Agenda and minutes

People Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 22nd July, 2022 2.00 pm

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

Contact: Beth McGhee, Senior Policy and Scrutiny Adviser  07975 729931


No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting - 24 March 2022 pdf icon PDF 334 KB

Additional documents:


1.1       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 24 March 2022 as a correct record and agree the recommendations made at the meeting.



Apologies for absence

Additional documents:


2.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Charles Clark and Chris Dowling (substituted by Councillor Ian Hollidge), Mr Trevor Cristin (Diocese of Chichester Representative) and Mark Stainton (Director of Adult Social Care and Health).



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.


Additional documents:


3.1       There were no disclosures of interests.



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.


Additional documents:


4.1       There were no urgent items.



Schools White Paper presentation pdf icon PDF 375 KB

Additional documents:


5.1       The Assistant Director Education delivered a presentation on the national reforms to education outlined in the Government’s ‘Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child’ White Paper, and how East Sussex County Council was responding to the reforms with partners in the local education system. The Assistant Director covered in the presentation:

·         The national ambitions that the White Paper was working to achieve were very ambitious. By way of an example, the White Paper set an ambition that by 2030, 90% of pupils at the end of primary school would meet the expected standard in reading, writing and maths combined at Key Stage 2. Early data for this academic year indicated just under 55% of pupils were achieving this ambition locally, and just under 59% nationally. Similarly, the White Paper set an ambition for a fully trust-led schools system, with all schools part of, or with plans to join, a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) by 2030. The gap between the current situation and the Government’s ambition in East Sussex was explained; while nearly all special schools were academies, approximately two thirds of secondary schools were academies and approximately only one quarter of primary schools were academies (with 104 maintained primary schools).


·         The newly clarified role of local authorities in the education system as local authorities step away from maintaining schools. Local authorities would have responsibility for: ensuring sufficiency of school places, school admissions, a strengthened safeguarding role and attendance. ESCC welcomed the clarified role of local authorities in championing the needs and interests of children, particularly the most vulnerable, to ensure they secure good educational outcomes.


·         With regards to the local authority role in attendance, the Department for Education (DfE) had published another document ‘Working together to improve attendance’ which set out the responsibilities of all education system partners in ensuring good attendance in schools. The guidance would come into effect from September 2022, with an expectation the proposals would be fully implemented from September 2023. The Assistant Director noted that school attendance had been a challenging area for East Sussex for some time and was a heightened issue nationally, and locally, following the pandemic. The new attendance guidance set out new expectations for local authorities to know where children were, remove barriers to attendance and particularly focus on early help for families to remove barriers to attendance.


·         The local response to the White Paper, which had involved ESCC articulating its understanding of the reforms and roles the Council would play in the education system in future. These roles were acting as an ambassador for children and young people, especially the most vulnerable; facilitating partnerships with and between schools to support inclusion and improvement; and shaping wider capacity in the system, including having strategic conversations with local and national MATs to ensure there was capacity for every school to be part of a strong family of schools in future.


·         The work that had taken place in response to, and areas that remained uncertain  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) pdf icon PDF 402 KB

Additional documents:


6.1       The Director of Children’s Services introduced the report which marked the start of the Committee’s input into the 2022/23 RPPR Cycle and provided a stock take of the Council’s position for scrutiny’s consideration ahead of more detailed planning for the 2023/24 financial year. The report contained as appendices relevant parts of the Council’s Year-End Monitoring Report which highlighted achievements and challenges for services the Committee scrutinised and the State of the County report which looked ahead at demographic, financial and policy trends and challenges. The Director highlighted that the Council was operating in a highly uncertain context due to COVID, developments in the national economic environment and significant reforms to services being brought forward by Government. The reform that generated the greatest uncertainty for the Council was planned in Adult Social Care, but there were also reforms planned in Children’s Services which would introduce significant change to the way services were delivered. The Director highlighted that the report offered the Committee the opportunity to consider if further information, or scrutiny, was required on areas covered in both the appended reports, and that the Committee’s views were sought on the principles for assessing one-off investment proposals set out at paragraph 1.6 of the report.


6.2       The Committee asked a number of questions regarding the information provided in the report:


·         Impact of Adult Social Care reforms – the Committee asked how the findings of the fair cost of care exercise would impact the Council’s budget in future years and future care quality (i.e. would we expect care quality to improve as a result of paying higher fee rates to providers). The Assistant Director for Strategy, Commissioning and Supply Management confirmed that the fair cost of care exercise was live and clarified that it only applied to residential and nursing care for people aged sixty-five and over, and people receiving domiciliary care aged eighteen and over, so a range of other social care provision was excluded from the assessment (for example, working-age residential care). Determining the budgetary impact was partially reliant on understanding the funding that would be allocated by Government to support the reforms and next year’s funding allocation was expected just before Christmas. The Department was required to submit two versions of a market sustainability plan, one in October this year publishing the outcome of the fair cost of care exercise and a subsequent plan in February 2023, describing how ESCC would move towards paying the fair cost of care over the subsequent two to three years. The gap between current fee rates and the rates identified by the fair cost of care exercise would be the financial challenge the Council would need to address. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that the assumed cost of the reforms for the Medium Term Financial Plan was currently net nil, because both the impact of the reform was unclear and the funding allocated had only been set out nationally in headline terms. There was yet to be a national consultation on funding methodology  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 409 KB

Additional documents:


7.1       The Chair introduced the report on the Committee’s latest work programme and noted that three initial scoping board had taken place since the Committee had last met in March.


Scrutiny Reviews


Equality and Inclusion in Adult Social Care


7.2       Councillor John Ungar, as Chair of the Initial Scoping Board, fed back that the Board had received an interesting presentation from the Department on the work they were undertaking to improve equality and inclusion; and had been impressed with the level of work underway. However, the Board had agreed there was a benefit to undertaking further scrutiny of the work needed to identify and engage with hard to reach groups and ensure that they, and other residents, knew how to access ASC services.


7.3       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the recommendation of the scoping board to proceed with a review of Adult Social Care Equality and Inclusion and to appoint Councillor John Ungar as Chair, and Councillor Nuala Geary to the Review Board. [Post-meeting note: Councillor Trevor Webb was also appointed to the Review Board].


Use of digital and technology in Adult Social Care


7.4       Councillor Penny di Cara, as Chair of the Initial Scoping Board, fed back that the Board had also been impressed with the amount of work being done by the Department to make use of digital and technological enhancements in ASC. The Board had worked to focus the topic down to look at a specific area of this work that was manageable and had agreed to focus on the cultural and behavioural changes needed to support increased use of online services and digital platforms.


7.5       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the recommendation of the scoping board to proceed with a review of Use of Digital and Technology in Adult Social Care and to appoint Councillor Penny di Cara as Chair, and Councillors Nuala Geary and Wendy Maples to the Review Board. 


Use of Prevention in Children’s Services


7.6       Councillor Johanna Howell, as Chair of the Initial Scoping Board, fed back that the Board had discussed a range of issues with officers at their scoping board, such as ways to deliver preventative approaches in rural areas and support families with financial pressures given the current economic context, and agreed they should proceed with a review of work underway to strengthen preventative approaches.


7.7       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the recommendation of the scoping board to proceed with a review of the Use of Prevention in Children’s Services and to appoint Councillor Johanna Howell as Chair, and Councillors Sam Adeniji, Kathryn Field and John Hayling (Parent Governor Representative) to the Review Board.


Work Programme

7.8       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the updated work programme. 



Handling and learning from complaints, enquiries and feedback pdf icon PDF 382 KB

Additional documents:


8.1       The Strategic Lead: Inclusion and Support Services introduced the report and delivered a short presentation on the key points and insights from the report. This covered:

·         the range of mechanisms the Department have to inform their understanding of people’s experience of ASC & Health – including through enquiries from MPs and councillors, which were a valuable source of information;

·         the complaints process, which was a statutory process, and how it related to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman;

·         numbers of complaints received in recent years – ASC consistently had the highest number of complaints across Council which was due to the number of services delivered to residents, often at very challenging points in their lives, under difficult circumstances. There was a dip in complaints in 2020/21 due to deferral of the complaints process while responding to the first wave of the pandemic;

·         complaints numbers in 2021/22 had not reached pre-pandemic levels but there had been an increase in complexity. If complaints were not upheld, changes could still be made in response to concerns and feelings of dissatisfaction. The Strategic Lead explained that the presentation slides had a higher number of compliments in 2021/22 that had been covered in the report as the Department had re-counted compliments and found them to be higher;

·         how complaints and other sources of information are monitored and analysed; and

·         how the Department had used information from compliments and complaints (which often overlapped in their subject) to develop an understanding of what people value from ASC services. 


8.2       Following the presentation, the Committee discussed and asked questions about the presentation and report. These covered:


·         Complaints figures – the Committee asked whether the complaints figures cited in the report and as part of the presentation were complaints from individuals or numbers of overall complaints (including repeat complaints about one issue). The Strategic Lead confirmed that the figures would include both a single complaint from one individual and multiple complaints made by one person, but if multiple complaints by one person repeatedly covered the same issue, it would be recorded as only one complaint.


·         Language use – the Committee observed that the language used by the Council in some written communications with residents could be improved and personalised, and discussed with officers how this could be achieved. The Strategic Lead: Inclusion and Support Services recognised the importance of language in communications when dealing with residents’ concerns and complaints and noted that the Department had worked hard to ensure the language it used was as simple and jargon-free as possible, and used the sort of language officers would want to see in a response to themselves. The Director of Children’s Services added that there was a lot of emphasis in Children’s Services on responding to people with empathy and using a high degree of emotional literacy, recognising the people contacted the Council because they wanted their needs to be met and if we could not help them, that needed to be explained carefully.


·         Contact with the Council –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.