The following proposals fall within the remit of this committee:
CYP 1 More efficient use of residential placements
CYP 2 Improved placement process and more efficient systems with rigorous control through operating model and IT
CYP 3 Systematic and proactive management of the market for independent fostering
CYP 4 Commission semi-independent accommodation for care lavers
CYP 5 Residential framework for young people – Joint South East London Commissioning Programme
CYP 7 Early Help Redesign
RES 19 School crossing patrol
David Austin, Head of Corporate Resources, introduced the report and highlighted which proposals had been allocated to the committee for scrutiny, namely CYP 1-5. CYP 7 and RES 19. The Chair asked that the committee also consider proposal COM 12 – Cut to Main Grants budget as some of the organisations in receipt of Main Grants funding were providing support for families, children and young people. The committee was advised that whereas COM 12 had been allocated to Overview and Scrutiny to scrutinise on account of its crossing cutting nature, there was nothing to prevent this committee from considering the proposals.
The Chair invited Mark Drinkwater, Policy and Communications Officer for Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL) – an organisation currently in receipt of main grant funding – to address the committee.
Mr Drinkwater explained that around 10 years ago a fully funded children and young people-specific post was set up within. This post was currently vacant and the work split between a number of staff. He advised that the reduction of Main Grants funding would result in the loss of this work, impacting on several hundred groups. At the current level of funding, VAL was able to provide governance advice, run a quarterly CYP forum, offer safeguarding and generic training etc. Mr Drinkwater anticipated that the loss of this funding would mean a reduction in staff.
The committee was of the view that more data was needed for the committee to fully consider the impact on VAL if this proposal were to be approved.
The Chair thanked Mr Drinkwater for his input.
The Committee scrutinised the remaining proposals and the following was noted:
1. The risks associated with CYP 1-5 were to do with failure to deliver the savings rather than providing a lesser service. Increased demand and inflated unit costs had driven the need for greater efficiency.
2. Officers were reminded to have in mind the cumulative loss of early help services through previous budget cuts, citing school nursing as an example.
3. Members felt that CYP 1, 2, 3 and 5 were aspirational and had concerns about their deliverability.
CYP 1 – More efficient use of residential placements
1. This was an efficiency saving rather than a cut. Outcomes for children and quality of provision would remain unchanged, rather block purchasing and smarter working with providers would result in reduced costs.
2. A breakdown of placements by ethnicity would be supplied in the Children’s Social Care Sufficiency Strategy, which was scheduled for consideration by the committee at a later date.
CYP 2 – Improved placement process and more efficient systems with rigorous control through operating model and IT
1. Members were not convinced that the current IT arrangements had capacity to offer the support needed to deliver this proposal.
CYP 3 – Systematic and proactive management of the market for independent fostering
1. The needs of the child would be at the forefront of any decision making. If a child was thriving or was highly vulnerable, it would not be appropriate to move them. Independent Reviewing Officers provided an additional protection for children/ young people’s rights.
2. The council has a contract with CORAM to advocate for young people.
3. This proposal would impact in 2020/21 whereupon the committee would be able to scrutinise the impact.
4. Currently all residential accommodation and independent fostering was outsourced to external providers. Moving to in-house fostering would be a cheaper option, without resulting in lesser quality placements.
CYP 4 – Commission semi-independent accommodation for care leavers
1. This was already happening therefore Members had some confidence in the deliverability of this proposal.
CYP 5 – Residential framework for young people – Joint South East London Commissioning Programme
CYP 7 – Early Help Redesign
1. This would result in reconfiguring existing provision for £800,000 less.
2. Members expressed concern that without detail of what the redesigned service would look like, they could not properly considering the cut.
3. The proposals to cut Early Help were made reluctantly but reflected the reality of local government budget cuts. Compared to other boroughs, Lewisham had done well to protect its services as much as it had.
4. The committee was not being asked to take a view on the impact of this proposal not, but needed to be aware that there would be a service reduction.
5. The overall early help budget currently stood at around £5m.
6. There was concern that cuts to early help services would lead to greater cost pressures than the value of the cuts further down the line, for example in acute services.
7. Members felt that this proposal was at odds with the projected increase in demand for services.
RES 19 – School crossing patrol
Simon Moss - Service Group Manager, Highways & Transport summarised the proposal.
In response to questions from the committee it was noted that:
1. it was not possible to deliver school crossing patrols as a volunteer-led services. This had been tried elsewhere and successfully challenged by the union.
2. 28 staff would be affected by this cut of which most would be women rather than men. Many staff would have protected characteristics as they spanned a range of ages and ethnicities, the oldest being 81 years old. 21 patrol staff were white, and 7 were BAME.
3. Members felt strongly that cutting the patrol would conflict with the council’s objectives around reducing obesity, improving road safety, improving air quality.
4. Members also felt that the loss of the patrol could have more impact on disadvantaged families whose children were more likely to take themselves to school at a younger age in primary school. Even within more affluent areas, it was suggested that the more disadvantaged children would be more likely to be affected in this way.
5. The committee heard that provision of a school crossing patrol was a condition of planning permission for at least one school, and therefore to remove the patrol would breach the permission.
6. Although green man crossings could be successful on main roads, crossing staff were ‘eyes and ears’ in the community having been trained in counter terrorism and child protection.
7. The committee rejected all options on the basis that:
a. the dangers of a reduced service outweighed any benefit
b. To do so would be to breach council objectives
c. No increased risk of harm to a child was acceptable
d. Planning permission would be breached as a result.
It was RESOLVED that a referral be made to Mayor & Cabinet via PAC to inform them that:
CYP 1: More efficient use of residential placements
CYP 3: Systematic and proactive management of the market for independent fostering
CYP 5: Residential framework for young people – Joint South East London Commissioning Programme
The Committee noted the proposals, and supported them in principle, but was concerned that that the savings were aspirational rather than deliverable.
CYP 2: improved placement process and more efficient systems with rigorous control through operating model and IT
The Committee was not satisfied that the shared IT service had the capacity to support the intended process improvements, and therefore considered that the saving would be unachievable.
CYP 4: Commission semi-independent accommodation for care leavers
The Committee felt more positively about this proposal as there had to date been some success in achieving better value for money in commissioning semi-independent accommodation for care leavers.
CYP 7: Early Help Redesign
The Committee noted the proposal but feared that cuts to early help services would result in greater cost pressures elsewhere that would exceed the value of the saving.
The Committee was unable to properly assess the impact of the cut without information on what the redesigned service would look like. No such information had been supplied.
RES 19: School Crossing Patrol
The committee rejected all options outlined in the proposal in the strongest terms, citing the following reasons:
· Any increased road safety risk to children was unacceptable
· The service enables older primary children and families to walk to school. Removal of this support could result in more car journeys to school, which would negatively impact on delivery of the council’s road safety, air quality and public health objectives
· Removal of the school crossing patrol would result in a breach of planning conditions in at least one instance that the committee knows of.
· Loss of the school crossing patrol would likely impact disproportionately on various groups with characteristics protected under the Equalities Act.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:00pm for 5 minutes to allow a brief comfort break.