GL Region February 2016 Update
Update for the February meeting of the ADCS Council of Reference
Self-evaluation and inspectionreadiness
There have been ongoing conversations with the Chief Executives’ London Committee about sector-led improvement and key areas arising out of self-evaluation including senior management changes and children’s social worker recruitment and retention. A pan-London agreement is now in place for children’s social worker pay and references to assist with market management. This work has been undertaken in collaboration with London’s Head of Human Resources network and Chief Executives’ London Committee and it has been supported by social worker agencies.
Recent inspections in the region have been reported to be extremely challenging and three are currently underway in the Tri-borough.
The region has experienced turnover at DCS and AD level prompting a renewed focus on succession planning. The DCSs have developed a regional approach to succession planning, specifically to support those already working in London boroughs with an interest in becoming a DCS.
The programme is to complement rather than duplicate other leadership development programmes, in particular Leaders for London and the Future Directors Programme. The regional DCS programme provides a framework of structured support and is not a development programme. It is for current regional senior officers who are ready and eager to make the step up to DCS, rather than the wider pool of senior leaders.
Additionally, there continues to be great support amongst third and fourth tier officers to join the Leaders for London programme. The programme is currently on its seventh cohort drawing in candidates across the region’s children’s services system, such as health and the voluntary sector.
The London Adoption Board, with the support of the regional DCSs, was recently successful in a bid to the DfE for funding to assist with developing a regionalised adoption service. The work is being taken forward through a Task and Finish group that recently set out the design feasibility and desirability criterion of a regionalised model, which was endorsed by regional DCSs. Economic modelling work is now being undertaken to establish the true cost of a regional service, the scale of efficiencies and ensuring an equitable service across the region despite existing government funding differentials for the service.
School place planning
The regional DCSs are working closely with regional councils to assess the school places pressure in the capital. The region currently faces a dual pressure of needing to provide new primary and secondary school places. By the end of the parliamentary period, new secondary school places will be the biggest pressure. Existing basic need funding has only met 59% of the cost to provide sufficient school places with the remaining shortfall having to be met within LA finances. The region needs an additional £1.5 billion of basic need funding to meet its need.
Work is underway to develop a London School Places Plan to provide an overview of need in the short, medium and long term, up to 2025. This has the support of council leaders and chief executives within the region.
Youth justice system
The regional DCSs have followed up their correspondence with the YJB about the loss of grant funding with a submission to the review of the youth justice system, which set out concerns and opportunities for the sector. Additionally, safeguarding concerns of young people in Secure Training Centres have been high on the agenda. The challenges from the BBC Panorama programme are being worked through.
Education Services Grant (ESG) and school budgets
There are ongoing discussions with the regional DCSs and the DfE about the introduction of a national funding formula and possible implications for the region. There are likely to be differing views across the region as some LAs may gain additional funding whilst others may not. The reduction of the ESG is a significant concern both in terms of support provided to schools as well as discharging statutory duties. Anecdotally, feedback from academies has been that there are considerable concerns about reducing ESG and they are seeking to make representations to government about the reduction.
London Safeguarding Children’s Board
The regional DCSs have been working with the London Safeguarding Children’s Board to closer align structures that sit under the Board to meet priorities for the year ahead. A subgroup structure has been set up covering Prevent, CSE and FGM with regional DCS representation on all three subgroups as well as stakeholders across the region’s safeguarding system.
Representatives of the regional DCSs jointly chair the Child Sexual Exploitation subgroup with the MET. The subgroup has been set up to assist agencies put in place the appropriate systems to stop child sexual exploitation and also to support victims. Additionally, work is underway between boroughs to provide support and challenge on their overall CSE prevent and reporting systems.
Under initial provisions in the Bill, the responsibility to provide support would shift to LAs and there is a strong risk that some families would ‘go underground’, thus exposing themselves to greater risk of exploitation, and that some would seek support from LAs (which would represent a cost-shunt from central to local government).
Under current legislation, LAs would also have to conduct both Human Rights and Child in Need Assessments in order to determine whether they should provide support. Concerns also remained about provisions for UASC care leavers who become Appeal Rights Exhausted, and under current legislation exist in a difficult limbo situation.
The regional DCSs, supported by NRPF Network and the LGA, have been working with the Home Office to explore the possibilities outlined below:
- The establishment of support for families with no asylum status under provisions in the proposed immigration legislation rather than under the Children Act. This would enable a more appropriate form of assessment that is streamlined and user-friendly for families, provided in a manner which recognises the context of their immigration status. It would also clarify that this would be a new burden on LAs and therefore one that government should fund. LAs would have a continuing ability to act upon any safeguarding concerns.
- It is proposed to clarify the limits of LA responsibilities for care leavers (former UASCs) who become ARE, in order to continue to protect. The new regulations for the ARE adult care leaver group will enable the LA, in addition to accommodation and subsistence support, to provide such other social care support it considers necessary in the circumstances of an individual case. The Home Office wants to work with ADCS and DfE on the relevant guidance to be provided.
Paul Greenhalgh, along with LGA and NRPF Network, gave evidence to the ParliamentarySelect Committee which outlined LA concerns. Following further work with the Home Office, officials have made amendments to the Bill to reflect the joint work on these issues, which are now being debated through committee stage in the House of Lords. This is a significant step forward in joint work between the regional DCSs and the Home Office on these issues. Should the Bill progress in line with the amendments now made, the ADCS/NRPF network/LGA will continue to work with the Home Office to develop further advice and guidance to support implementation.
National dispersal mechanism
A round table meeting was held in December 2015 with senior civil servants,immigration and children’s services ministers, and around 15 LAs were represented. Civil servants presented options for a national dispersal mechanism and LAsgave a range of views. Subsequently, ministers wrote to all LAs who attended, encouraging them to continue to engage in supporting the dispersal of UASCs from Kent. No clear steer was given at the meeting or in the follow up letter which of the options for dispersal were being most seriously considered by the Home Office and DfE.
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