Agenda and minutes

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Note No. Item



Minutes pdf icon PDF 182 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September 2021 (previously circulated) and the notes from the 11 October Standing Overview Group meeting, attached.

Additional documents:


RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 7 September and the  minutes from the 11 October Standing Over Group meeting, be signed as a correct record.



Items Requiring Urgent Attention

Items which in the opinion of the Chair should be considered at the meeting as matters of urgency.

Additional documents:


There was no matter raised as a matter of urgency.



Public Participation

Members of the public may make representations/presentations on any substantive matter listed in the published agenda for this meeting, as set out hereunder, relating to a specific matter or an examination of services or facilities provided or to be provided.

Additional documents:


There were no oral representations from members of the public.




Scrutiny Committee Work Programme

In accordance with previous practice, Scrutiny Committees are requested to review the list of forthcoming business and determine which items are to be included in the Work Programme.


The Committee may also wish to review the content of the Cabinet Forward Plan and the Children’s Services Risk Register to see if there are any specific items therein it might wish to explore further.


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The Committee were updated as to the Scrutiny Work Programme and it was agreed that an SEND Task Group would be added.



In-Year Budget Position pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/21/17), attached.

Additional documents:


The Committee received the In-Year Budget Briefing Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/21/17) outlining those areas of specific pressures on the budget and on action being taken to address this. The Report highlighted that as of September 2021, the forecast position for Children’s Services, including Public Health Nursing (PHN), was an overspend of £43.3m, which included the Dedicated Schools Grant deficit of £36 million. The greatest cost pressures related to the availability of suitable provision for children coming into care, the reliance on agency staff pending impact of the Recruitment and Retention Strategy and the SEND High Needs Block.


The Dedicated Schools Grant was showing a deficit overspend of just over £36 million for this financial year after £2.8 million of management actions. This cumulative deficit was expected to be £85 million by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.  The Council (and Government) recognised the national context of rapidly escalating demand and a legal framework that increased demand without the corresponding investment.


School transport continued to be an area of significant pressure due to marketplace failings driving up the costs above inflation and with the current pandemic it could place more pressure on contract providers in the long term. The current predicted overspend on the school transport budget for 2021-22 was £2.5 millions. This budget sat within Children’s Services but the operational delivery sat within Planning, Transport and Environment (PTE).


Children’s Social Care was forecast to overspend by just under £5 millions.  Operationally, the staffing position remained challenging. However, Cabinet had approved the Recruitment and Retention Strategy in September of this year and several measures, such as more competitive salaries for experienced social workers combined with a retention payment provided an immediate incentive.


The number of children in care had slightly reduced from a high of 840 down to just over 800. The greatest areas of concern continued to be the number and cost of children’s placements. The Sufficiency Strategy 2022-2024 “Finding a place to call home” sets out the plan to address these issues.


The budget for the Public Health Nursing Service was £10.5 million, of which £10.4 million was funded from the Public Health grant. The Service was forecast to underspend by £300,000, largely due to vacant nurses positions. 12 new starters were expected to join the Service in January 2022.


Members Discussion points included:


·       How the shortage of bus drivers within Stagecoach, as well as coach operators ceasing to trade due to current climate, would be managed moving forward to ensure children could still get to school. Members were advised that whilst the budget for school transport sat with Children’s Services, the operational delivery sat within Planning, Transportation and Environment services – this would be a challenge moving forward with the current market climate, however, the Transport Team had found the best value school transport routes; therefore the overspend could have been much higher.  It was noted that every school run had continued throughout the Pandemic, however with the rising fuel costs it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Children's Services Performance Report pdf icon PDF 602 KB

Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services covering Children’s Social Care Performance and Children’s Education Annual Report, attached.

Additional documents:


The Committee received the Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services which provided a performance update on Children’s Social Care including key data demonstrating levels of demand and response across help, care and protection. The Report outlined key points such as referrals, the timeliness of assessments, the number of children in need, the number of children subject to a child protection plan, the number of children in care, care experienced young people, the number of caseloads for social workers, level of recruitment and an overview of the service’s findings from practice week and audits.


The Report also included an Education and Learning Performance update, which provided an update on the take up of places in Early Years, Early Years Outcomes - 2018/19 data due to Covid, the number of school applications for 2020/21, number of school admission appeals, Children’s Medical and Mental Health referrals, school attendance during Covid, attainment levels, the number of permanent exclusions, those in elective home education, and the number of pupils entitled to Free School Meals.


Members raised the following discussion points and questions with Officers in response to the Report:


·       There were high numbers of children in need, with 686 young people on a Children in Need (CIN) Plan.

·       Devon currently had the highest numbers it had ever seen of children on a Child Protection Plan, with 645 children – Members noted there needed to be more effective intervention at an earlier stage.

·       The number of children in care had decreased from 840 to 807.

·       Social Worker Caseloads had hit a peak in the summer, with a small number that had more than 30 children at assessment stage.

·       Care Leavers – the Service was aware of 7 young people with no fixed abode – these were due to specific reasons for these young people and the Service area continued to work closely with them.

·       Neglect had increased during the pandemic – 50% of young people on a Child Protection plan was due to neglect.  Members were advised that the number of deaths amongst the younger age group (under 1s) and older teenagers predominantly through suicide, had increased nationally and in the South West – austerity measures had increased pressures on family, family networks were not available for new parents, new birth visits were taking place online rather than in person, and there had been a decrease in the amount of support and oversight available during the pandemic.

·       The need to include comparator data with other local authorities that are performing well, to help Members understand where the Service needs to improve and examples of best practice.

·       KS4 outcomes – the official results were very similar to those predicted within the Report – 73% achieved level 4 or above; 51% achieved level 5 or above (an increase on previous year). The Attainment 8 scores in Devon were just above national average, and the difference in performance between boys and girls result had reduced to approx. 6%

·       Exclusions – Fixed Term Exclusions (FTS) remained much higher  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Corporate Parenting Strategies pdf icon PDF 10 MB

Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services covering Devon’s Corporate Parenting Strategy 2022-2024 and Devon’s Sufficiency Strategy 2022-2024, attached.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a Report (CS/21/15) of the Head of Children’s Health and Wellbeing and the Senior Manager for Corporate Parenting outlining the Corporate Parenting Strategy and Sufficiency Strategy, explaining how every local authority had the unique responsibility to support children and young people in care, and care leavers, to feel safe, well and cared for.  The whole Council, including all its staff and elected Members, should consider those children and young people as their own. The Report outlined the Council’s vision, principles, and commitments for corporate parenting in Devon within the new Strategies.


Devon’s vision was for all children and young people in Devon to have the best start in life and the opportunity to thrive. This meant they received the right support, at the right time, and in the right place. The Sufficiency Strategy described how this would be achieved by working restoratively with children and families to build on their strengths and resilience and help them remain safely at home together. 


The vision for corporate parenting and the Council’s commitments to ensuring sufficiency should be considered together. Both supported each other’s aims for children and young people to be safe, well and achieving in life.  Safety and stability at home, especially while living in care, underpinned good outcomes in all aspects of children and young people’s lives. As such, sufficiency was a fundamental part of being the best possible corporate parents.


The strategies covered the three-year period of 2022-2024.


Members’ discussion points included:


·       A decrease in rates of adoption, currently below the national average, and the impact of issues around care proceedings, with large numbers of young people on special guardianship orders; this was being looked into by the service area.

·       How other local authorities had more capacity in residential homes compared to Devon. It was noted that many other LAs used private residential homes rather than in-house providers and often placed out of county.

·       Preparing children for adulthood and independent living – Members queried whether children in care received allowances or financial support to prepare them for independent living. Officers would provide a written response to be sent to all Members.

·       Corporate Parenting Forum - Members felt strongly that meeting twice a year was not enough to effectively monitor services and maintain their duties as corporate parents. Members were advised that the Corporate Forum was open to all Members and would meet twice per year, with the Corporate Parenting Strategic Board, which had cross-party Membership, would meet bi-monthly. Officers would continue to speak with he LGA on how best to involve Members through this process.



It was MOVED by Councillor Hannaford SECONDED by Councillor Sanders and




The Committee welcomes both the Corporate Parenting Strategy and Sufficiency Strategy and places on record its thanks to those who were involved in the production of both strategies.


The Committee commends both strategies to the Corporate Parenting Strategic Board for approval.