This report provides a brief overview of recent developments in the Children’s Services department.
Steve Miley presented the report and highlighted section 4.4 – where the Leader of the Council and one of H&F’s care leavers discussed the council tax exemption for care leavers on the Victoria Derbyshire Show. He noted that the care leaver who joined the Leader wanted a career in the media so, to support her, the head of the virtual school spent the weekend preparing her for her appearance.
The Chair noted the disappointing Ofsted result, ‘requires improvement’, from William Morris and asked officers to update the committee on the school’s progress. Ian Heggs replied that the school was very disappointed, the result was largely because of last year’s education outcomes and there had been significant progress this year. The school’s leadership were putting the necessary plans in place and had the full support of the Governing Body. The Council was supporting them to set up a school improvement board and was facilitating a partnership arrangement with Fulham College Boys – an outstanding local school. The Chair requested visits to the schools that had recently been inspected by Ofsted.
Councillor Caroline Ffiske noted that The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council had served notice on the tri-borough arrangements, and asked for an update on the position for Children’s Services. Ian Heggs responded that, under the terms of the agreement, the current arrangements would stay in place until April 2018 - unless there was agreement by all boroughs. Councillor Sue Fennimore said the new Interim Chief Executive, Kim Dero, was looking at options now and more information would be provided as the plans progressed.
Nadia Taylor asked why the tri-borough arrangements were ending. Councillor Fennimore said H&F had many concerns – particularly around badly commissioned services (SEN passenger transport, BT managed services etc.) and ultimately the savings and efficiencies that were promised didn’t materialise.
Steve Miley noted that for Family Services around 80 percent of functions were already delivered locally within H&F so the impact would be relatively minimal. He added that leaving the tri-borough didn’t mean stopping joint services – where there was added-value they would continue to share with other local authorities.
Councillor Marcus Ginn, in reference to 4.2 of the report, noted that the council had offered to take an additional 100 Dubs children and asked if that number could be accommodated in the borough. Steve Miley responded that based on previous cohorts around one third could be accommodated within the borough and two thirds outside. Asylum seekers tended not to have local links so it was considered more appropriate to place them out of borough. He added that taking an additional 100 children would be subject to full-cost recovery from central government.
Nadia Taylor asked what the total cost per child would be. Steve Miley said the cost was variable, dependent on the placement, but the department estimated that each child would cost £50,000 per year. The problem with the current funding from central government was that it was banded and older children received significantly less funding – despite added legal responsibilities to care leavers up to 25 years old.
Nadia Taylor asked for more information on the serious case review (4.8 to 4.13 of the report). Steve Miley detailed the case and noted that the review had looked at practice in all three relevant boroughs but found no concerns with the support offered in H&F. The main point highlighted by the review was that Luton’s social services didn’t see the risk the mother’s new partner posed to her and her baby. That was partly due to inadequate requirements around transfer of information between local authorities – Councillor Sue Fennimore had subsequently raised it with the Minister. The Chair added that this case reminded the committee of the vital work social services did every day to keep children safe.