To receive a report which sets out the Directorate’s new approach to the delivery of integrated services for children and families in Kent.
(As Dr Sullivan had declared an interest in this item, she did not take part in the discussion and did not vote)
1. Mr Dunkley introduced the report which set out the directorate’s new approach to the delivery of integrated services for children and families in Kent.
Mr Dunkley and Mr Gough (Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education) then responded to comments and questions from Members, including the following: -
a) Mr Dunkley explained that Kent County Council’s constitution set out what was contained within the remit of the County Council and what was not. The relevant third tier was Council’s third tier and therefore the Change for Kent Children project was not a matter for County Council approval.
b) Mr Dunkley said that the report set out the justification for the changed programme and its objectives. He referred to the operational restructure and said that although Members were not authorised to influence a staff consultation to shape teams or jobs, the relevant information was available on Kent County Council’s intranet.
c) Mr Dunkley reassured Members that the main objective of the Change for Kent Children programme was to ensure that every child in Kent was supported and individual needs were met.
d) Mr Dunkley talked about the escalating costs of specialist services for looked after children and the services that local authorities were having to cut in order to fund them. He expressed the importance of assessing the needs of individual children and their families to ensure that needs were met before the point of crisis in a financially sustainable way.
e) Mr Dunkley referred to the rating system that Ofsted used and said that it was Kent County Council’s ambition for its services to improve for all children and young people and to have this improvement recognised by Ofsted as outstanding. He said that if Kent County Council were to receive an outstanding rating from Ofsted it would carry a range of benefits such as a boost in staff morale and easier and faster recruitment processes.
f) Mr Dunkley said that in January 2017, the County Council agreed a paper from the Leader of the Council and Head of Paid Service to introduce a new top tier structure for the Authority, and in May 2018, County Council agreed to the proposals to redistribute activities in Specialist Children’s Services and Early Help and Preventative Service divisions and realign the responsibilities of the two Director roles.
g) Mr Dunkley said that an Accountability Board had been introduced by The South East Local Enterprise Partnership which addressed performance and data concerns in relation to children's social care data in Kent.
h) Mr Gough reiterated Mr Dunkley’s comments and said that Kent County Council were well-positioned in relation to receiving an outstanding rating from Ofsted inspectors in the future.
i) Mr Dunkley said that assessing a child’s individual needs at an early stage was vital in ensuring that both children and families were receiving the appropriate care and support.
j) Mr Dunkley referred to Kent County Council’s Troubled Families programme which was fully integrated into Early Help and Preventative Services, and the programme allowed families to receive intensive support through the work of Kent’s Early Help Units. He said that there was a significant amount of flexibility in relation to how the funding could be spent.
2. The Chairman requested that a cross-party, all-Member briefing be held on the subject.
3. The Chairman suggested that the recommendation be amended to ensure that Members of the Committee had the opportunity to attend a detailed briefing on the subject before endorsing the proposals. Members of the Committee supported this.
4. RESOLVED that
(i) the report be noted; and
(ii) the strategic objectives for improving outcomes for children in Kent,