Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes.

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Jasmine Kassim  Email: jasmine.kassim@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5146

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Steve Offord.

 

Councillor Gary Parker apologised for having to leave the meeting early.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business for cosnidertion.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 38 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies be noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Members are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 9 September 2015.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Members noted that Councillor Fahy’s Cabinet Member portfolio title was incorrectly recorded and it was agreed that this should be amended.

 

Resolved -

 

That the amended minutes of the meeting of the Children and Young Peoples Scrutiny Panel held on 9 September 2015 be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record.

5.

Cabinet Member Priorities 2015-16: Progress Report pdf icon PDF 62 KB

To inform the Panel of progress on the Cabinet Member’s priorities for 2015/16.

Minutes:

Councillor Miranda Williams, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and the Director of Children’s Services presented the report.

 

Children’s Services Budget

The Director of Children’s Services advised the Panel that the placements of looked after children were monitored and analysed on a monthly basis and considered as part of the quarterly reporting cycle.  The information presented showed an increasing proportion of fostered children were with Greenwich carers as opposed to independent fostering agency carers and that children appeared to do better with Greenwich Council foster carers.  Members noted that the overall number of children in care was reducing.

 

In response to Members’ questions the Director of Children’s Services confirmed that placements outside the Borough were with independent providers who were subject to Ofsted inspections.

 

Members were pleased to hear about the progress in recruiting permanent staff and that Greenwich had its lowest use of social worker agency staff for some time, which was better than the London average.  It was noted that the continued focus was on retaining staff and promoting job fulfilment and widening staff opportunities.

 

Good Schools for Greenwich Children

In response to the Panel’s request for specific details, by ward, of the number of parents or guardians whose children were offered their first school preference place, the Director of Children’s Services advised that she did not have information at ward level.  She further stated that, due to a greater number of single sex girls schools in the Borough, more boys than girls were being allocated a place rather than a preference school. The Director will supply the information directly to the Panel members.

Action: DCS

 

The Director of Children’s Services acknowledged that children attending schools in England were the most heavily tested.  Her view was that the level of anxiety experienced by pupils was greatly dependent upon how schools handled the process and supported the children.

 

With regards to the Royal Greenwich Music Hub the Director of Children’s Services confirmed that the facilities were open for use by all children within.   The Cabinet Member added that there was a short video on this provision, which the Director would provide to Members.  Further, that there were a number of events and concerts which the children who used the Hub were involved with and the Director would ensure that Members were advised of these events.

Action: DCS

 

Good Services for Children in need of help and protection and children in care, including countering child sexual exploitation

The Director of Children’s Services responded to Members that foster carers volunteered to access the scheme to support and develop an ‘extended family’ around the child among local foster carers called Mockingbird. Further, that more foster carers and children would benefit as the scheme was extended and the feedback from the foster carers currently using the service was that it was an effective service and they were getting good support.  A Panel Member confirmed that a foster career had acknowledged her appreciation of the Mockingbird Scheme and that there was a need for such  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Safeguarding Service: Annual Report 2014-15 pdf icon PDF 76 KB

The Panel is asked to scrutinise performance and actions for further improvement for the Safeguarding Service within Children’s Social Care.

 

Minutes:

The Safeguarding Service Leader and Senior Assistant Director, Children’s Services, presented the report.

 

In response to questions, the Senior Assistant Director confirmed that referrals were received from all schools, including academies.  Further, that all school had a statutory responsibility to safeguard children and refer issues of concern to Children’s Social Care.

 

Members noted that 95.7% referrals resulting in assessment which was higher than the London and National average. Further, were the figures monitored to see if there were any notable changes and action taken accordingly. 

 

The Senior Assistant Director confirmed that the response time to make a decision on referrals received was mainly within one working day (in line with statutory guidance) though in some cases there was a need for more time to gather information to make a decision on next steps. 

 

The Senior Assistant Director advised the Panel that risk management was integral to the work of the service and improvements were being achieved in the quality of assessments.  Officers responded that, in respect of parents with alcohol and substance abuse issues, there was a cohort of children subject to repeat referrals where it had not been possible to completely break the cycle.  Officers continued that. In these cases it was common that the children’s needs were not being appropriately met because their parents’ capacity to provide reasonable care was affected by ‘the toxic trio’ of domestic violence, parental mental ill health and substance misuse. Further, that this remained a priority for Children’s Services and partner agencies through Greenwich Safeguarding Children Board.

 

In response to a question Officers confirmed that many parents were motivated and able to use early help services, including parenting programmes, in order to situations addressed before they harmed the child or required social work intervention.  The Panel felt that it was important to continue to work with parents to develop skills, change lifestyle and encourage families that they needed to change; to look at why they thought they could not change and to show how changes could be made. Officers noted that there were occasions when parents’ overwhelming needs or denial of their parenting difficulties led to social work intervention and social workers focus on the child’s needs was paramount. 

 

With regards to child sexual exploitation the Assistant Director confirmed that this remained a challenging area as it was often a hidden problem and everyone having contact with children needed to be mindful of this.  There were examples of good practice among social workers in engaging with children and reducing risk and recent training had helped with skills development to identify hidden problems.

 

Officers confirmed that all medical practitioners had a statutory obligation to report child safeguarding concerns and there was GP and health service representation on the Greenwich Safeguarding Children Board.  These representatives were aware of the need to continue to get the key message across to GPs, nurses and dentists to continue to be vigilant and report concerns.

 

Resolved –

 

That the report be noted.

7.

Greenwich Children's Centres: Mid contract report pdf icon PDF 108 KB

The Panel is asked to scrutinise the performance of Greenwich Children’s Centres at the mid point of the contract (1st October 2014 – 31st December 2015).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director (Commissioning and Resources) and the Interim Director (Early Help) spoke to the item; advising the Panel of a correction to paragraph 3.31of the report which should show the South Centres as satisfactory.

 

In response to a question, the Assistant Director (Commissioning and Resources) advised that ‘Your Welcome’ was a national standard for health organisations to measure how young person friendly they were.  She added that a number of young people were engaged as mystery shoppers to see how Children’s Centres preformed.

 

Officers advised Members that the Children’s Centres offered a range of universal services as well as targeted service and worked in partnership with schools, police and parents.  Further, that they offered support mainly for children between 0 and 5 years and pathways for the children beyond 5 were being developed.

 

The Plumstead Children’s Centre Manager confirmed that, as the building was small, some services were provided externally and these were closely monitored.  Members noted that the Centre was targeting engagement with Romanian families, which was a growing community in the area. The Centre Manager advised that Early Help Groups met every six weeks to address outreach work but looked at referral cases as and when necessary.

 

The East Centre Manger confirmed that they were working with Peabody Trust to improve contact with the BAME community in a more proactive manner.


Members asked the Children Centre Manager’s, what one thing would improve their service delivery:

 

The Plumstead Centre Manager responded that recruitment of trained staff of the right calibre (good communication, team players and prepared to engage).  Further, that there had been improvements in this area in the past 18 months and there was an expectation that this would continue. Other Centre Mangers concurred and added that they were all aware of the need for staff to be trained and supervised to ensure consistency across all the centres. The Interim Assistant Director (Early Help) confirmed that the local authority was supporting workforce development and advised that staff also had support from the practice managers who were qualified social workers.

 

The South Children’s Centres representative confirmed that following a recent audit, record keeping had vastly improved and early help assessments were now conducted as standard practice.  They added that, whilst the Centre had undertaken work on early learning and other areas, with positive outcomes, there had been issues in terms of evidencing the outcomes.

 

The representative for the West Centres accepted that case recording and management oversight and recording keeping needed improvement but that this was being addressed.  They continued that a safeguarding audit had been undertaken and the outcomes were being acted on.  They advised that the Centre had worked with parents on a system whereby parents could grade themselves and their progress so that they could see the changes they were achieving. 

 

The Panel accepted an address from a number of parents who extolled the benefit they had experienced from accessing the Children Centre.  They continued that they were aware that some BAME parents were put  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.