Agenda item - Member Involvement
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To consider the following matters raised by Councillors:
(a) Petitions: to receive any petitions submitted to the full Council or at the meeting itself;
(b) Written Questions: to consider any written questions;
(i) Youth Services - Councillor Hannah Clare
(ii) Nursery Services - Councillor Sarah Nield
(iii) Covid Briefings - Councillor Elaine Hills
(c) Letters: to consider any letters;
(i) Response to LGA Report – Councillor Lee Wares and Councillor Mears
(ii) Re-opening of Schools – Councillor Sarah Nield
(d) Notices of Motion: to consider any Notices of Motion referred from Council or submitted directly to the Committee.
(a) Written Questions
(i) Youth Services
6.1 Councillor Hannah Clare put the following question:
“1. Could the Chair provide an update on the youth services consultation that was launched in May including:
· How many responses have so far been received?
· Where in the city the young people who have responded are based?
2. How have our city's youth services adapted under Covid-19?”
6.3 The Chair provided the following reply:
“1.a.The Youth Review online consultation was launched on 15th May and will close on 28th June. On 3rd June there had been 199 responses.
1.b. Of the 199 responses, 22 of the responses did not indicate the area the respondents lived and 8 young people that completed the questionnaire lived outside of the city. The rest of the responses from young people came from:
East - 8
Central - 102
West - 44
North – 15
The survey has been widely publicised via youth providers and our Communication’s team. There is a plan to publicise it further, particularly to those areas where there have been low returns to date.
2. Youth providers have adapted well during Covid-19; they transferred promptly to online services (including an online youth club with break out rooms using Zoom) and an individual telephone support, particular for the most vulnerable young people. The various services can be found in their service offer (https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/directory-youth-services) which was developed and publicised soon after the initial lockdown.
Youth providers in our city asked to be designated as essential key workers to enable them to respond to reports of young people meeting in groups. This was agreed and detached youth work restarted in the city on 18th May.
This is helpful as there have been reports of anti-social behaviour criminal behaviour from some groups, although it must be noted that this ASB is not exclusively linked to young people.
6.4 Councillor Clare provided the following supplementary question:
“Was there a risk of this happening locally?”
6.5 The chair noted that funding had been to increase youth service across the city. It was noted that the Chair was not aware of any existing youth provision that was threatened.
(ii) Nursery Services
6.6 Councillor Sarah Nield gave the following question:
“Given that the loss of nursery places would have far-reaching consequences both for local families and for the economic recovery of Brighton and Hove, how well are our nurseries managing to weather the Covid-19 storm, and what is this council doing to help them?”
6.7 The Chair gave the following response:
“This has been a very difficult time for nurseries across the city. I want to thank all the nurseries that remained open throughout the lockdown to care for children of critical workers and those who are vulnerable.
Around two thirds of nurseries and most childminders closed after lockdown. All Council nurseries remained open. Those nurseries that closed are now starting to re-open for more children. On Thursday 4 June 74 out of 108 group settings and 30 out of 109 childminders were open. [Will be updated for next Thursday]. Some were waiting for the council’s advice on schools reopening before doing so.
Unfortunately, two settings have closed permanently because they are no longer financially sustainable; they had low numbers of children prior to the pandemic but lockdown prevented recovery. A third setting had planned to close at the end of the summer term (prior to coronavirus) but will not now reopen.
We have continued to pay early years free entitlement funding for the summer term for children at their setting, including for those who would have attended were it not for coronavirus, Nurseries have been given 100% relief on their rates and can apply to the council’s discretionary businesses support fund which has just opened. nurseries have also been able to access the Job Retention Scheme.
I wrote to the secretary of state for education regarding the limitations of the coronavirus job retention scheme for nurseries. This included the fact that Brighton & Hove’s ongoing low funding rate for EYFE will have an even greater impact on providers during lockdown as they make up for this shortfall with parental fees, which have been very low or non-existent during lockdown.
We have been providing daily updates to all childcare providers in order to give them information on the wide range of financial support from the government, and answering questions regarding this from individual providers.
Our early years development team has been in regular contact with providers with resources and targeted individual support for ongoing operation and reopening. We have shared a significant amount of information on support and resources through our Early Years and Childcare Facebook pages which has nearly 1,400 followers (around five posts per day).
I recognise that nurseries face continuing challenges when they reopen because of the measures they need to take to keep children safe. There are also likely to be less children attending because their parents want to keep them at home or have lost their jobs.
(iii) Covid 19 Briefings
6.9 Councillor Elaine Hills provided the following questions:
“1. In our members’ Covid briefings, we were told the number of referrals to Front Door for Families has dropped. Is this still the case, and how are referrals going generally?
2. Lockdown is difficult for parents and carers of children with SEN needs, as well as the children and young people themselves. What extra support have they had since nurseries, schools and colleges closed?
3. Could you explain to the committee why only elected councillors but not coopted members of the CYPS committee were invited to recent Covid-19 update meetings?”
6.10 The Chair gave the following responses:
“1 - Our initial contacts into the Front Door for Families dropped by 14% in the first 4 weeks of lockdown. However, in the past 4 weeks they have risen to 95% of that we would expect at this time of year.
Following lockdown there was an initially a significant reduction in the number contacts that became referrals into children’s social work. In the first 4 weeks referrals dropped to 45% of the usual level. Over the last 6 weeks referrals for a social work assessment have picked up and in the 4 weeks to the end of May the rate has increased to 63% of the rate we had prior to the lockdown.
What these figures suggest is that while initial contacts have not significantly reduced the contacts are not reporting harm or risk that require social work interventions. This is something that is being closely monitored and we anticipate that as more children return to school, referrals for social work assessment will increase.
Whilst we are not yet at the level of referrals into social work we would expect at this time of year, the numbers are slowly increasing. This increase in part may be as a result of the Brighton and Hove Safeguarding Children Partnerships. See Something Say Something campaign. This is encouraging the local community to report concerns about children and this appears anecdotally to be having an effect on contacts to our service, with the increased contact happening after the launch.
Front Door For Families is working well with our key partners Police and Health to operate as near to normal as possible. We have a very small number of Social Care staff, Police and Health in the office with everyone else remote working from home. While we have had a reduction in referrals from schools and health we have seen no reduction in referrals from the police.
What is clear is that when we are contacting families they are in need of people to talk to and offload (due to their limited social contacts), so enquiries and conversations can take longer as staff take on elements of emotional support for families at this difficult time.
2 - We recognise and understand the particular challenges faced by parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs in these unusual times. In order to help these families, the council has continued to work closely with PaCC and Amaze and implemented a wide range of support measures.
Throughout this difficult period, it has been important that parents and carers have a voice. Amaze undertook a parent/carer survey that asked the local SEND community about their experiences of COVID-19. The outcome of the survey was cascaded by officers to all Headteachers and SENCos to help inform their thinking when deciding upon how best to support their children and young people with SEN when learning at home or in school. The outcome of the survey was also discussed at a Secondary Heads phase meeting led by representatives from the parent groups.
Officers have also worked with PaCC and Amaze on designing the ‘individual pupil risk assessment’ tool for schools to use with their pupils who have an Education Health and Care plan. PaCC also authored a slide on ‘communicating with families’ for the recent Head and SENCo workshops on SEND and Covid-19, which was well received by the participants. Senior officers have also worked with PaCC and Amaze in dealing with more practical matters such as providing a letter for parents and carers to gain access to the early morning slots at supermarkets and providing answers to the Frequently Asked Questions on the Amaze website.
At the beginning of lock-down the Special Educational Needs team, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Inclusion Support Service (BHISS) and the Specialist Community Disability Service worked together to identify our most vulnerable families. SEN caseworkers and our specialist Social Workers contacted all of these families by phone to check that they had the support they required.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s Inclusion Support Service (BHISS) have also been using Educational Psychologists, SEND Specialist teachers, Primary Mental Health Workers, SEMH and Early Years Practitioners and Family Support Workers to skilfully apply learning and psychological theories to support these families through this challenging time.
Members of the BHISS team are supporting parents/carers of children and young people known to the service through regular phone calls, emails and virtual learning platforms. The team have worked alongside parents to problem solve ways to help their child’s learning at home and have provided resources, activities, links to websites and ideas. For example, the Sensory Team has been providing support for children and families with the use of braille through WhatsApp and Facetime
The BHISS team have also placed emphasis in their conversations with families on the importance of wellbeing as part of home education. The service has held a variety of parent/ carer workshops and virtual coffee mornings that have focussed on specific areas of need such as:
-Supporting mental health - delivered by Emotional & Mental Health -Practitioner trainees
-Low mood - exploring the link between low-mood and life events
-Supporting a healthy approach to sleep
The school’s wellbeing service consultation line has also been open to all parents/ carers daily and their contact details are published through the Council’s local offer website and through PaCC and Amaze’s media platforms.
Looking to the future the BHISS team are helping families to support their child’s transition from home back to school, between year groups and between schools. For example, the Autism and Language team have emailed parents of Y6’s to offer a video training session to help support them in preparing their child for their transition from Y6 into secondary school. The BHISS Early Years team are also supporting families with transition arrangements for children starting school in September through providing advice, strategies and resources e.g. visual timetables and photo books.
The SEN team have been continuing their work virtually so that parents and carers remain able to apply for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment. Through using a range of IT platforms and software, professionals are also able to work with families to provide advice towards EHC needs assessments. Where possible, the co-production of EHC Plans with parents/ carers is being undertaken virtually either through phone conversations or through Skype.
Although we recognise schools may need to postpone annual review meetings that are due to take place in the summer term, officers are happy to support schools holding a review through virtual meetings by telephone or video.
Social workers from the Specialist Community Disability Service (SCDS) continue to maintain all of their statutory visits and reviews through contacting families by phone or video platforms. Through their conversations with families, social workers are also providing any useful updates on services and checking that parents/carers have enough support. The SCDS is also working with families to identify creative and flexible ways to use their Direct Payments differently such as buying equipment and software to enable easier access to IT. Respite packages at Drove Road have been continuing as usual; on-the-whole, this has also been the case for Tudor House.
As you can hear there is a great deal going on to support those parents and carers of children and young people with SEN. Further information on the range of provision, services and support available for families during the Covid19 pandemic can be found on the Brighton and Hove Local Offer website link: https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/special-educational-needs-and-disabilities/sen-interim-working-arrangements-support-families
3 - When it became obvious in late March that that ‘business as usual’ was likely to be disrupted for some time I talked with officers about how we can ensure that elected Member’s were still able to be updated on the key COVID19 response being made to children and young people in the city, especially once it was known that April committee wouldn’t go ahead.
I have held four COVID19 Member briefing sessions since lockdown began, on 7th April, 28th April, 20th May and the 4th June. These sessions were specifically for councillors that sit on CYPS committee to enable them to be able to continue their overview and scrutiny role and to provide a space for questions to be asked about various elements of the COVID19 response.
These meetings have been accompanied by a written officer update. I asked for the first update (shared on the 6th April) to also be distributed to the non cllr Members of CYPS committee so they were kept in the loop and had an officer contact in case of further query. In addition, several of those colleagues have also been involved in a good number of meetings on the COVID response over the last view months.”
6.11 Councillor Hill gave the following supplementary questions:
1- Could a written update please be provided on this.
2- Will there be a further increase in support for parents of SEND children who will be returning in September?
3- Have families been updated on this and if so has there been any response?
6.12 The Chair gave the following responses:
1- It was confirmed that a written response would be provided.
The Interim Executive Director, Families, Children & Learning stated that there was a lot of planning undertaken with regard to terms of preparations for the expected increase of social work referrals. It was further stated that referrals had decreased which was linked to schools not being open as usual and that there had been a successful round of recruitment for social workers.
2- The chair stated that updates had been provided on a gradual basis and that groups such as PAC and Amaze had been consulted and included in the process. It was asserted that the lack of resources was a challenge however that efforts were being taken to be creative with the response.
(b) Member’s Letters
(i) Response to LGA Report
6.13 The Committee considered a letter from Councillor Wares and Councillor Mears which sought to request an amendment of the recommendation in order that no actions were made while the interim report was undergoing the process of further deliberations.
6.14 The Chair provided the following response:
“Thank you for welcoming the efforts being made by the HTST service to introduce significant improvements.
We will take account for the future the issues you raise about better alignment of the Committee and Panel dates such that each can best influence the other. As you will understand, recent decisions about timings have been influenced by the Covid-19 crisis and the need for urgent decision-making in respect of the HTST service capacity.
You will note that I specifically requested, through the leaders group that the work of the HtST could continue throughout the pandemic when many other council working groups were suspended.
Please note the current CYPS Committee Report into HTST includes reference to the work of the Members’ Policy Panel in several places, following the last meeting of the Panel on 3rd June 2020.
We concur with your comments about the excellent contribution of PACC and Amaze to improving the HTST service and are pleased to say there is a co-production working document in place with PACC, and fortnightly co-production meetings are taking place. I’m pleased to say that reports to me from PaCC and Council officers indicate that this work is very constructive and focused on continuous improvement.
In relation to the survey of parents’ views, a target of 80%+ satisfaction was felt to be realistic in relation to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which will inevitably cause significant changes for families using transport for some months to come. The need for social distancing will require the HTST service to source a considerable number of extra vehicles and staff from transport firms and there is likely to be some inevitable disruption to normal arrangements here and across the country as a consequence of the pandemic. When life returns to ‘normal’, the performance indicator here can be set at a higher level.
Regarding the point raised about the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) and the potential alternatives to that system, I am aware that the Interim Lead for the HTST is looking into this currently and will be able to provide some guidance on the various options for the council to consider going forward.
The remaining issues raised in your letter including the contract with Edge Public Solutions, we feel were covered in the comprehensive independent review of HTST by the LGA and are being tackled via our response to their recommendations, all of which we have fully accepted.
You will wish to note that I’ve also asked the Chief Executive Officer of the Council to conduct a review of lessons to be learned from the approach taken by officers in procuring a HTST dynamic purchasing system. Ive asked for this review to be independent and objective and that a report on this is submitted to and considered by the Council’s Audit and Standards committee.
Finally, we refute the accusation that anyone within the council ‘doctored’ this report prior to publication and we have confirmation from the respectable LGA itself on that point. Using such language is unhelpful and risks being potentially defamatory of those involved I would ask that this allegation is withdrawn by you and not repeated
The council welcomes the input from the Member Policy Panel and looks forward to receiving their final recommendations to this committee prior to a fuller HtST service starting in September.”
(ii) Re-opening of Schools
6.15 The committee considered a letter from Councillor Nield which sought commitment of support to schools in running effectively during the Covid-19 era.
6.16 The Chair offered to provide a comprehensive and detailed response in letter and gave the following response:
“I want to thank you for your support to our responsible and measured safety-first approach.
You highlight the challenge for schools as they return and are requested to have classes of half the size but with the same space and class numbers. We support headteachers and governors to therefore make local decisions based on individual requests and circumstances. They have to base any provision on what they ‘are able to provide safely’.
You highlight the significant challenge for vulnerable and disadvantaged families.
We have been and will continue working with the education partnership to support home learning so it is the best it can be.
We continue to support the mental health pressures on young people and the offer available to schools is all set out on the website we use with schools called BEEM
It will be necessary to revise our own programme for disadvantaged moving forward so that it takes account of this time in lockdown.”
(d) Notices of Motion
(i) Supporting BAME communities.
6.17 The Committee considered a joint Notice of motion presented by Councillor Hannah Clare regarding anti-racism.
6.18 Councillor Kate Knight formally seconded the motion.
6.19 Councillor Vanessa Brown stated that the Conservative Party did not agree with depressing description of the City as being institutionally racist. It was stated that Brighton and Hove was a diverse, tolerant and welcoming city to all residents and visitors alike. It was reasserted that the wording of the Notice of Motion was demeaning to teachers as it implied that they were unaware of how to preform their job effectively. It was noted that the Conservative party must abstain due to the divisive nature of the Notice of Motion.
6.20 Councillor McNair stated that Brighton and Hove was home to many ethnic minorities who lived together peaceably. A call for evidence based research was proposed. It was stated that education was about learning to discern and not teaching one particular viewpoint. Councillor McNair sought evidence for the claim that Teachers were contributing to racism.
6.21 Councillor Hill agreed with Councillor Brown and noted that history was taught from just one perspective. It was stated that examples of history of all people rather than just a “white lens” be taught.
6.22 Councillor O’Quinn stated that people should be reassured that this was already being taught in schools. It was noted that colonial history was already a subject being comprehensively taught at A-Level and GCSE.
6.23 Councillor Clare referred to the Global HPO report and stated that there was evidence of racism in government. It was stated that people mis-pronouncing names was an example of micro-aggressions.
6.24 The motion was passed following a vote.
6.25 RESOLVED – that the Notice of Motion be agreed.
- Members Written Questions, item 6. PDF 115 KB
- LEE WARES CYPS Letter response to LGA report, item 6. PDF 283 KB
- LetterCYPSJune, item 6. PDF 271 KB
- 15.06.20 - BAME Joint NOM Green Labour Groups, item 6. PDF 240 KB