Agenda, decisions and minutes

Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 11th March, 2021 4.30 pm

Contact: Fatima Butt / Jill Bell 

No. Item


ALTERNATE MEMBERS (Standing Order 34)

The City Solicitor will report the names of alternate Members who are attending the meeting in place of appointed Members. 



Cllr Wood for Cllr Mullaney.



(Members Code of Conduct - Part 4A of the Constitution)


To receive disclosures of interests from members and co-opted members on matters to be considered at the meeting. The disclosure must include the nature of the interest.


An interest must also be disclosed in the meeting when it becomes apparent to the member during the meeting.




(1)       Members may remain in the meeting and take part fully in discussion and voting unless the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest or an interest which the Member feels would call into question their compliance with the wider principles set out in the Code of Conduct.  Disclosable pecuniary interests relate to the Member concerned or their spouse/partner.


(2)       Members in arrears of Council Tax by more than two months must not vote in decisions on, or which might affect, budget calculations, and must disclose at the meeting that this restriction applies to them.  A failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence under section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. 


(3)       Members are also welcome to disclose interests which are not disclosable pecuniary interests but which they consider should be made in the interest of clarity.


(4)       Officers must disclose interests in accordance with Council Standing Order 44.



No declarations of interest were made for matters under consideration.



Recommended –


That the minutes of the meeting held on 6 January 2021 be signed as a correct record (previously circulated).


(Fatima Butt/Jill Bell – 01274 432227/4580)



(Access to Information Procedure Rules – Part 3B of the Constitution)


Reports and background papers for agenda items may be inspected by contacting the person shown after each agenda item.  Certain reports and background papers may be restricted. 


Any request to remove the restriction on a report or background paper should be made to the relevant Strategic Director or Assistant Director whose name is shown on the front page of the report. 


If that request is refused, there is a right of appeal to this meeting. 


Please contact the officer shown below in advance of the meeting if you wish to appeal. 


(Jill Bell - 01274 43580)



No requests were received to remove the restriction on a report or background paper.



The Committee is asked to note the referrals made to the Committee and decide how it wishes to proceed, for example by incorporating the item into the work programme, requesting that it be subject to more detailed examination, or refer it to an appropriate Working Group/Committee.



No referrals were received.



The purpose of the report of the Strategic Director Children’s Services (Document “AX”) is to provide members with an outcome following the Ofsted Assurance Visit which took place from the 15th to 17th December 2020 and to appraise members with the Vital Signs report.


Recommended -


That this Committee notes the contents of this report and the progress being made.


(Irfan Alam - 01274 432904)

Additional documents:


The purpose of the report was to inform Children’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee members with an outcome following the Ofsted Assurance Visit, which took place from 15 to 17 December 2020 and to appraise members with the Vital Signs report.


Children’s Services Officers informed Councillors that the focus of the visit was to look at the quality of key decision-making for children who need help and protection, children in care and are leavers, together with the impact of leadership on service development.  A copy of the Ofsted Assurance Visit letter, was also appended for members.


Members learned that the Ofsted letter had recognised a number of improvements relating to:

  • Leaders having achieved some positive steps forward in a challenging context;
  • Having taken opportunities to maximise partnership working with other organisations;
  • Putting in place the basic infrastructure and practice standards needed to support improvement within the service;
  • Developing a more effective oversight to support immediate decision-making when children are first referred to social care;
  • Renewing IT resources to better support frontline practice;
  • Recruiting to specialist posts and secured financial funding investment for children’s services.


Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee members were encouraged at these improvements, however members were concerned at the areas of weakness in achieving consistently good practice, as set out in the Ofsted Assurance Visit letter. Particularly those areas that relating to:

  • The delivery of improvements being slow since September 2018;
  • Significant weaknesses in practice and oversight in front line services, as a result of workforce instability, high caseloads and ineffective casework planning;
  • Children in need and child protections plans not always being effective in improving children’s circumstances and some children in need cases were often closed or stepped down without evidence of sustained change, because management oversight had not thoroughly tested the impact of social work practice for children and families;
  • Enduring drift and delay due to long-standing poor practice continuing to affect some children;
  • The consistency of social work practice continuing to remaining to be an issue;
  • Care leavers receiving an inconsistent service and some care leavers had experienced poorer levels of support through the COVID19 pandemic.


Councillors were keen to know if the as stated in the Ofsted Assurance letter that the comment relating to the delivery of improvements being slow was accurate.


In response, Children’s Services Officers highlighted that Ofsted had taken the view that the period of improvement commenced from the inadequate judgement in 2018 and not from when the management team was in place.  Moreover, members also heard that it does take time to appoint the senior management team.


Continuing on, members wanted to explore how the significant weaknesses were going to be addressed.


Officers stated that addressing the weaknesses was a three year plus improvement journey and that the service was currently half way through that improvement journey.  Furthermore, officers also indicated that the improvement work has been affected by the current COVID19 pandemic and acknowledged that there were some weaknesses in practice, along with some legacy issues.


Moreover, members highlighted that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.



The report of the Strategic Director of Children’s Services (Document “AY”) provides an overview of the quality assurance and audit process in Children’s Services.


            Recommended -


            That the Committee is respectfully recommended to note the changes to the QA and Audit team and support the ongoing work to strengthen this service.

(Amandip Johal – 01274 431620)



Additional documents:


Following a request from members, the report provided an overview of the quality assurance and audit process in Children’s Services.


Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee members heard that case file auditing was an essential part of our quality assurance arrangements and that regular and in depth case file audit are a meaningful and useful method for understanding the experiences of children and young people whilst examining practices against agreed Practice Standards, guidance, policy and procedures.


Members were keen to understand the consistency of practice in relation to the quality of assessment and practice, as this was not clear from the report.


More importantly, members were keen to know what the areas for improvement were.


In response officers highlighted that key improvement areas included:

  • The Voice of the Child to be more sophisticated;
  • Using chronology as a record of events that happen, to assist in identifying patterns of behaviour.
  • Support for Social Care Workers.
  • Engaging with the family and children.



Resolved -


That a further report  be presented to the Committee which focuses specifically on the outcomes, areas for improvement and what is being done to address those areas of improvement.


ACTION: Strategic Director of Children’s Services



YOUNG CARERS pdf icon PDF 118 KB

The report of the Director of Children’s Services (Document “AZ”) provides a requested update on the Scrutiny Committee recommendations made on 2nd September 2020, which were due on 6th January 2021 but deferred until 11th March 2021.


(a)       The success rate in getting Young Carers back to school following the Covid restrictions.


(b)       The success of the re-launch of the E-learning system.



(c)        The numbers of children who have become Young Carers as a result of COVID19 and how they are being supported.



The Young Carers Service is a commissioned service which meets the Council’s statutory duty to provide an assessment for Young Carers, as well as providing other resources following assessment.


Recommended -


(1)  Overview and Scrutiny to receive this paper for information, note the progress and   support continued development in our jointly commissioned service.


(2)  To continue to receive annual reports from the service and that these are scheduled annually for June, to report on a full year of activity.

(Cath Dew - 01274 437949)


The report provided members with a requested update focusing specifically on the success rates in getting Young Carers back to school following the COVID restrictions, the success of the re-launch of the E-Learning system and the numbers of children who have become Young Carers as a result of COVID19 and how they are being supported.


Children’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee members, were keen to know how may Young Carers her actually were in the District.


Officers from Bradford Councils Children’s Services stated that it was really difficulty to say how many Young Carers there were across the District, as some do not see themselves as Young Carers.


Continuing on, members were concerned as to why there was reluctance to engage with Young Carers and adults, once schools re-opened as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.


In response, officers highlighted that they did not have all the information to respond, but this was due to the schools own risk assessment and that no adults and only children were allowed into schools.


Furthermore, members were keen to explore the levels of support that were available to Young Carers, particularly in relation to the COVID19 pandemic.


Officers highlighted that they had supported Young Carers by bringing them together through events and competitions and were hoping that once we start to come out of the COVID19 pandemic, that they will be looking to use Youth Centres across the District to engage with Young Carers.



Resolved -


That the Annual Report be presented to the Committee in the new Municipal Year, which also includes performance standards.


ACTION: Strategic Director of Children’s Services



The report of the Chair of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Document “BA”) includes the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee  work programme for 2020/21. 


Recommended -


(1)       That members consider and comment on the areas of work included in the work programme.


(2)       That members consider any detailed scrutiny reviews that they may wish to conduct.



(Mustansir Butt – 01274 43274)

Additional documents:


The Overview & Scrutiny Lead went through the work programme for the Children’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee, as well as the programme of detailed Scrutiny Review that the Committee has agreed to undertake.


Members discussed the work programme for the Committee and agreed that the following topics needed to be considered in the new Municipal Year:


  1. The School Admissions Appeals Process;
  2. Workforce aspects of the Children’s Services Improvement Programme;
  3. Impact(s) of educational results across the District.



Resolved -


That the workforce development aspect of the Children’s Services Improvement Programme and School Appeals process be considered in the new Municipal Year.


ACTION: Strategic Director of Children’s Services