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To approve the minutes of the previous meeting.
Matt Jenkins noted that the reference on page 5 to the 'National Union of Teachers' should be changed to the 'National Education Union'.
Matt Jenkins asked if the '500 youth organisations' working in Hammersmith & Fulham (Page 6) were coordinated by the Council. Officers said most were already known to the Council and there was ongoing work being done to collate information on the groups for signposting purposes.
Denis Charman said he had taken the topic of youth violence and knife crime back to schools and reported that there was genuine interest amongst support staff to input into a broader strategy. Steve Miley (Director for Children’s Services) said there was an opportunity for all sectors to shape the Council's response. It was recognised that support staff were sometimes overlooked but they had a valuable contribution to make.
With the correction noted above, the minutes of the previous meeting held on 26 November 2018 were approved as a correct record and were signed by the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Larry Culhane (Cabinet Member for Children and Education), Vic Daniels (Co-opted Member), and Jan Parnell (Assistant Director for Education).
Declarations of Interest
If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.
At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest or other significant interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter. The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken.
Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Audit, Pensions and Standards Committee.
There were no declarations of interest.
Bev Sharpe (Assistant Director for Family Services) presented the report that highlighted the significant responsibilities the local authority has in relation to looked after children (LAC) and care leavers and how it discharged those responsibilities.
Bev Sharpe noted that the number of looked after children had increased nationally by 8.75% since 2014 to 75,420. During the same 4-year period, numbers in Hammersmith and Fulham had increased by 12.7% to 230 – equivalent to 64 per 10,000 of the child population. Since the report was written these numbers had increased further to 245. In response to these increases the Council had invested in the Family Assist and LAC Assist teams and they were working hard on placement stability. There had also been a sharp increase in care leavers due to 2017 legislation that gave councils a duty to support care leavers up to the age of 25.
The Chair asked why there had been such a significant increase in the number of looked after children in recent years. Bev Sharpe said there was a range of factors – austerity, older children were entering the system. Steve Miley (Director for Children’s Services) said he had noticed a change – traditional social work was about protecting children within the family (mental health, domestic violence, drugs and alcohol etc.) but now on top of that there was also the influence of peers, people being exploited or pushed into dangerous behaviours like drugs and knife crime. Rather than just having to deal with a family the problems were shaped by the whole community. In response to this the Council was thinking about how to reshape its services to be more effective. This was an issue across the Country and Councils were talking about 'contextual safeguarding' - going beyond just the family.
Matt Jenkins asked if the Council received any additional support from Government given the increase in looked after children. Steve Miley said there was no additional support. The entire cost was borne by the Council.
Councillor Alexandra Sanderson asked about the gender ratio of children coming into care – why were there almost twice as many boys as girls? Bev Sharpe said the difference was largely due to the number of older teenage boys coming into care system.
Councillor Sanderson noted the number of placement moves of three or above had gone up (page 15) - she asked if this was a trend and what more the Council could do to bring this number down. Bev Sharpe said officers were looking at what more they could do to support carers. Social workers did try to place children with in-house foster carers where possible.
Councillor Sanderson noted only 4 children were adopted in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. She asked how many children were eligible for adoption during those periods. Bev Sharpe said adoption numbers were very low across the Country due to Government legislation that requires Councils to explore every option for keeping babies within the family. That has meant fewer young children being placed ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Tony Burton (Head of Finance, Children's Services) presented the report that set out the budget proposals for the Children's Services and provided an update on proposed changes in fees and charges.
Steve Miley (Director for Children's Services) noted that the department’s approach to identifying potential savings had been consistent with the vision for Children’s Services which was:
‘To improve the lives and life chances of our children and young people; intervene early to give the best start in life and promote wellbeing; ensure children and young people are protected from harm; and that all children have access to an excellent education and achieve their potential. All of this will be done whilst reducing costs and improving service effectiveness.’
Tony Burton gave a presentation on the budget and highlighted the following points:
· Children's Services net expenditure was £33m.
· The total budget was £126.7m including £92m of income (mainly from the Dedicated Schools Grant) and other grants of £33.9m.
· The Family Services budget was £30m and this included significant growth in the areas of placement spend on looked after children and care leavers and to enable the social care team to respond to Increased demand pressures.
· There was still a lot of uncertainty for schools around education funding and they had seen significant pressures on their budgets in recent years.
· The high needs block deficit was the single most concerning financial pressure for Children's Services. To tackle it the department was looking to deliver services that meet children's needs at lower levels and keep more children in mainstream schools.
Nandini Ganesh commented that many schools didn't understand how to support children with SEND issues. Officers said they were working closely with schools to improve the support on offer. Inclusion was a key priority for the service going forward. The Council had to reshape its services to help mainstream schools with inclusion. Denise Fox (Headteacher of Fulham College Girls) said Alternate Provision used to be what happened in mainstream schools. There used to be ways of managing children within the school but now it was all external and provided at greater cost. Schools and the Council needed to find ways of providing Alternate Provision in different ways.
Matt Jenkins asked if there was any additional support the Council could offer to schools. Steve Miley said the Council recognised that the increase in funding from the Government didn't cover the cost pressures schools faced and they were in a really challenging financial situation. He had asked schools how they were managing and they all said they were looking at ways of reducing staffing - which had a real impact on them. As the Council was also facing significant cost pressures it couldn't give schools additional funding - but officers were looking at ways to work together and share costs, share support, look at ways to increase the income for schools, and fill school places where rolls were low.
Officers were also working on a proposal to rebuild some schools in the borough - improving ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on 25 March 2019.
The date of the next meeting was noted as 25 March 2019.