Agenda and minutes

Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 14th September 2023 10:00am

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Helen Phillips  Email:


No. Item


Declarations of Interest

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There were none on this occasion.


Minutes of the meeting held on 27 July 2023 pdf icon PDF 167 KB

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Resolved: That the minutes of the Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 27 July 2023 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Impact of Cabinet Investment in Children's Services pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Presentation on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People

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The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People introduced a presentation on the impact of the Cabinet investment in Children’s Services.


Members received a breakdown of spend and details of a timeline for all recruitment activity, most of which had been completed by the end of July. The exception to this was the additional challenges around new social work posts where, rather than just wishing to uplift the current posts, there was work towards addressing two additional problems: having enough staff to meet workload needs; and to find a longer-term solution to making Staffordshire the Authority of choice for social workers. Part of the identified solution was to establish excellent training and development alongside a progression mechanism to enable Staffordshire not only to grow their own social workers, but also to retain them. Consultation with staff and the Trade Unions around these developments finished this week and it was expected that recruitment to these new posts would start from October.


Members also heard that last year an investment into residential care staff had been identified to help support the high numbers of children and young people coming into residential care. This investment supported Staffordshire in being competitive within the market, helping recruitment and retention of staff and to future proof Staffordshire’s residential service. This was particularly important because of the increase in complexity of need of those requiring residential care. A decision had therefore been taken to look again at planning within this service area resulting in a delay with this investment. It was expected that business cases would be shared with Members later this year.


Cabinet’s investment had reflected well with both DfE and Ofsted, clearly showing the service aspirations and the support from the political leadership. This had helped to influence Staffordshire being chosen by the DfE to take part in two pilot projects, with two further bids currently being considered. There had also been DfE support for the progress made around the Accelerate Progress Plan (APP) for SEND.


Staff stability and morale had seen a significant improvement, being more positive and more solution focused, as evidenced in both staff retention as well as through results from the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). The additional 1.5 social work posts had added capacity to district teams to support children and families. Improvements made had resulted in some district teams stabilising for the first time, eg Cannock.  Members were also pleased to note that the narrative for Staffordshire had changed as a result of the investment, with more positivity amongst its staff and with increased numbers and quality of applicants where posts were advertised externally.


The Committee heard details of developments resulting from district investment, including the recruitment of deputy district leads, embedding a culture of performance and better financial management, with a focus on   Early Help, Children with Disabilities and SEND. These services had been   amalgamated well within the district working place-based approach and ideology from the Transformation process. All SEND key workers were now in post.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Children in Care Programme Update pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Presentation on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People

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The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People introduced a presentation on the Children in Care Programme. He shared with Members that the number of children in care in Staffordshire was relatively high. This included a significant rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), a rise from 40 to 104 over a short period of time. The County Council had little control over the numbers of UASC. Work was being developed to influence the number of children in care who were not UASC through the Children in Care Programme. This programme looked to ensure the best outcome for children and young people, enabling them to stay within their families wherever possible. The Cabinet Member also shared his aspiration to develop initiatives that prevented private residential care providers driving up placement costs.


The Children in Care Programme had been a priority for some time but was consolidated in its approach in October 2022 to help reach its ambitions and targets.  The establishment of the Children in Care Programme Board created the right vehicle for constant planning, monitoring and problem solving.


The Programme had three key priorities:

·         reducing the number of children that come into the care system;

·         increasing the number of children exiting the care system;

·         reducing the consequent overspend on the placement budget.

These priorities were shared with front line staff explaining that keeping children in the care system was, in the vast majority of cases, not in their best interests as once the young person became 18, the care was removed and they were often ill prepared to take care of themselves. Remaining within their community and learning a resilience and understanding of the realities of that community prepared them better for their future adulthood. It was therefore understood that exiting children from care as early as possible, or keeping children out of care completely, where safe to do so,  resulted in better long-term outcomes. This approach looked constantly at how to mitigate and manage risks within the community rather than a risk averse approach that took the child into care until they were 18.


Members received details of the programme’s short-term successes, including: a reduction in the number of children coming into care between April to June 2023 compared with January to March 2023; 16 young people moving out of residential placements from July; and children being identified for exit from the care system through the Discharge Planning Team. 


The newly established Discharge Planning Team will create capacity for the IRO service and social work staff. The Committee also received details of the priority given to the Children in Care programme and staff and key partner engagement. More emphasis had also been placed on the Restorative Practice model, with greater challenge and support.


Challenges in implementing the Programme were shared with Members. These included working with partner organisations, as well as the Judiciary and Cafcass, where reduction of children coming into the care system may not be their shared priority. In these instances, greater challenge  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 229 KB

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An extra meeting had been added to the Committee’s work programme to start at 12.30pm on 24 October prior to their informal meeting with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (the Commissioner). This was a one item only agenda to scrutinise the Early Years Strategy prior to its consideration at Cabinet on 15 November.


Members had requested a pre-meeting in preparation for their meeting with the Commissioner. This had been arranged for Monday 16 October at 3.00pm via Teams.


Resolved: That the amendments to the work programme be agreed.