Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People's Services Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 10.30 am

Venue: County Hall North, Horsham

Contact: Natalie Jones-Punch on 033 022 25098  Email:

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item


Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee pdf icon PDF 169 KB

The Committee is asked to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 23 October 2019 (cream paper).

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45.1   The Committee received a tabled updated version of the minutes from 23 October 2019.


45.2   Resolved – that the minutes of the last meeting held on 23 October 2019 be approved as a correct record and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Responses to Recommendations pdf icon PDF 162 KB

The Committee is asked to note the responses to recommendations made at the 23 October 2019 meeting from The Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.

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46.1   Resolved that the Committee note the response.


Forward Plan of Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 290 KB

Extract fromthe ForwardPlan dated 21 November 2019.


Anextract fromanyForwardPlan publishedbetween the date of despatchof the agenda and the date of the meetingwill be tabled at the meeting.


The Committee is asked to consider whetheritwishes to enquireinto any of the forthcoming decisions withinits portfolio.

Additional documents:


47.1   The Committee considered a tabled paper which was a new version of the Forward Plan dated 2 December 2019 (copy appended to the signed minutes). This version of the Forward Plan was not included in the Committee papers as it had been published following the statutory despatch of the agenda.


47.2   Resolved that the Committee notes the Forward Plan.


Children First Improvement Update pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Report by the Executive Director of Children Young People and Learning.


The report updates the Committee on developments in the Children First Programme since its last meeting in October.

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48.1   The Committee considered a report by the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People advised that the statutory responsibility for the portfolio had now transferred to herself from the Leader.


48.2   The Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning provided the following update on the Children First Improvement plans:


·       Ofsted were currently undertaking their first monitoring visit which focussed examination on Assessment and Intervention and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), amongst the wider position of Children’s Services since the inspection. The outcome of this visit should be reportable at the January meeting of the Committee.

·       Stable progress had been made regarding the workforce, and the vacancy gap was at 2.3%.

·       Agency staff made up 15% of the workforce, which was comparable with neighbouring authorities.

·       Garath Symonds, Senior Improvement Lead, advised the Committee of a ‘better use of technology’ project to enable best practice within the service through Windows 10 rollout and systems improvement and integration.

·       Ann Marie Dodds, Assistant Director Early Help advised that work was underway in the areas of private fostering and youth homelessness. This included appropriate training, awareness raising, work with districts and boroughs and ensuring children and young people understand their rights and entitlements.


The Committee considered the following points in discussion:


·       Members asked for the current number of Children Looked After within the service. The Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning advised the figure was currently just over 700.

·       The Committee considered how the service monitored independent children’s homes. The Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning advised every independent agency was regulated by Ofsted, and that WSCC had a small commissioning contracts and placements team who monitored the quality of external placement providers.

·       Members of the Committee noted the successes of the recruitment and retention offer but queried what the service were doing in terms of contingency planning when the 18 month commitment period to WSCC ended. The Assistant Director Early Help advised a root and branch review of the Early Help offer would take place which would likely impact the service requirements as a whole. The Senior Improvement Lead advised the business continuity plan was also being reviewed.

·       Members noted that 22 children in a private fostering arrangement in September 2019 seemed very low. The Assistant Director Early Help agreed and that raising awareness was crucial. Awareness raising had been undertaken with partners such as health, schools and the Local Safeguarding Children’s Partnership (LSCP).


48.3   Resolved that the Committee:


1.   Requests a report to the March BPG on recruitment and retention of staff plans going forward.

2.   Notes the Children First Improvement Update.


Woodlands Meed pdf icon PDF 109 KB

Report by the Director of Education and Skills and Director of Property and Assets.

Additional documents:


49.1   The Committee considered a report by the Director of Property and Assets and the Director of Education and Skills. The Chairman invited the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills to provide an opening statement to the Committee, who heard the following:


·         Since becoming Cabinet Member, Woodlands Meed had been amongst the most important issues for the portfolio and acknowledged the long and difficult history.

·         The Cabinet Member for Education and Skills had visited Woodlands Meed school and college on three occasions, met with the Headteacher, Chair of Governors and lead organiser for the Complete Woodlands Meed campaign. He also attended the Central and South Mid-Sussex County Local Committee in November where the topic was discussed.

·         In anticipation of a decision being made in the new year, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills was minded to recommend to Cabinet colleagues that WSCC honour the commitment made in February 2019 for investment in the Woodlands Meed site, subject to an independent report on the suitability of the building and its ability to meet the needs of pupils. IT was hoped this report would be ready by the end of January 2020.

·         The Cabinet Member added that during the last six weeks he had visited the majority of the county council’s special schools which cater for over 60% of SEND pupils. He had been struck by the commitment, skill and compassion of staff, parents, governors and leads in those schools.


49.2   The Chairman invited Paul Wagstaff, Director of Education and Skills to introduce the report. The Committee heard the following key points:


·         The need to improve facilities at Woodlands Meed had been discussed over a long period of time, and it was recognised that the current site would not meet the needs required into the future.

·         The SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2016 -19 noted the requirement for additional places in order to reduce the need to place children externally. Greater analysis has now shown that there was far more availability for post-16 students with SEND currently than there was previously, including the commissioning of 550 places into further education institutions, with an aim to continue to increase those places.

·         The Director of Education and Skills recognised Woodlands Meed as a crucial provider of education for children with SEND, however, advised that there was no current requirement to either expand or reduce provision.

·         The new SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2019-2024 focussed on providing additional specialist places closer to where children live.

·         Extensive discussions over recent years between the governing body and officers had considered options to expand the current site at Woodlands Meed, to refurbish or re-build entirely.

·         Jerry Dillon, Development and Capital Advisor, advised there were now four options for the site as laid out in the report:


Ø  Option 1 – a 100 pupil place new build constructed on the playing field and the original building being demolished.

Ø  Option 2 – a 136 pupil place new build, existing site demolished.

Ø  Option 3 – a 136 pupil place  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.


Possible Items for Future Scrutiny

Members to mention any items which they believe to be of relevance to the business of the Select Committee, and suitable for scrutiny, e.g. raised with them by constituents arising from central government initiatives etc.


If any member puts forward such an item, the Committee’s role at this meeting is just to assess, briefly, whether to refer the matter to its Business Planning Group (BPG) to consider in detail.

Additional documents:


50.1   The Committee requested Elective Home Education as an item for future scrutiny. Members were advised this was on the BPG agenda for March.


50.2   The Committee asked for a meeting on mental health. Rachel Allan, Senior Advisor Democratic Services, advised she was working with the youth cabinet to schedule this as a takeover day, and that further details would be provided when available. Members requested this also included how schools dealt with mental health.


50.3   Members of the Committee asked for information on support for families and parents who cared for children looked after. The Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning suggested he take this away and come back to the BPG with a proposal on how to tackle this. He added this could include transitions to adulthood.


Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Committee will be held on 9 January 2020 at 10.30 am at County Hall, Chichester.


Any member wishing to place an item on the agenda for the meeting must notify the Director of Law and Assurance by 27 December 2019.


Additional documents:


51.1   The Committee noted that the next scheduled meeting would be held on 9 January 2020 at 10.30am at County Hall, Chichester.