Sep 20

Children’s Continuous Improvement Board – September 2021

Eleanor Brazil – Independent Scrutineer for the CSCP and Chair of the CCIB reports on Septembers Meeting:

The Children’s Continuous Improvement Board met last week, our first meeting since July.  September always feels a bit like the start of a new year, and of course a new term in education.  As ever, we had a full agenda, starting the meeting catching up on Council news.  It was good to hear that after an enormous amount of effort by individuals in the council, the government eventually agreed to fund £2.3m this year to cover this year’s budget gap relating to the cost of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.  We also heard about the temporary placing of families from Afghanistan in quarantine hotels with approximately 100 families placed in Croydon.  Clearly events have moved very quickly and there has been limited planning by the Home Office which makes it very difficult for the families and those trying to support them.  This is a developing issue. The Board will continue to monitor the impact.  Junior Shabazz, staff representative, helpfully pointed out the important support being provided by some local voluntary and community groups, and the importance of continuing to engage with and involve them in future local planning.

Shelley Davies updated the Board on preparations for the expected SEND inspection.  She outlined the considerable progress that has been made in the way services are working together to better support children with special educational needs and their families.  This work is led by the SEND Partnership Board which has good parent representation.  Shelley and Debby MacCormack, Service Manager gave a presentation on the plans to transform from the current 9 children’s centres to 3 hubs and 8 ‘spokes’ (providing a range of services but reduced opening times).  They described the consultation process, the benefits of the planned new arrangements, and the savings that will be achieved.

This was followed by an update on the financial position.  Children’s services have worked hard to achieve required savings whilst protecting front line services.  However financial pressures remain, particularly for next year and planning is underway to consider the options.  The Board will continue to provide a multi-agency forum where the options and implications are discussed and we seek to reduce the risk to support to Croydon’s most vulnerable children.

Donna Kingsley, the interim Safeguarding Partnership Manager, updated the Board on the work of the Safeguarding Partnership.  Multi-agency working in Croydon is a real strength, with good understanding of the complexities and challenges.  There are 2 priority groups which focus on vulnerable adolescents and on mental health issues.  Both groups are well attended and help improve responses to these difficult matters.

Finally, we covered a number of standing items, including the performance and workforce reports.  The quality assurance bi-monthly report was helpful and informative, mainly covering practice week, held in July with a focus on domestic violence.  The key messages are outlined in the bullets below.  It is good to see that the quality of practice generally continues to be positive.

Strengths

  • Social workers and practitioners have good knowledge and understanding of their cases and the needs of the children and families they work with
  • Timely and proportionate responses are ensuring that children at risk of harm are protected and their needs addressed
  • Effective communication and partnership working among agencies are promoting good assessments and support to children and families
  • Positive feedback from and engagement with children and families
  • Up to date assessments of the needs of children are ensuring that support plans are informed by children’s current needs
  • Evidence of strong management oversight where cases are managed under a statutory framework or presented at multiple fora

Areas for improvements and developments

  • Supervision was frequent in most cases but there was variability in their quality and impact
  • Most assessments were timely and analytical but showed little evidence of exploration of SOCIAL GRACESS and historical information
  • Majority of plans were not SMART and had no contingency arrangements
  • Trusted relationships work with adolescents are being impacted by staff turnover
  • Cross departmental issues including that involving Housing, Probation, and Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are delaying support for children and families
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