Chair’s Update – Children’s Continuous Improvement Board (June 2021)
Eleanor Brazil (Chair of the CCIB & Independent Scrutineer) writes:
This week was busy for children’s services with Ofsted inspectors undertaking a 2 day focussed visit and the Children’s Continuous Improvement Board holding its monthly meeting. The focus of the Ofsted visit was on the front door and Croydon Supporting Families. It’s always hard work having inspectors in but we are confident they will have seen some good practice, and they will also identify some areas for improvement. The CCIB will discuss the feedback at the next meeting in July.
At the Board, we always run through the actions from previous meetings: one of those related to improvements in information and support for disabled children. We noted that the following revised documents are now published and available on the Local Offer website:
• Eligibility Criteria 0-17 and 18-25
• Short Breaks Statement and Policy
• Family Support Strategy
• Transition Protocol.
We heard from partners about some of their current issues. Police are seeing a 20-30% increase in referrals, the CCG have re-organised and strengthened their safeguarding team, our primary school representative noted that more younger children have been affected by lockdown and are less ‘school ready’. We had a very interesting presentation from Croydon BME forum about a ‘Trauma informed schools’ project operating in a number of schools and colleges, aimed at supporting pupils who have gone through very difficult experiences.
Our key area of focus was Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. We received an update on the work that has been done with the Home Office, DfE and other London Councils to address the financial challenges and to share some of the care. The difficulty for Croydon is that the cost greatly exceeds government grant. The Council is very committed to supporting these vulnerable young people well but this is difficult in the current financial circumstances. James Moore, service manager gave a very clear and helpful presentation on the particular challenges working with young people over 18, who are care leavers, but who have exhausted all rights of appeal to remain.
The refreshed Continuous Improvement Plan 2021-24 was circulated for comments. It will be discussed at Scrutiny Committee next week and return for sign off to our next meeting. Reviewing progress in delivering the actions in the Plan will be an important part of our forward plan.
One of the ways in which the Board can have oversight on the quality of practice is to look at individual examples. Roisin took us through 2 anonymous cases, one relating to a legal planning meeting and the other to a decision to step down from child protection to children in need. It is really helpful for the Board to understand the process of decision making and how judgements about balance of risk are made. Both cases really evidenced the thorough nature of the work undertaken, and the importance of collaborative decision making based on good information.
Finally, we heard from Junior, our staff representative. Unfortunately, we had limited time left but he very helpfully put his comments in the ‘chat’ and I’ve copied them here. As ever we are most appreciative of his balanced views and constructive suggestions which will be followed up by managers.
Staff Practice / Delivery concerns
- Opportunities for non-qualified staff to gain SW qualifications with support from the department
- Consistency of timescales and information on the current restructure
- Evaluation and assessment on the scale of disproportionality for Black Boys and Young Men in contact with the Department
- Changes in practice and delivery to meet point 3
- Inconsistent transitional arrangements for children leaving care
- The Council position on keeping children in mainstream schooling who have associations with knife or drug crimes.
- Inconsistencies in the level of care and support at the pointy of closing post 18 cases
Staff views of the Employer Organisation
- Recognition that management have brought financial stability to the organisation in a time that many thought was not possible
- The level of sensitivity shown during this ongoing period is beyond expectation
- The quality and frequency of leadership information continues to provide reassurance to staff
- Strong support for the use of secondments and practice level to allow staff to change roles but not leave the organisation