RS and SPI Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees

The Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees met jointly in London on Tuesday 24 September. Initially the group was joined by representatives from the DfE to discuss emerging plans for a family justice themed peer review which has grown out of some wider work undertaken by the Family Justice Board (FJB) exploring volume and variation in public law activity. The FJB believes that a new peer review could be an effective way of moving locally developed best practice around the system. The group noted that there is a lot of sector-led improvement activity already happening in regions and felt there would need to be a more distinct and defined offer in order to secure buy-in. It was felt a focus on neglect could add real value and that this should be discussed with regional improvement and innovation alliances directly (RIIAs).

The group was then joined by a consultant who is undertaking a piece of work for the LGA on out of area housing moves for people of all ages. Here there was a focus on the families of children and young people who are known to children’s social care to be ‘in need’, including those with no recourse to public funds. This growing practice is driven by the shortage of suitable and/or affordable houses in parts of the country and can lead to gaps in vital support and services. The LGA is exploring ways of encouraging the spread of best practice when moving families out of area alongside a potential notification system. The committee agreed this is an important issue which urgently needs addressing and noted that government departments, in particular the Home Office, are also responsible for moving families around the country. Further work will continue, and views are being sought from a wide range of stakeholders, including children’s services.

Next, the group discussed the sufficiency of care placements and the changing nature of both the fostering and residential markets as acquisitions and private equity investment become more commonplace. A lot of children’s homes and independent fostering providers are merging and at a faster rate than seen before. Beyond concerns about the level of risk building in this market and the impact a provider failing might have on children’s outcomes, other patterns are emerging which again are giving concern. For example, when independent fostering providers merge, their market share goes up but the number of foster carers appears to go down. For local authorities that are purchasing placements, this net loss to the system is keenly felt in terms of choice and cost. The group agreed we need to revisit these interlinked issues again in the future, particularly in relation to greater options for collaborative commissioning.

The final update on the day related to a brief overview of the government’s recently announced review of SEND. It was noted that the recent spending round announcement included an additional £700 million for local authorities to alleviate pressures on SEND budgets, this is some acknowledgement of the crisis in this provision but this not insubstantial sum will almost be entirely swallowed up by existing deficits. The group discussed some of the key themes and messages that would be helpful for the Association to play into engagements with the review team, this included bringing independent special schools into the state sector, greater oversight of pupil exclusions and a review of the contribution of health

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