Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Wednesday 30 June 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room (B6) - Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, London, SW2 1RW

Contact: David Rose, Democratic Services,  020 7926 1037, Email: drose@lambeth.gov.uk

Note: Information on how to access the meeting is set out on the agenda. However, if you just want to watch the live broadcast you can copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://bit.ly/2SLgSA9. The video will remain available to view for 180 days. 

Items
No. Item

1.

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.

    Minutes:

    There were none.

     

2.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 195 KB

    • View the background to item 2.

    To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 16 March 2021 as a correct record of the proceedings.

    Minutes:

    RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 March 2021 were approved as a correct record of proceedings.

     

3.

SEND and Inclusion Strategy pdf icon PDF 749 KB

    • View the background to item 3.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Merlin Joseph: Strategic Director for Children’s Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Jo Sullivan-Lyons, Assistant Director, Education Strategy, Access and Inclusion; Education and Learning, jsullivanlyons@lambeth.gov.uk, 07547 657446

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The report was introduced by Councillor Edward Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People; Abrilli Phillip, Director of Education and Learning; and Jo Sullivan-Lyons, Assistant Director Education Strategy, Access and Inclusion, who noted:

    ·           The Strategy aimed to ensure all could succeed in life and demonstrated Lambeth’s commitment for all to achieve their full potential.

    ·           It had been created with the borough’s parents, carers, children, and professionals, through wide consultation.

    ·           Lambeth’s recent Ofsted report was positive and noted areas for further improvement alongside what the Council did well, and this Strategy built on these strengths as well as the identified areas for development.

    ·           Lambeth had a proportionally large group of children with special educational needs compared to the national average and it was important to identify those needs early.

     

    The Sub-Committee next heard from Rosemary Merricks, Lambeth Parent Forum and parent; and, Joanna Tarrant, Headteacher, Elm Court and The Livity Schools, who noted that:

    ·           Families’ experiences were often different from the intentions of the Council and it was recognised that they wanted change immediately but that this was not always possible.

    ·           Early identification was key and this was needed across the board.

    ·           All children and young people deserved the same from life as others could expect, and SEND persons were as much a part of the community as everyone else.

    ·           Programmes to date, such as the South London Careers Hub where three Elm Court students had been offered a place, benefitted young persons’ development.

    ·           All special schools were looking at fulfilling opportunities, such as work experiences, whilst some special schools had implemented virtual work experiences to mitigate issues created by lockdown.

    ·           Covid-19 had raised problems for employer-run enterprise opportunities and other post-19 provision.

    ·           Further opportunities and co-working with employers and voluntary organisations were required and these needed to link-up when pupils left school, with greater support from the Council.

    ·           SEND funding was being reviewed by the Department for Education.

    ·           The improvements in EHCPs were praised, with further improvements to be detailed in the Action Plan.

    ·           There had been improvements in SEND, but it was difficult for parents to be patient.

    ·           Students had missed school during closures and feedback from those coming back were that they wanted to be on site, with attendance at Elm Court School higher than it had ever been.

    ·           Remote learning had presented challenges for all students, not just for SEND children, but SEND students had found it particularly challenging as most required a hands-on learning approach.

    ·           A London-wide survey had uncovered that digital poverty and access had been issues for many.

    ·           The Covid-19 pandemic had been extremely difficult for parents, particularly those with SEND children, and it was noted that a number of schools’ support had been of the highest quality.

     

    During this item, at 19:21, Councillor Malcolm Clark joined the meeting and subsequently noted that he did not have any declarations of interest in any agenda items under consideration.

     

    In response to questions from members, the Cabinet Member and officers answered:

    ·           Next steps were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Impact of the London-wide Regional Adoption Agency pdf icon PDF 783 KB

    • View the background to item 4.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Merlin Joseph: Strategic Director for Children’s Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Shkelqim Luma, Service Manager, Fostering Permanency, 020 7926 2558 OR 07849 05849, sluma1@lambeth.gov.uk; Nina Sio-Lokam, Permanency Lead, 0207 926 2925, nsio-lokam@lambeth.gov.uk

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The report was introduced by Councillor Edward Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People; Alex Kubeyinje, Director: Children's Social Care; Shkelqim Luma, Service Manager, CSC; and Nina Sio-Lokam, Agency Advisor & Permanency Lead, CSC, who noted:

    ·           Lambeth’s adoption services were rated as inadequate in 2015, but subsequent improvements had been made and the Council was continuing to build on these.

    ·           When dealing with small numbers, statistics could be skewed by one or two cases.

    ·           Local authorities needed to exhaust all potential avenues of permanency before adopting outside of the family group, presenting issues to quickly resolving adoptions.

    ·           The Cabinet Member noted that the Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) had merit when creating efficiencies but had yet to be fully convinced it was delivering as well it could.

     

    The Sub-Committee next heard from two non-Lambeth adopters; and, Susanna Daus, Head of Service (Adoption), Southwark, who noted that:

    ·           Lambeth was part of nine local authorities in Adopt London South (ALS), working in collaboration to provide a more consistent service and to promote adoption in London.

    ·           ALS found families for children across the region; supporting early permanence and shortening times; recruiting adopters; attracting and providing support and advice to parents and children through the ‘letterbox’ service and signposting to support services at any age.

    ·           ALS could also access files from other local authorities to pass onto adoptee as requested.

    ·           ALS gave advice for anyone affected by adoption.

    ·           The adopters viewed their social worker as part of their family, praising the close bond formed, especially when considering social workers’ other commitments and noted that they deserved more acknowledgement in their essential work.

    ·           Much time was taken by social workers getting to understand adopters as people.

    ·           Pooling London boroughs made it easier to find a child closer to home, lowering costs for adopters and allowing more time to assimilate information during the matching phase.

    ·           It was requested that discounts or support be offered to access adoption-orientated courses, or that these were offered as part of the adoption process, especially for those on lower incomes.

    ·           Adopters often struggled with financial burdens, with many employers not offering several months off work with pay or only meeting statutory obligations, which could deter many potential adopters.

    ·           The LGBTQ+ community, especially those also in the BAME cohort, could be better informed of adoption, noting that promotions at events such as Black Gay Pride would help.

    ·           Many children in care were from a BAME background and this needed to be better represented in both adoption agencies and adopters.

     

    Sub-Committee members congratulated the adopters on almost completing their journey and wished them the best for their future family.

     

    In response to questions from Members, the Cabinet Member, officers, and external invitees answered:

    ·           The adopters did not note any negative experiences so far during their adoption journey and reiterated their praise of the support received.

    ·           There was considerable pressure in CAHMS due to the high demand imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and delaying all proceedings to permanency and viability assessments.

    ·           The main indicator of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Supporting Families Programme pdf icon PDF 782 KB

    • View the background to item 5.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Merlin Joseph: Strategic Director for Children’s Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: Brenda McInerney, Assistant Director: Early Help, Access and Assessment, bmcinerney@lambeth.gov.uk; and, Kulsuma Faiz, Troubled Families Co-ordinator, kfaiz@lambeth.gov.uk

    Minutes:

    During discussion of this item the guillotine fell at 9.00 pm.

     

    RESOLVED: That the meeting continue for a further period of up to 30 minutes.

     

    This report was introduced by Cllr Edward Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People; Alex Kubeyinje, Director: Children's Social Care; Brenda McInerney, AD: Early Help, Access and Assessment, CSC; and Kulsuma Faiz, Troubled Families Co-ordinator, CSC, who noted:

    ·           The Government’s Supporting Families Programme was previously called the Troubled Families Programme, with Lambeth previously calling this the Aspirational Families Programme.

    ·           The wider Early Help Strategy was being prepared and detailed the need to work better with partners and other universal services.

    ·           The Council had drawn down on £1.5m of the Grant in 2021 to fund community early help services to deliver targeted family support and provide further support to partners.

    ·           Covid-19 had led to significant operational changes, such as weekend working, working more closely with education welfare services, and providing a helpline for families; whilst also impacting on DWP employment providers, but Lambeth had helped a number of families into continuous employment.

     

    In response to questions from members, the Cabinet Member and officers answered:

    ·           The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had raised the following questions which officers had answered outside the meeting:

    o    How the data maturity milestones are progressing in Lambeth and if there are any barriers?

    o    How the Lambeth locality model had progressed and adapted to Covid-19 challenges?

    o    How Lambeth intended to develop their Supporting Families database to support Early Help, develop needs analysis and support preventative approaches?

    ·           MHCLG had changed the way to attach value to the programme, setting targets and increasing the number of families; which meant increasingly complex needs and more challenge to meet targets.

    ·           The Programme was an evidence-driven process, but it was challenging to get this data and further work on developing a data warehouse, improving data pathways and linking with the wider Digital Transformation Strategy, was required.  This also needed to be in tune with partners and commissioning colleagues, through a data sharing agreement.

    ·           The Covid-19 pandemic had impacted community working and meant that the Council could not reach out in the way it desired, but had created locality managers and hyper-local working, noting that this was mostly virtual at present.  Some localities would have an Early Help Strategic Group to strengthen working arrangements and a Locality Panel to deliver help in a suitable way, such as at ward level, but required the involvement of small community groups such as in Tulse Hill.

    ·           Data and case studies would be provided to the Sub-Committee for their further information.

    ·           Sustained change was needed by families, however the Council needed to evidence progress to continue to provide support through the Programme but would continue to work with families as needed after that had concluded.

    ·           Officers were content to report back after the wider Early Help Strategy was enacted.

     

    RESOLVED:

    1.         That the Sub-Committee noted the progress made to date in delivering the objectives of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 454 KB

    • View the background to item 6.

    (All wards)

     

    Report Authorised by: Interim Director of Legal and Governance: Tasnim Shawkat

     

    Contact for enquiries: David Rose, Democratic Services, Legal and Governance; drose@lambeth.gov.uk, 020 7926 1037

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Chair noted that the work programme report would be discussed offline in detail by the Sub-Committee at a work programming session and updated for the next meeting.

     

    RESOLVED: To consider and approve the work programme as currently drafted (Appendix 1) and identify and prioritise matters for future scrutiny of Children’s Services.