John Coleman, Assistant Director - Children & Families presented the performance report to the Committee who noted that 11 targets were currently on track, with 5 targets not on track.
The following highlights were presented –
o The target for Child Protection is on track.
o Children in Care is also on track. Warwickshire has the lowest number of children entering care in the region. The Committee noted that there is a lot of work in supporting families so that they can safely care for their children.
o The 6-to-8-week health care check remains an area on concern. The performance is not on track
o Warwickshire saw 86 conceptions to under 18s which is a reduction of 10 from 2020. This is slightly above the National average. The Committee noted that the data is not the most up to date but were reassured that officers were working on being in a position to present more up to date information.
o The Committee was happy to note that performance in relation to NEETs was continuing to improve.
In relation to education, Nigel Minns, Strategic Director People Directorate confirmed that while performance in this area is not on track, members of the Committee have been made aware of the issues and are aware of the improvement plan that is in place. It was confirmed that recent data shows a significant improvement in this area. In particular, in relation to the issues of summer 2022 and school placements, the new system is now working well and is having a positive effect.
Following a question from Councillor Brett Beetham, it was confirmed that there had been an overspend of the budget within the Children and Families Service area. Officers are currently reviewing the data but believe that the main area of the overspend is in relation to staffing and agency costs and the cost of residential care. The Committee noted that these costs were not in relation to the number of children in care but in the cost of each placement. It was agreed that there will be a more detailed report at a future meeting.
John Coleman Assistant Director - Children & Families confirmed that opening of council owned children’s homes will reduce costs for the service. In addition, the homes will provide knowledge and reassurance that good quality care is being provided and at a reduced cost to the Council. There will also be a reduction in the use of external foster placements which will also result in savings to the council.
It was confirmed that there are more resources in place for Early Help services with a high number of families receiving support. Officers are determined to focus on this area of work and are aiming for continuous improvement. It was noted that there is a waiting list for early help support, but members were reassured that families are kept regularly updated with progress and will receive some level of support every week.
Following a question from Councillor Justin Kerridge, Nigel Minns confirmed, in relation to the 6-to-8-week health checks and the use of additional staff that progress was being made but it was down to the banding of NHS staff in developing a wider workforce. Members learnt that local authorities can only record a health check visit as complete by qualified health visitors. Commissioning arrangements are currently being reviewed and an update will be provided to the committee.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse asked for further information in relation to NEETs and the recent Cabinet discussion around apprenticeships. Sarah Tregaskis
Service Manager - Education Services Trading, Development and Delivery was able to confirm that officers from the leaving care team are supporting all young people into positive destinations and that this does include NEETs. Councillor Kam Kaur, Portfolio Holder for Education confirmed that the figures for Warwickshire County Council relating to NEETs are better than the National average and that she would send the information to elected members via email. It was agreed that the promotion of the work being done by officers could be better and that this is an area that officers will continue to look to improve in.
Councillor Brett Beetham asked for clarification of the work being done in relation to SEND education needs assessments. Nigel Minns was able to confirm that the figures are improving and continue to be on track./ The biggest challenge to officers is the increase in demand in this area but that there has recently been some additional funding made available. The Committee noted that regular updates on this matter will be brought to the meetings and that officers understand the importance of it.
In relation to a question about the new youth centre proposed in Bedworth and the risks now associated with it, the Committee learnt that major defects had been discovered on site that had not been evident during the initial surveys. The commitment to open a youth centre in the area was still very much with officers, but it must be the right building. The council’s property service team is undertaking surveys at the moments and officers will report back once they have been completed.
Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince asked officers for reassurance in relation to school places, and that spaces were being offered in suitable and local schools. It was confirmed that the closest school to a family is always a priority and officers do not want to be asking parents/carers to travel long distances. Members were reminded that children who go to school outside the county mean that they are eligible for home to school transport which is an additional cost to the council. It was agreed the information relating to the average travel distance for this cohort of children would be sent through to the Committee.