Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Monday 7 December 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: To be held via Microsoft Teams - please join at

Contact: Maria Burton, Democratic Services  020 7926 8703, Email:

No. Item


Declarations of Pecuniary Interest

    Under Standing Order 4.4, where any councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (as defined in the Members’ Code of Conduct (para. 4)) in any matter to be considered at a meeting of the Council, a committee, sub-committee or joint committee, they must withdraw from the meeting room during the whole of the consideration of that matter and must not participate in any vote on that matter unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Monitoring Officer.


    While not a pecuniary interest, Councillor Pickard stated that a member of her family was going through the Special Guardianship process in Lambeth, but that she did not have a prejudiced view as a result of this.



Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 164 KB

    To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 07 October 2020 as a correct record of the proceedings.


    Councillor Caldicott thanked Councillor Liz Atkins for chairing the last meeting.


    RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 07 October 2020 were approved as a correct record of proceedings.



Financial Planning Report 2020/21 to 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 360 KB

    (All wards)


    Contact for enquiries: Rachel Harrison, AD Finance (Children and Young People), 020 7926 2027,


    Additional documents:


    Councillor Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People introduced the report, stating that:

    ·         The Covid-19 pandemic had had a significant impact on Council finances, with Lambeth having an additional spend of £43m as a result of the crisis.  £33m had been provided by central government to fund the additional spend, leaving a £10m shortfall.

    ·         Some of the additional costs in Children’s Services relating to the pandemic included paying foster carers an additional allowance to reflect increased living costs and hiring locums to enable clinically vulnerable social workers to shield.

    ·         There was a £4.6m projected overspend in Children’s Services, and this was not solely due to the pandemic.  Some of the actions to address the overspend, such as hiring more permanent staff, recruiting more in-house foster carers and securing council tenancies for care leavers, would result in service improvements as well as lower costs.


    Merlin Joseph, Strategic Director for Children’s Services then provided the following information:

    ·         Costs relating to Special Educational Needs (SEN) was a major source of overspend in Children’s Services.  The number of young people with Education and Health Care Plans had increased each year, resulting in increased costs, particularly on transport.

    ·         The SEND Transport service was currently being recommissioned in order to maintain spend sustainably.

    In response to questions from Members, officers provided the following information:

    ·         Officers would provide details on Service Transformation Plans outside the meeting.

    ·         Increased funding had been provided to early years education during the pandemic, and no providers had closed.

    ·         Reductions in education budgets would largely affect the Virtual School, and would not impact staff numbers or affect vulnerable children, and an Equality Impact Assessment had been completed.  Full details of the proposals could be provided to the Committee outside the meeting.

    ·         Any changes to funding to governor services would assess the impact on individual schools.

    ·         Reducing reliance on agency staff was a priority both within Children’s Services and across the Council more widely.  Over-reliance on agency staff was an issue across Children’s Services nationally.  Increasing permanent staff was an element of the Improvement Plan and efforts were ongoing to achieve this, such as by introducing a ‘temporary to permanent’ stream for existing agency staff.

    ·         There had not been an increase in referrals as a result of Croydon issuing a S114 notice, but there had been a steady increase in the number of unaccompanied minors being directed to Lambeth instead of Croydon.  There was sufficient funding to support these young people, but the Council would lobby the Home Office if more funding was needed in the future.

    ·         Opportunities to maximise income were being explored.

    ·         As a result of an increase in domestic abuse referrals during lockdown, the commissioning service was being reviewed and enhanced, further capacity for the ‘front door’ was being provided and additional staff training had been delivered.

    ·         Children placed out of borough had a Lambeth social worker but would use services in their home borough, and all of these children had annual reviews of their placement.  Increasing the number  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Children's Services Improvement Update pdf icon PDF 533 KB

    (All Wards)


    Contact for enquiries: Alex Kubeyinje, Director Children’s Social Care, Tel: 020 7926 0144,


    The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ed Davie, introduced the report, stating that:

    ·         There had been considerable progress in the past two years in particular, across all seven priority areas.  Improved Key Performance Indicators represented better services.

    ·         At this stage, it was essential that the improvements were sustainable and long-lasting, such as through ensuring consistency of practice and increase the number of permanent staff and in-house foster carers.

    ·         Children’s Services had worked with other departments, such as Housing to support young people and their families. This sort of collaborative working was necessary to deliver further improvements.

    Merlin Joseph, Strategic Director for Children’s Services then noted the following:

    ·         The 2018 Ofsted inspection had found that Lambeth required improvement to be good and as a result, seven key priority areas were identified.  A Peer Review conducted in September 2020 had provided useful feedback in advance of the next Ofsted inspection.

    ·          The Council had adopted updated strategies including the Fostering Strategy, Corporate Parenting Plan and Sufficiency Strategy, and had created a new Edge of Care Team. 

    ·         Increased numbers of permanent staff were being recruited to reduce the reliance on agency staff.  Currently, 34% of staff in Children’s Services were agency, and the target was to reduce this to 15%.

    ·         Permanency had been identified as a key issue in the last Ofsted inspection, and 85% of young people now had a permanence plan. The number of children who had been in three or more placements was now in line with the national average.

    ·         Feedback from young people was an ongoing issue, and efforts were being made to improve engagement and collaboration with young people and their families.

    ·         Officers were exploring the possibility of Lambeth becoming a Child Friendly Borough, but this would take up to five years.

    The Sub-Committee then heard from a representative of the Children in Care Council, who stated the following:

    ·         When a child entered Care or was at the edge of Care, Social Workers needed to be able to develop a relationship with them in a short time, and should be supported in this.  Improved staff morale and job satisfaction led to improved relationships with young people.

    ·         There were high numbers of young people, especially Black boys, entering or at risk of entering the criminal justice system or being subjected to Serious Youth Violence.  It was important to consider individual circumstances, rather than treating all Black boys as likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.

    ·         Record-keeping and sensitively recording information needed to be considered, as young people could want to access their records in the future.

    ·         Data, audits and feedback should be used to improve outcomes, as well as working with other partners as corporate parents.

    ·         Having high aspirations for all young people should be the aim of the service, rather than solely aiming for improvements or achieving a certain outcome of an Ofsted inspection.

    ·         Despite the challenges facing the service, the representative felt that Lambeth truly cared about, not just for, the young people  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


2020/21 Children's Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 537 KB

    (All wards)


    Contact for enquiries: Maria Burton, Democratic Services, Legal and Governance; 020 7926 8703,


    Additional documents:


    Sub-Committee Members suggested the following areas for potential future scrutiny:

    ·         Child Poverty Strategy.

    ·         Pupil Place Planning in relation to falling roll numbers.

    ·         Access to virtual education to be included in the report on Covid-19 impacts scheduled for the March 2021 meeting.

    ·         Training and apprenticeships.



    That the work programme be noted.