Agenda and minutes

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 19 July 2012 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms 1 and 2, Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley, HA9 9HD. View directions

Contact: Bryony Gibbs, Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1355 Email: bryony.gibbs@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declaration of personal and prejudicial interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting any relevant financial or other interest in the items on the agenda.

Minutes:

Councillor Mashari advised that she was a governor for Wykeham Primary School. Councillor Cheese advised that he was the Chair of the Kilburn Locality Advisory Board. Councillor Pavey declared that he was Chair of the Wembley Locality Advisory Board and was Chair of governors for Wembley Primary School. Mr Alloysius Frederick advised that he was Chair of governors for St Gregory’s Science College.

 

Councillor Arnold advised that she was a governor for Kilburn Park School.

2.

Deputations (if any)

Minutes:

There were no deputations.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting held on 13 June 2012 pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as a correct record subject to the following: -

 

      i.        That the second paragraph under ‘Declaration of personal and prejudicial interests’ be amended to read that ‘Councillor Pavey advised that he was a governor at Wembley Primary School’.

    ii.        That the second bullet point under ‘Work Programme’ be amended to read ‘Councillor Pavey also requested an update on the suite of One Council programmes delivering the early intervention initiatives’.

4.

Brent Youth Parliament update

A verbal update will be presented to the committee by representatives of Brent Youth Parliament.

Minutes:

 

Thivya Jeyashanker, co-Chair of the Brent Youth Parliament (BYP) provided an overview of the recent activities of the BYP, including:

 

·         An open event had been held by BYP on 23 June 2012. Young people had been encouraged to attend and share their opinions on politics. This event had proved very interesting and had provided an insight into why young people chose to engage with or disengage from politics.

·         The members of the BYP executive had been perusing activities related to their areas of interest. One member had been working with Safer Neighbourhood Panels.

·         BYP was seeking to engage with school councils with the aim of empowering them through the provision of support and advice.

·         BYP members continued to provide forms to their constituents to garner opinion regarding the issues of importance to young people in Brent. The two issues which were prevalent in this feedback were bullying and youth provision. Thivya Jeyashanker advised that the Anti-Bullying Council did not appear to be effective enough. Bullying was also an issue highlighted in the results of the UK Youth Parliament survey, along with concerns regarding work experience. Thivya Jeyashanker advised that many young people did not understand the value of work experience and it was felt that the provision of better careers advice was needed. A further issue of concern was the lack of a sufficient number of activities for young people taking place in the school holidays.

 

Thivya Jeyashanker concluded by noting that BYP would next meet between
10.00 am and 2.00 pm on 4 August 2012 in the Council Chamber in Brent Town Hall. All members were invited to attend.

 

The Chair proposed that BYP be invited to contribute ideas for the committee’s work programme.

 

RESOLVED: -

 

      i.        That the update be noted

      ii.            That Brent Youth Parliament be invited to contribute ideas for the committee’s work programme.

5.

Background of Auditing Practices in Brent pdf icon PDF 149 KB

This report will provide details of audits carried out in Brent Schools over the last two years. Members will also receive information on governing practices and support provided to governors, along with an outline of the procedures in place within Children and Families to ensure probity and the practice of correct auditing policies and procedures.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair noted that this report had been requested as it was an issue of high public concern.

 

Simon Lane (Head of Audit and Investigations) and Mustafa Salih (Assistant Director, Strategic Finance) presented a report to the committee regarding financial management in Brent’s Schools. The report highlighted some of the associated issues currently being addressed and detailed the framework in place to provide support and challenge to Brent’s Schools. Financial management was a function delegated direct to governing bodies; however, the local authority retained a responsibility to ensure that public funds were spent lawfully and effectively and, as the Section 151 officer, the Director of Finance was required to ensure that sound financial systems and controls were in place across the council and Brent’s schools.

 

Mustafa Salih explained that the mechanisms employed by the Director of Finance in meeting this responsibility included a robust internal audit regime, the provision of support, guidance and training, and regular meetings with head teachers and bursars. Frequent updates were also provided to all schools via the school circular and this was deemed to be an effective tool of communication. Further examples of the provision of support and training were included at Appendix A, which evidenced the range of relevant information available on the schools intranet pages, and at Appendix B, which set out the Financial Management Training Brochure developed by the Schools Finance Team.

 

Turning to the issue of the audit process, Simon Lane advised that all maintained schools in Brent were audited on a regular basis and at present this amounted to approximately 80 establishments including PRU’s and Children’s centres. Audits typically took 10 days to complete and there had been 190 days dedicated to school audits in 2011/12 out of a total audit resource of 1,200 days. It was anticipated that 228 days would be dedicated to schools in 2012/13, which compared very favourably against other London authorities. Key issues arising from recent audits included compliance with the statutory requirements relating to Senior Leadership Pay and schools entering into unfavourable leases for the hire of photocopiers and other ICT equipment. A comprehensive action plan, included at Appendix C, had been developed to address this first issue and work was on-going. Multifaceted action had also been taken with regard to the issue of schools entering into leases and this had ranged from meeting directly with school officers and governors, to referring schools to solicitors and facilitating legal action. The council was of the view that these leases should be treated as void as the schools did not have the legal power to enter into these arrangements. Further details of specific issues currently being addressed were provided under the headings of governance, procurement, unofficial funds, budgeting and income and banking. As such issues were identified the council tailored the auditing programme accordingly and developed the comprehensive briefing document for those conducting the audits.

 

Councillor Mashari queried what arrangements were in place to prevent poor financial management within Academies and Free Schools. Simon Lane advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Brent Adoption Service pdf icon PDF 190 KB

The committee will receive a presentation on the latest inspection of the adoption service. The presentation will also include an explanation of the new adoption scorecard.

Minutes:

Hillary Brooks (Head of Placements) delivered a presentation to the committee regarding the Brent Adoption Service and the outcome of a recent assessment conducted by the DfE. There had been considerable improvement in the adoption service since the identification in 2009 of several performance issues. Several measures had been implemented including the development of a performance culture which encompassed the introduction of tracking systems. In February 2012, the service had received a satisfactory Ofsted rating, which meant that the service was deemed to be sound.  The government had since introduced a new ‘score card’ measure of adoption services in April 2012. This focussed on a child’s entire journey through the care system and measured the time from when a child entered care to the time that child moved in with his/her adoptive family. The score card measured data on a rolling three year average and it had therefore been difficult to evidence the service improvement that had been made. Furthermore, the score card did not recognise other forms of permanence for a child such as that achieved under Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs), whereby a child was placed with a member of his/her extended family. As a result Brent Council was in the bottom quartile in the country and the improvements made, including the significant reduction in the average number of days that a child was in care before being adopted, would not begin to be evident on the score card until 2013/14. The government commissioned an assessment of the service in response to Brent’s poor performance and the outcome of this assessment had been very positive. Feedback had included that the service was very child focussed and was committed to embedding a culture of high performance across teams.

 

In the subsequent discussion, several queries were raised by the committee.. Councillor Mashari sought clarification regarding the 21 adoption assessments that were reported as being underway. Councillor Mashari further queried how many children were currently awaiting permanency. Councillor Oladapo sought an explanation of the early permanency planning that was now being conducted. Councillor Cheese queried whether the council remained responsible for children that it placed outside of the borough or whether the local authority where the child lived assumed responsibility. Councillor Mashari further queried whether there were increased risks involved in placing children under SGOs and if so, what actions the council took to mitigate these risks. Councillor Cheese also expressed concern regarding the lack of greater levels of monitoring of SGO placements. Councillor Pavey sought further details in relation to Brent’s policy on transracial placements and sought information on the number of prospective adopters deemed unsuitable matches as a result of issues of ethnicity. Councillor Oladapo queried whether transracial adoptions in Brent tended to be successful. Councillor Pavey noted the disparity between receiving a ‘satisfactory’ Ofsted rating in February 2012 and the extremely positive outcome of the DfE assessment

 

In response to the committee’s queries Hillary Brooks advised that there were currently 21 assessments of prospective adopters underway. As these assessments  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Safeguarding and Looked After Children Inspection Action Plan pdf icon PDF 70 KB

This report identifies the level of progress made by the Brent Social Care against the action plan following the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission Inspection of Safeguarding and Looked After Children provision in Brent.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

That consideration of this item be deferred to the following meeting of the committee.

8.

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme and Items from the Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 75 KB

The Work Programme is attached.

Minutes:

Priya Mistry (Policy and Performance Officer) advised that the reports requested at the previous meeting had been added to the work programme and noted that in response to a request made at that meeting, information regarding the Improving Outcomes task group had been tabled for the committee’s information. Members were reminded that any further suggestions for the committee’s work programme could be forwarded to the Chair or to Priya Mistry.

 

Councillor Mashari proposed that items addressing the issues of bullying, careers advice and work experience for young people in Brent which were raised via the Brent Youth Parliament should be added to the work programme:

 

RESOLVED: -

 

That items regarding the issues raised via the Brent Youth Parliament of bullying, and careers advice and work experience for young people in Brent be added to the committee’s work programme.

9.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny meeting is scheduled for 11 October 2012.

Minutes:

The committee noted that the next meeting was scheduled for 11 October 2012.

10.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Democratic Services Manager or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

None.