Agenda item

Session Three - Children and Young People


Also in attendance: Councillor Cresswell and Councillor Laing, Nigel Denning (Interim Service Director for Children, Young People and Families), Matt Fulton (Lead Accountancy Manager for Children, Young People and Families), Annie Gammon (Interim Service Director for Education, Participation  and Skills), David Haley (Director of Children’s Services), Ross Jago (Head of Governance, Performance and Risk), and Louise Jenkins (Lead Accountancy Manager for Education, Participation and Skills). 


Councillor Cresswell (Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Apprenticeships) gave an overview of education and highlighted: 


a)    There was a budget uplift of £1.37 million for expected cost and volume pressures in Home to School Transport (£1 million) and SEND short breaks (£0.37 million);  


b)    There was an overspend of £1.889 million due to an increase in the number of children meeting statutory thresholds at increasing costs related to home to school transport;  


c)    The number of children with an Educational Health Care Plan increased by 36%; 


d)    Additional funding of £2.42 million would be required in 2024/25 budget due to additional pressures within home to school transport; 


e)    The service would be looking to ensure children’s needs were being met in a school or specialist provision closer to home;  


f)     The Service was delivering the Local Area SEND action plan following a local area inspection in 2023 which would improve inclusion and school attendance and reduce mobility and exclusions;  


g)    All other budget pressures were predicted to be balanced for 2023/24;  


h)    Long term actions were being planned to control costs in 2024/25 and into the future;  


i)     The Council would look to maintain children and young people in their local schools rather than specialist provision;  


j)     The Council would increase the number of special schools and places in Plymouth to meet the increased demand into the future;  


k)    The Council was evaluating route optimisation for Home to School Transport and reduce single use taxi routes;  


Councillor Laing (Cabinet Member for Children’s social care, Culture, Events and Communications) gave an overview of Children’s and highlighted: 


l)     Financial pressures for Children’s Social Care were due to high cost residential placements and the use of Independent Fostering Agencies;  


m)  Additional investment was provided to Children’s Social Care to manage capacity within the services;  


n)    Additional budget was proposed to provide additional capacity for the predicted number of families requiring a service from the Council;  


o)    A recruitment and retention package would be formulated to entice potential foster carers to the Council;  


p)    The Council was exploring new ways to help children and young people to live with their families under connected carer arrangements.  


In response to questions, the following was discussed: 


q)    Good planning of special educational needs provision and lower transport costs;  


r)    The Council would look to provide as many placements as possible in mainstream schools;  


s)     The Council would be driving early intervention in both services to reduce the number of EHCP applications and to reduce the number of high cost placements for cared for children and young people;  


t)     Partnerships across the city would be vital in the delivery of early intervention and the Council would look to implement its Transformation programme to enact the change required. 


u)    The Council would look to develop with partners joint resource allocations and joint commissioning arrangements which were not well developed;  


v)    The Council would be moving to a locality approach delivered by multi-disciplinary teams in the city;  


w)   A training and development programme would be implemented for the service;  


x)    A recruitment drive would begin in January 2024 to permanent posts at senior levels to provide stability, endurance and investment for the future;  


y)    The Council would prioritise a reduction in caseloads for social workers which would retain social workers as well as the production of good quality work for families in Plymouth;  


z)    Travel training for children and young people would be undertaken to promote independence, but also to reduce costs;  


aa)  Personal Advisors for care leavers had increased as those young people were concerned at the level of service they had received;  


bb)The Council was targeting some multi academy trusts where special educational needs was weakest by challenging and supporting them;  


cc)  The Council would be working had to drive down the time for assessments for children requiring an EHCP;  


dd)The Council would look to complete more reviews of ECHP’s on time and of good quality 


ee)Initial discussions would take place with a social housing provider to ring-fence accommodation for the use of Care Leavers;  


ff)    The Council was engaging its looked after children in independence skills at a much earlier age;  


gg)  The number of children and young people in a school that had been rated good or outstanding had increased significantly;  


hh)Plymouth needed to move at pace into a sector led education space;  


ii)    Budget allocation for training staff;  


jj)    Potential Council Tax exemptions for Plymouth City Council foster carers;  


kk)The Council would be as part of the sufficiency strategy transitions from primary school to secondary school for children that were hearing impaired;  


ll)    Schools energy budgets apart from one had been balanced.