Children’s Continuous Improvement Board
Eleanor Brazil – Chair of CCIB and Independent Scrutineer of the CSCP provides this update:
November’s meeting of the Children’s Continuous Improvement Board felt like we had reached a bit of a milestone. It was our 13th meeting since we were established last October as the scale of the financial challenges facing Croydon became clearer.
Our Board’s remit of support, challenge and monitoring is to ensure services to children and young people remain effective in this context. We have focussed on understanding the issues, being aware of the potential impact of essential savings, and seeking solutions through multi-agency co-operation and collaboration. One year on, we reviewed the Terms of Reference for the Board. They are now more streamlined and focussed, with more detail on the underlying principles contained in the Improvement Plan, delivery of which we monitor. This week’s meeting agreed to change meeting frequency from monthly to bi-monthly, in recognition of the progress that has been made, and to allow more time between meetings for agreed activity to happen.
It was heartening to hear Katherine Kerswell’s update to the Board on the response from the government to the Improvement and Assurance panel’s recent report, which acknowledged Croydon has made significant and good progress. She also informed us that the recruitment process is underway for executive directors, including the DCS role, of the publication of the Community Safety Strategy and the upcoming cabinet on 6th December where further savings of £63m for next year will be discussed. Managing the budget this year has been very tough and staff have worked incredibly hard to achieve the savings needed, and to tighten up processes. We heard directly from Phil Herd from finance on what had been achieved in children’s services.
The cost of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Croydon remains the most significant pressure. Whilst additional government funding was secured for this financial year it was a one off. Since then, new demands have arisen. Over 1000 asylum seekers have recently been placed by the Home Office in hotels in Croydon. This includes 11 age disputed adults who have to be accommodated whilst their claim is considered, and families with children of all ages in very poor living conditions. Katherine and Debbie continue to lobby government on the impact this is having.
Sally Innis provided a very helpful update on the response from health to the new asylum seekers, but also how health services are currently managing their safeguarding responsibilities. Recent successful recruitment and the focus on supporting and developing staff has helped improve the response to safeguarding risks and challenges. This includes recent work in emergency duty to improve responses to children presenting with possible safeguarding concerns. Andrew Brown mentioned that the BME forum has been commissioned by the CCG to provide a health and well-being space in the Whitgift Centre that will be open 7 days a week to families in the community from January onwards.
Our savings focus at this meeting was on the area of ‘practice efficiencies in children’s social care’. Roisin Madden took us through a detailed presentation which described the way in which improved reflective practice is both better for children and families, but also is more cost effective, in reducing the need for state intervention. Much has already been achieved in managing demand better, and working co-operatively in partnership with other agencies.
An appropriate final note to end this update on comes from our staff representative on the Board, Junior Shabazz. He reflected that it feels very different for staff in Croydon now from a year ago when staff were so anxious about what was happening, and didn’t know if they would have a job going forward. He described what has been seen as a great team effort, helped by really good communication. Without doubt there are considerable challenges ahead, but staff in Croydon have already shown what they can achieve. Our next meeting will be in January 2022.
I hope you all have a lovely festive break and a Happy New Year.