Agenda and minutes

People Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 11th March, 2021 10.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Lewes. View directions

Contact: Stuart McKeown, Senior Democratic Services Adviser  01273 481583


No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting: 19 November 2020 pdf icon PDF 225 KB

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82.1    RESOLVED to agree the minutes as a correct record.



Apologies for absence

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83.1    Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Tom Liddiard, Councillor Kathryn Field, Councillor Bill Bentley, Councillor Carl Maynard, Simon Parr, Catholic Diocese Representative, Nicola Boulter, Parent Governor Representative and Matthew Jones, Parent Governor Representative.



Disclosures of interests

Disclosures by all members present of personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the member regards the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.


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84.1    Councillor Michael Ensor declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest as the landlord to Victoria Hall, which is the Bexhill, East Sussex, site for the Sabden Multi Academy Trust school, College Central.



Urgent items

Notification of items which the Chair considers to be urgent and proposes to take at the appropriate part of the agenda. Any members who wish to raise urgent items are asked, wherever possible, to notify the Chair before the start of the meeting. In so doing, they must state the special circumstances which they consider justify the matter being considered urgent.


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85.1    There were none.



East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership (ESSCP) Annual Report pdf icon PDF 640 KB

Report by Independent Chair of East Sussex Safeguarding Partnership

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86.1    Following changes introduced by the Children and Social Care Act (2017), the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) was replaced in October 2019 by the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership (ESSCP).   Reg Hooke, Independent Chair of the ESSCP, therefore highlighted to the Committee that the Annual Report covers a period of transition.   Mr Hooke then provided an overview of some of the key learning and achievements that have occurred as part of the transition process.  For example, the embedding of arrangements relating to a new national panel that oversees case reviews and the movement of the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) to a new Pan-Sussex CDOP led by Public Health and local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. 


86.2    Mr Hooke also highlighted to the Committee the East Sussex Joint Targeted Area Inspection which took place in February 2020 (on the theme of children’s mental health).  The subsequent Inspection Letter noted the well-established and effective partnership arrangements in East Sussex.   


86.3    Another key area of activity for the ESSCP has been the development of the following priorities for the next three-year period: education safeguarding, child exploitation, embedding a learning culture, and safeguarding the under 5s.   With regard to safeguarding under 5s, Members heard that this priority was developed partly in response to an increase during the pandemic in the number of reports of injuries and neglect to children in this age group. 


86.4    Mr Hooke also set out some of the challenges the pandemic has presented to the ESSCP.  For example, the difficulties associated with having face-to-face meetings with children.    In conclusion, Mr Hooke is satisfied that the closer alignment of the agencies under the new arrangements has helped deliver an effective response to the challenges presented by the pandemic, with the agencies working together effectively.

86. 5   The Committee welcomed the detailed report before it and discussed a range of issues, with the key items set out below:


  • The Committee noted that the Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) referred to above identified multi-agency information sharing as an area which could be further strengthened and asked for more detail about this issue.  In response, Mr Hooke informed the Committee that each JTAI results in an Action Plan which is overseen the ESSCP.  The Plan is broken down into three elements relating to Police, Health and Social Care.  With regard to the issue of multi-agency information sharing, Members were assured that the response to the finding is being actioned.  Although Mr Hooke also clarified that any subsequent adjustments should be seen as ‘fine tuning’. 
  • Mr Hooke also commented that issues relating to communication will always need to be kept under review.   For example, the ESSCP is exploring whether communications between agencies could be improved with regard to electively home-educated children, a cohort which includes potentially vulnerable children. 
  • With regard to enhancing communication between agencies and professionals, the Director of Children’s Services, Stuart Gallimore, also confirmed that the Council’s Single Point of Advice (SPoA) page on the Council’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86.


Scrutiny Review of Support for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) - 12 month progress report pdf icon PDF 219 KB

Report by the Director of Children’s Services

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87.1    Liz Rugg (Assistant Director for Early Help and Social Care) introduced the report and provided the Committee with an update on progress with implementing the recommendations set out in the People Scrutiny Committee’s ‘Support for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children’ report.  The Committee were also provided with an update on developments relating to the recently created specialist UASC team within the Children’s Services Department and how the Department have responded to the challenges presented by the pandemic.  With regard to Recommendation Six of the scrutiny review report, the Committee were also informed that work on the UASC guidance document for Members (referred to as a toolkit) was progressing and that a draft for comment would be circulated to relevant members.


87.2    Set out below is a summary of the key points discussed by the Committee:


  • Members sought clarification about the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on access for UASC to social and religious activities.  Members were especially concerned about this specific issue given the restrictions may have a more pronounced impact on the wellbeing of individual UASC.  In response Members were informed that outside of the pandemic this is an area where positive progress is being made, although Covid-19 restrictions have had some impact.  So as to reduce feelings of isolation therefore, UASC were provided with online platforms which helped individuals maintain effective contact with their peers.  Looking forward, Members were also informed that initial discussions are taking place about how physical spaces can be safely re-opened so UASC can start to meet in person again.


  • In response to a query about the number of UASC who are missing and the risks of exploitation this may expose them to, Members were informed that East Sussex does not have high numbers of absconsion.  Nonetheless Liz Rugg agreed that ‘even one child missing, is one child too many’.   With that in mind, the Department have, for example, developed even closer working relationships with the Police and other agencies to help reduce the risk of an individual absconding.   In practice this means officers are now able to speak to new arrivals quickly and reassure them about the support East Sussex County Council will provide, and it appears this is having a positive impact.  It is also the case that spontaneous arrivals now have their fingerprints and biometric details recorded soon after they are discovered.  Whilst this does not stop absconding behaviour, it does mean individuals are easier to locate should they go missing.  


  • In response to a query about the rate of spontaneous arrivals, Members heard that there have been 29 cases in East Sussex in the latest period (the term spontaneous arrival is used to describe children who have arrived in the UK illegally and who are usually discovered by the Police or the Border Force).  In addition to spontaneous arrivals, UASC have also come into the care of East Sussex County Council via the National Transfer Scheme.


87.3    The Committee RESOLVED to note the report and welcomed the progress being made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 87.


Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education (SACRE) pdf icon PDF 297 KB

Report by Chair of Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education

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88.1    Councillor Roy Galley, as Chair of the Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE), introduced the report and highlighted to Members a number of key developments.  These include:


·         Impact of Covid-19: due to Covid-19 related restrictions some activities of the committee have either not been possible or have had to be adjusted.  For example, it had not been possible for SACRE to visit schools.  Furthermore, and also as a result of Covid-19 related requirements, no Religious Education (RE) exams have been allowed to take place.  However, positive progress has still been made.  For example, effective primary and secondary school networks have been developed and this has allowed for increased direct contact with teachers.  Another innovation has been the deployment of online training courses for education professionals, which have been well-received.


·         Schools Working Group: a working group of teachers and head teachers has been formed to advise and assist SACRE with its work.  The Group is currently focused on the task of revising the Locally Agreed Syllabus (see also next bullet point).

·         Locally Agreed Syllabus: Religious Education is a statutory element of the curriculum for all pupils, which is determined locally.  As a result, one of the key duties of SACRE is to review once every five years the Locally Agreed Syllabus.  The next review is due in 2022 and with that in mind, Councillor Galley informed the Committee that SACRE have developed a plan to take this task forward.  The plan will involve full engagement with teachers and religious representatives and will be informed by national guidance and resources on the provision of Religious Education. The revised Syllabus will be agreed by the end of 2021 and will be implemented in schools starting in September 2022.


88.2    The Committee discussed the importance of having a range of representatives on SACRE. In response, Councillor Roy Galley informed the Committee that SACRE aims to have as wide as possible representation from the faith groups in East Sussex.   However, there have been challenges with appointing representatives from some faith communities.  In order to help maintain a balanced view, SACRE have also appointed a Humanist observer.


88.3    The Committee RESOLVED to note the report.



Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) pdf icon PDF 214 KB

Report by Assistant Chief Executive

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89.1    The Committee discussed its input into the Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources process and possible future improvements.  Set out below is a summary of the key discussion points:


  • Members discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on how the Council works and delivers services to the public.  In particular, some Members expressed the expectation that next year’s RPPR process will provide further insights into new working practices which the response to the pandemic has brought about.  In response Members were informed by Mark Stainton that the Adult Social Care Department has, for example, developed a programme which seeks to capture and help embed new ways of working that going forward will help deliver efficiencies and improvements in customer service.  It is anticipated therefore that changes relating to how Departments operate will be discussed in the coming year.


  • Members heard that a major piece of work for the Adult Social Care and Health Department in the coming year will be its response to the Health and Social Care Bill. This will require detailed planning in support of working towards delivering an integrated care system for April 2022. 


  • Stuart Gallimore confirmed to the Committee that it will receive an update report on the impact of savings relating to Early Help services (with regard to the decisions taken in October 2019 by Councillor Tidy as Lead Member for Children and Families).  With regard to a specific query relating to Key Workers, Mr Gallimore confirmed savings relating to this area of activity had been deferred for the past two years. 


  • In response to a request made by the Committee, Mark Stainton undertook to provide Members with a briefing on developments relating to the Better Care Fund.  The timescale for producing the briefing will be confirmed at a later date as the Department are yet to receive updated guidance from central government for the 2021/22 financial year.


89.2    The Committee RESOLVED to note the report.   



People Scrutiny Committee Work programme pdf icon PDF 384 KB

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90.1    The Committee discussed its Work Programme which is comprised of a number of ongoing scrutiny reviews, reference groups and planned reports.   Set out below is an overview of the key items discussed.






Current Scrutiny Reviews


School Exclusions


90.2    The Committee heard that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the ability of schools to participate, it continued to be necessary to pause work on the scrutiny review of issues relating to the high rate of school exclusion in East Sussex.  The Committee anticipate that work will be able to recommence in autumn 2021.


Initial Scoping Reviews


Loneliness and Resilience Initial Scrutiny Scoping Board


90.3      In response to the extensive evidence available about the negative impact of loneliness on local communities, the Committee appointed a Loneliness and Resilience Initial Scrutiny Scoping Board in November 2019.  The Board comprised: Councillors Clark, Galley, Ungar (Chair) and Whetstone.  Following delays caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Board met in February 2021.  Councillor Ungar, as Chair of the Board, informed the Committee that its key finding was to recommend the establishment of a loneliness scrutiny reference group.  The Board reached this conclusion following a briefing provided by the Adult Social Care and Health Department regarding a new loneliness-focused project it intends to take forward in summer 2021.  The Board heard that the project will first seek to develop an improved understanding of the nature and impact of loneliness on East Sussex residents, before then seeking to identify opportunities and approaches to mitigate its worst effects.   The Board were also informed that the Department intend to engage with a wide range of partners and residents throughout the project.  With this in mind and given their unique insights into the communities they represent, the Department are particularly keen to work with elected members on this project.


90.4      On the evidence presented to it, the Committee agreed with the Board’s recommendation that a scrutiny reference group should be appointed for the following reasons: 


·         the Department’s project will seek to develop practical, evidence-based and community focused responses to the negative impacts of loneliness;

·         that a reference group will provide members with an effective opportunity to help shape new initiatives; and

·         that a separate scrutiny review would represent a duplication of effort.


90.5      The Committee therefore RESOLVED to establish a Loneliness and Resilience Scrutiny Reference Group, with the membership of the group to be reviewed at the next meeting of the People Scrutiny Committee in June 2021.


Suggested Potential Future Scrutiny Review Topics


Elective Home Education


90.6      The Committee agreed to continue to pause activity on the potential scrutiny review of issues relating to the increase in the numbers of children being electively home educated.   Whilst there is not a clear date for activity to resume, there is an expectation that the government will issue national guidance.  The Committee therefore agreed it would be prudent to revisit this subject once the new guidance becomes available.


Developing Care Markets/Bedded Care Strategy


90.7  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.


Scrutiny Review of the Changing Care Market: Adult Social Care workforce - 12 month progress report pdf icon PDF 347 KB

Report by the Director of Adult Social Care

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91.1    Tom Hook, Assistant Director for Planning, Performance and Engagement introduced the report by saying that good progress has been made with implementing the Committee’s recommendations, although the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on some areas.  Key developments include: 


  • Improved levels of joint working between Adult Social Care and the Employment and Skills team.
  • The online offer for the independent care sector has also been enhanced as there now a dedicated web page on East Sussex County Council’s website which is used for recruitment.  
  • In terms of other workforce support for the independent care sector during the pandemic, the Department provided a range of resources which included training and recruitment advice and regular email bulletins.   The Department also helped the sector access various government support such as the £1.3m Work Force Capacity Fund.


91.2    Sara Lewis, Adult Social Care Training Manager, briefed the Committee on the national ‘Call to Care Campaign’ (which ran between 1 February and 31 March 2021). The campaign was launched in response to an urgent need to boost the numbers of short-term staff available during the Covid-19 pandemic.   As a result of the campaign, the Department received once a week a list of contact details for individuals who had registered an interest in working in the care sector.  At the time of the meeting there had been 69 applicants, 21 of which have been screened and forwarded on to interested provider services.  It is hoped that a significant number of the individuals recruited as a result of the campaign will value their new roles and want to stay within the sector.


91.3Councillor Trevor Webb, as Chair of the Adult Social Care Workforce Scrutiny

Review Board welcomed the report and the progress being made with implementing the Committee’s recommendations.  Although he also noted that the workforce environment has been subject to considerable change since the report was published given the impact of the pandemic.  The Committee then discussed the report in detail.  Set out below is a summary of the key issues discussed:


  • In response to a query about what would happen after the Call to Care Campaign ended, Members were informed that the Department will follow-up with every individual who has registered an interest.  Other work includes, for example, exploring opportunities with the job centre service and the provision of regular workshops with provider services where workforce issues and challenges can be discussed. 


  • The Committee noted that the details of individuals who had indicated they were not prepared to deliver personal care (in response to the Call to Care Campaign) were not forwarded on to service providers.  However, some Members also noted that there are roles where this may not be a requirement and asked for clarification as to whether these individuals could be considered for such vacancies.  In response, Mark Stainton informed Members that older people services have a high number of clients who require support with personal care.  As a result, a willingness to provide personal care was a crucial factor for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 91.