Meeting documents

  • Meeting of Cabinet, Monday 13th January 2020 10.30 am (Item 10.)


Mr W Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, highlighted the following points:


  • The issue of funding of local authorities’ Children’s Services was of great debate and further representation would be made before the government budget on 11 March 2020 to highlight that additional funding was needed for projects/services such as ‘troubled families’.
  • Paragraphs 17-19 covered the national mental health programmes between schools and the NHS; Mr Whyte stated he had received good feedback on the programme.
  • Paragraphs 32-34 provided an update on the Ofsted monitoring visit in October 2019; the key issue noted was the challenge of recruiting to some of the departments.  There had been some success in recruiting qualified social workers and the service was looking into new recruiting opportunities. 
  • Paragraph 32 showed the areas reviewed during the monitoring visit.
  • Paragraphs 49-51 on Early Help provided information on the new Family Support Service which went live in September 2019.  Mr Whyte encouraged members to view the timetables on the website to see what was being offered locally.
  • Paragraphs 52-55 – Looked After Children.  The new children’s home in Aylesbury had been rated as ‘good’ at its first Ofsted inspection. 
  • There had been an annual foster carers’ award event in October 2019.


Mrs A Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, highlighted the following points:


  • Changes had been made to the schools admission code so the most vulnerable children could access a school place more quickly (paragraph 10).
  • New analysis showed that every classroom would have approximately three children who had been in contact with a social worker in the last three years (paragraph 11).
  • A new course - ‘T Levels’, equivalent to 3 A levels would be available from September 2020.  The two year course would equip young people to go straight to work and provided approximately 45 days ‘on the job’ experience (paragraph 15).
  • There would be two other new courses in the curriculum; one on ‘relationships education’ and one on ‘relationships and sex education and health education’ (paragraph 16). 
  • 32 primary and secondary schools had enrolled on wave one of the national mental health programme to support training in the increased mental health issues for young people. The training would be rolled out to other areas of the county (paragraphs 17-19).
  • Paragraphs 23 and 24 – In June 2019 the Department for Education announced that Ofsted would re-inspect schools with an ‘outstanding’ rating, some of which had not been inspected for ten years.
  • Paragraph 25 contained information on the consultation on the proposed changes to the dedicated schools grant.


Mr T Vouyioukas, Executive Director, Children’s Services, highlighted the following:


·       All local authorities’ children’s services were facing financial pressures.

·       Paragraphs 32-34 provided information on the Ofsted monitoring visit in October 2019.  Ofsted had identified that there had been limited progress in recruiting high quality, experienced social workers.  However, Ofsted acknowledged that the leadership team had an accurate understanding of what was required.

·       Paragraphs 35-37 referred to the peer challenge process undertaken on 15 November 2019 and the progress that had been made since the last peer review in February 2019.

·       Highlights of the academic results in Buckinghamshire were provided in paragraphs 40-43; consistently above the national average but Mr Vouyioukas stressed that more work was needed to improve the performance of vulnerable pupils. 

·     Paragraphs 45-48; Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – as of December 2019 SEND had achieved its target of 40% for issuing an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) within 20 weeks; however, improvement was still required.  The service had been successful in appointing additional Special Educational Need (SEN) officers.

·       Paragraphs 56-62 made reference to the recruitment plans; particularly the long term strategy to ‘grow our own’ social workers.


The following points were raised in discussion with Cabinet:


  • Following a query from the Chairman on the reason for the 19% increase in home education in the last year; Mr Vouyioukas stated that the service was working with schools to understand the increase but stated that it was in line with the national picture.  Mr Vouyioukas would provide a fuller answer outside of the meeting.
  • A Cabinet Member stated he was delighted that the Aylesbury children’s home had received a ‘good’ rating in the Ofsted inspection.  Mr Vouyioukas confirmed that the children had been involved in the plans for the new home and that it was important to equip the children with the skills needed to help them during their life.
  • A Cabinet Member asked if it was possible to gauge the impact the homes had had and if there were plans to open more children’s homes in Buckinghamshire.  Mr Vouyioukas confirmed that he wanted to consider the success of the existing children’s homes before proceeding with the development of further homes as there may be a need for a different type of offer.
  • In response to a Cabinet Member querying whether the proposed professional registration requirements mentioned on page 37 would have an impact on the service; Mr Vouyioukas advised that it would have a positive impact.
  • A Cabinet Member stated he was pleased to see the recognition awarded to foster carers and asked if similar progress was being made in the adoption service.  Mr Vouyioukas advised that he preferred the term ‘permanence’ which could take the form of adoption or special guardianship as the service was interested in securing a permanent home for young people who needed a better experience of parenting.  The numbers were at the correct level and as soon as the assessments were completed a decision would be made about the permanence planning.
  • The Chairman asked about the national issue of recruitment of permanent social workers as BCC had a high agency spend which was partly due to the proximity to London.  Mr Vouyioukas highlighted the following key actions:
    • BCC now had a cohort of 10 qualified social workers in its academy and there were plans to increase the number by 10-20.
    • An overseas recruitment programme in countries with similar child protection processes was underway; Mr Vouyioukas was confident this would lead to recruiting eight more social workers.
    • A magazine called "Community Care" was expected to help improve permanent appointments.
    • 30% of the social workers were agency staff but BCC was fortunate to have committed agency workers and the recruitment strategy would continue to be reviewed.
  • Following a request for more detail on the Family Centres; Mr Whyte advised that the 16 centres were well established and being well used. The new timetables were responding to local need; outreach teams were proactively working with almost 1,000 people to ensure a more targeted approach.  Mr Vouyioukas added that the Early Help approach was to identify and target those who needed help the most; there would be a clearer picture on the amount of support provided at the end of the academic year. 
  • In response to being asked what was being carried out to improve the speed of the completion of the EHCP’s; Mrs  Cranmer explained that there had been a backlog of approximately 400 cases which had now been cleared.   Mr Vouyioukas added that the rate was close to 29 weeks and the target set had been achieved.  Mr Vouyioukas wanted to see an improvement in the quality of the plans and hoped that would be achieved by the recruitment of the additional SEN Officers. 


The Chairman summarised that the issues of the Children’s and Education services were taken very seriously and that a thorough induction programme would be essential for new members of the Buckinghamshire Council.


Mr Shaw thanked all those who had donated Christmas presents and raised money for children in care. 


RESOLVED:  Cabinet NOTED the national and local developments across Children’s Services and the programme of work taking place to further improve Children’s Services in Buckinghamshire.

Supporting documents: