accommodation offer by partnering with commissioned providers who would form part of the Children’s Care residential and supported accommodation offer to bring additional placements from 2025/26.


There would also be a review of the current in-house residential and supported accommodation offer to identify opportunities for selling bed space from Gleneagles, and other vacant bed space, to other local authorities where it was surplus to Middlesbrough's requirements from 2024/25.


The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/34


Discussion Item - School Attendance

The Panel will be asked to discuss evidence gathering for its current scrutiny topic.


The Chair asked the Panel to consider possible lines of enquiry and evidence gathering for its current scrutiny topic of School Attendance, with input from the Director of Education and Partnerships.


In terms of school attendance, the Director stated that there had almost been a cultural acceptance of high non-attendance but they were now starting to see a percentage point shift.  With that in mind, it was suggested that the Panel may wish to gather evidence on ‘what was starting to make a positive difference’. 


It was suggested that the Panel may wish to speak to:-


·        The additional staff funded by the DfE, employed in relation to increasing school attendance.

·        Barnardos – working with whole families to improve attendance.

·        A Primary and a Secondary school.


A Panel Member commented that it was good to hear that attendance had begun to improve and it was queried whether the improvement was with those schools who had previously been identified as having significant attendance issues or whether the improvements were elsewhere.  The Director responded that attendance was more difficult to analyse in secondary schools, however, those with the weakest attendance tended to be those new to social care within the child protection arena.


It was felt it would be useful to consider, in both primary and secondary schools, what each was doing in terms of child protection, SEND, children in need, children in care.


There was a correlation between attendance and child protection cases, for example it may be due to domestic violence in the home, therefore, the child might not go into school the next day.  There tended to be different issues around children with SEND, for example, the child might not want to or feel able to cope with going to school, not that the parents could not take them.  In some cases, a child might be too poorly to attend, for example with Priory Woods where children had significant health needs.


It was queried where the Virtual School fitted within this issue.  It was highlighted that the Virtual School provided wrap-around support to champion the education of the young person in care.  This duty extended into child protection and children in need – so for all vulnerable children.


The Vulnerable Children Attendance Project (VCAP) monitored and tracked the attendance of vulnerable children in Middlesbrough by contacting schools daily to check whether the registered vulnerable children on record were in attendance.  It was suggested that it might be worthwhile receiving a presentation from the Head of the Virtual School in relation to the project.


In addition, the PROCLAIM Project (Providing Rich Opportunities for Children Living Around and in Middlesbrough) was working within some schools to provide a trauma-informed approach to supporting vulnerable students.  For example, a child may be sent home from school for wearing incorrect uniform, whereas a Proclaim school would not do this but would engage with the student to find out why it had happened.


In response to a query it was confirmed that the local authority’s working  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/35


Overview and Scrutiny Board Update

The Chair will provide the Panel with a verbal update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meetings held on 10th, 18th January, 7th, 28th February and 6th March 2024.


The Chair provided a verbal update in relation to the business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meetings held on 10 and 18 January, 7 and 28 February and 6 March 2024, namely:


Each meeting considered:-


·        Executive Forward Work Programme

·        Scrutiny Chairs’ Updates


10 January 2024

·        Council Budget 2024/25 and Medium-Term Financial Plan Refresh


18 January 2024


·        Budget Consultation – Scrutiny Feedback

·        Local Government Boundary Review – Phase Two


7 February 2024


·        Ward Boundary Update

·        OSB Work Programme discussion


28 February 2024


·        Executive Member Update – Environment

·        Local Government Boundary Review Update


6 March 2024


Executive Member Update – Community Safety


Date of Next Meeting - 8 April 2024