Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Lewes. View directions
Contact: Rachel Sweeney Senior Policy and Scrutiny Adviser
1.1 The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 16 March 2023 as a correct record.
Apologies for absence
2.1 Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Penny di Cara (Councillor Beaver substituting), Nicola Boulter and Maria Cowler.
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.
3.1 Cllr Webb, Field, and Maples declared interests as a District and Borough Councillors, and Councillor Webb declared an additional interest as Vice Chair of the Audit Committee at Hastings Borough Council, in relation to the discussion on temporary accommodation.
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.
4.1 There were no urgent items.
Verbal update on the implementation of Schools White Paper Reforms
5.1 An update was given by the Assistant Director of Education who informed the Committee that the Schools White Paper Bill had been withdrawn from parliament and provided an update on the elements that, despite this, the DfE was still progressing including legislation on a register for children not in school, and attendance duties.
5.2 The Assistant Director informed the Committee that the Department were preparing for new statutory duties on attendance including through a reorganisation of the team, working with colleagues in Early Help and social care and the creation of a new attendance support team to work directly with schools. A new Level 2 Early Help Key Worker post would be working with severely absent children (children attending less than 50% of school and who were not involved with other services) and providing a whole family approach to support the most vulnerable children.
5.3 The Committee heard that academisation was still an ambition for government and the Department were working with the DfE, schools and the diocese to look at the options for trust development to create a strong network of schools across the county, as well as reviewing sustainability for smaller schools. The Department was continuing to work with primary and secondary boards and reported some increased movement with primary schools joining existing trusts. The DfE had provided some Trust Capacity Fund (TCF) funding to support new schools and existing trusts to set up / grow trusts and the Department anticipated there would be continued interest in academisation which they would support, particularly partnerships which delivered greater inclusion and outcomes for children.
5.4 Going forward the Department would continue to share information with schools and governors on the financial and governance implications of joining a trust and to make sure the local authority’s views were clear that any proposals around academisation should be in the best interests of children. They would continue to showcase where successful partnerships were working well and how.
5.5 The Committee welcomed the update and discussed the following:
• Academisation – The Committee asked for more information on the federation of schools that were interested in becoming MATs. In response, the Committee heard that there were several primary federations in East Sussex and that to work well, federations needed to be of right size (at least 3 or 4 schools) to get the benefit of working together. In response to the Committee’s question on the Council’s views on academisation, the Director of Children’s services responded that MATs could be a strong vehicle for supporting the life chances of children, providing they were committed to inclusion and had a strong value set. The Director clarified that the Council was neither able to force nor prevent schools from becoming academies, and that this was decided through regional DfE teams, however it was noted that the views of the Department were sought by the regional DfE teams.
• Meeting need with limited resources – The Committee asked how the Council could meet increasing need with fewer ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 The Chair introduced the report which outlined the Committee’s latest work programme.
Prevention in Children’s Services
6.2 John Hayling was asked, as Chair of the Group, to provide an update on the new Prevention in Children’s Services Reference Group. John Hayling informed the Committee that the Group met in June 2023 and received presentations from the Department on Prevention and Family Hubs (the slides from these presentations were included in the agenda pack) and that another meeting was planned for October/November 2023.
6.3 The Committee welcomed the update and presentation slides and asked for more information about the availability of support in the Family Hubs and requested that County Councillors be invited to visit the Hubs. The Director of Children’s Services responded to say that the Hubs would be open 5 days a week but noted there would be restricted opening hours in the pop-up locations. The Director welcomed the request for Councillors to visit the Hubs and would arrange for these to happen.
Health and Social Care Integration Programme
6.4 The Committee enquired into ongoing scrutiny of HASCIP and cited that it was an important part of social care and should remain a priority on the work programme.
6.5 The Director of ASCH informed the Committee that the Pan Sussex Integrated Care Strategy and Shared Delivery Plan had been shared with the HASCIP Reference Group and that progress on this work would continue to be shared with HASCIP at relevant stages.
6.6. The Committee agreed that this would be discussed at the upcoming People Committee awayday meeting in October 2023.
6.6 The Committee reviewed the Council’s Forward Plan of executive decisions.
6.7 The Committee RESOLVED to agree the updated work programme.
7.1 The Director of Adult Social Care and Health introduced the report which marked the start of the Committee’s input into the 2023/24 RPPR Cycle and provided a stock take of the Council’s position for scrutiny’s consideration ahead of more detailed planning for the 2024/25 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 informed the Committee that the Council remained in a period of uncertainty with the cost of living, no long-term financial settlements, and ongoing pressures impacting on demand led services.
7.2 The Director highlighted the key issues in Adult Social Care and Health including the Department overspend for 2022/2023, performance around the targeting of NHS Health checks, and ongoing work to support better outcomes for this; the seasonal pressures on health services, including industrial action in the NHS; the new Serious Violence Duty, and the success of the South East Regional Public Health Conference, hosted by ESCC, and attended by Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England as a key note speaker.
7.3 The Director outlined the key priorities for the Department going forward, including the implementation of the Pan Sussex Integrated Care Strategy; the Adult Social Care Strategy; Community Networks; preparing for the upcoming Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection; and ongoing challenges around financial inclusion, migrant support, and suicide prevention.
7.4 The Director of Children’s Services highlighted the key issues in Children’s Services including the Department overspend for 2022/2023, owing partly to the increased number of children in residential care, and agency staff needed (as a result of fewer foster carers); increased complex needs requiring more costly care; and accommodating some families that do not meet the required criteria of local support from the District and Borough Councils.
7.5 In response to these financial challenges, the Department were prioritising demand management and prevention by recruiting additional social workers and additional posts to support Family Safeguarding and the government funded Family Hubs. Posts had also been created to support Lifelong Links, to connect looked after children with family and friends they may have lost connections with, and Connected Coaches were being used support teenagers to stay at home to meet the rising number of teenagers entering care.
7.6 The Director of Children’s Services told the Committee that a recent review by the Competition and Markets Authority had concluded that the external residential placement market was not working effectively with a number of children’s home providers raising prices significantly.
7.7 The Director noted the increasing number of children on Child Protection Plans (although these numbers had reduced in Quarter 4), and the increasing numbers of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) as part of the National Transport Scheme which was contributing to increased numbers in care and recognised that this would be an ongoing issue. There would also be an impact from the ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
8.1 Cllr Ungar, as Chair of the Review Board, introduced the report. The Review Board was established to look at the ongoing work of the Adult Social Care and Health Equality and Inclusion Strategy and how the Department engages with seldom heard groups.
8.2 Overall, the Review Board welcomed the Department’s work to identify seldom heard groups and increase engagement, in particular the work with staff to identify potential barriers, and collaboration with trusted partners to support engagement and build trust with seldom heard communities and people. The Review Board had made recommendations that were practical, built on the good work underway, and were focussed on establishing best practice for engagement, staff learning, and maintaining relationships with key partners.
8.3 The Chair thanked the Members who took part in the review and the officers who provided support.
8.4 Councillor Nuala Geary, Member of the Review Board, recognised the important contribution of the witnesses involved in the review and that they had played a key role in developing the recommendations.
8.5 Councillor Trevor Webb, Member of the Review Board, reflected on the challenges in engaging with some seldom heard groups, particularly Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Communities, but noted the good work in developing recommendations in this area.
8.6 The Director of Adult Social Care and Health thanked the Review Board for their work on this and noted the opportunity for learning for the whole Council on engagement with seldom heard groups. In response, the Department would put together an action plan to address the recommendations in the report.
8.7 The Committee welcomed the report and, in discussing it, asked questions and made comments on the following areas:
• Identification of seldom heard groups – a suggestion was made that care leavers are considered as a seldom heard group, even though they do not have a protected characteristic. The Director of Adult Social Care and Health noted that there is some additional support and protection for care leavers, but this would be considered when addressing the report’s findings. It was also noted by the Committee that poverty, although implicit in the work of Adult Social Care and Health and Children’s Services, should be considered when identifying vulnerable groups. The Director of Adult Social Care and Health noted that this was a recognised determinant of people’s health and wellbeing and there was ongoing work to support this, including the Financial Inclusion Group.
• Equality data in the Census – a question was asked about the equality data in the report, particularly in relation to local figures on ethnic data and languages spoken. The Director responded that this data was taken from the Census which was self-declared.
8.8 The Committee RESOLVED to agree the Scrutiny Review report and its recommendations, and to receive six and twelve month monitoring updates on the Review.
9.1 The Assistant Director for Planning, Performance & Engagement introduced the report which provided an update on the implementation of the recommendations of the Use of Digital and Technology in Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Review.
9.2 The Assistant Director noted the positive news of the online financial assessments which were now live, and informed the Committee that an update on the progress of this would be reported at the twelve month update.
9.3 The Assistant Director noted the close working relationships between the digital and operational teams was important to address ongoing and future priorities and highlighted the Department’s work on the Digital by Default approach as well as ongoing consideration of digital inclusion.
9.4 The Assistant Director noted the areas in the report where the Department were still making progress on the recommendations from the scrutiny review, including on digital ways of working and digital inclusion across all areas of work. Future priorities also included digital feedback mechanisms.
9.5 The Committee welcomed the report. A question was asked about what the Department was doing to ensure robust checks of financial information submitted online. The Director of Adult Social Care and Health responded to say that the although the use of digital financial assessments resulted in speeding up the process, there were still thorough checks to mitigate this risk.
9.6 The Committee also sought clarification on the amber rating against the recommendation for the Department to explore opportunities with partners to support engagement with the Digital Offer. The Assistant Director noted that although the Department had successfully carried out the agreed actions, the Department felt that it was still important to reflect the impact of these in the RAG report. It was agreed that this would be further detailed in the twelve-month update report.
9.7 The Committee RESOLVED to agree the recommendations and to receive a further update report in six months time.
Meeting ended: 13:11pm