Council meetings

Agenda item

Children's Services update


6.1    Councillor John Paschoud declared an interest as a co-operative governor of Parkwood Hall co-operative academy, which is in receipt of funding from Lewisham Council.


6.2    Lucie Heyes (Director of Children’s Social Care) introduced the report. Lucie set out progress on delivering savings and cuts in the children’s social care division – with an overview of the primary areas of spending: workforce, demand management and the sufficiency strategy.


6.3    Lucie Heyes and Pinaki Ghoshal (Executive Director for Children and Young People) responded to questions from the Committee – the following key points were noted:

·         The largest area of turnover for staff was amongst agency workers. However, Lewisham had one of the highest rates in London for retention of permanent staff – as well as good levels of conversion of agency staff to permanent staff.

·         The increased demand for services meant that the number of social workers also had to increase, which was challenging to achieve.

·         The management team was stable – which created stability and consistency across the service.

·         Lewisham was also recruiting student social workers – which helped to meet demand – but the service could only sustain a set level of trainees.

·         Lots of work had taken place to redesign and improve social work systems and processes to ensure that social workers were able to spend most of their time working with families.

·         Surveys of staff indicated that the majority of social workers were happy in their roles – however – the difficult and demanding nature of child protection social work meant that staff worked for a limited amount of time in these roles before moving on (this was an issue for child protection teams everywhere). Senior managers’ focus was on making this difficult job as manageable as possible.

·         The most important elements for social worker satisfaction and retention were: the quality of management and supervision available; the size of caseloads and the training offer - these had been a key focus in Lewisham.

·         There were opportunities for social workers to move from frontline work into other roles.

·         There had been difficulties in training social workers remotely during the pandemic lockdowns and managers were still dealing with the legacy of this. There had been a renewed focus on training and development.

·         The pandemic had an impact on the delivery of the improvement plan – and work was taking place to catch up.

·         There had been a significant increase in demand for education health and care plans for children with recognised high levels of special educational need. There had also been an increase in the complexity of these cases.

·         There had also been an increase in the numbers of children attending special education schools – particularly out of borough.

·         There had also been an (unfunded) change to the age range of children and young people who were eligible for health and care plans.

·         The cost of transport for children to education settings had increased significantly. Transport providers were reporting significant difficulties in recruiting drivers (and increasing salaries to compensate).

·         The combination of these factors had resulted in significant increases in costs.

·         Work was taking place to manage the costs of journeys and the balance of in-house provision vs the use of taxis. It was recognised that more work was needed.

·         The overall budget for education services from the general fund was approximately £12m – of which £6m was spent on passenger transport.


6.4       Resolved: that the report be noted.


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