Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Management Board - Wednesday 29 January 2020 11.00 a.m.

Venue: Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham.

Contact: James McLaughlin, Head of Democratic Services  The webcast can be viewed at

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


To receive declarations of interest from Members in respect of items listed on the agenda.


Councillor R Elliott declared a personal interest as a foster carer in relation to the agenda items on the Council Plan Performance and the Strategy to Increase In-House Foster Carers.


Questions from Members of the Public and the Press


To receive questions relating to items of business on the agenda from members of the public or press who are present at the meeting.


There were no questions from members of the public or press in respect of matters on the agenda for the meeting.


Exclusion of the Press and Public


To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any part of the agenda.


The Chair advised that there were no items of business that would require the exclusion of the press or public from the meeting.


Council Plan Performance - Quarter 2 (July to September 2019) pdf icon PDF 180 KB


Cabinet Portfolio:               Corporate Services and Finance (Lead)

Strategic Directorate:         Assistant Chief Executive


Additional documents:


The Board considered the Council Plan performance report for Quarter 2 (July - September 2019) which provided an analysis of performance against 13 key delivery outcomes and 69 measures.  At the end of Quarter 2, 28 measures (52%) had either met or exceeded the target set in the Council Plan, compared with 55% in Quarter 1.  The direction of travel was positive for 30 (56%) of the measures calculated in this quarter, an improvement from the 53% figure for the previous quarter.  Pressures arising from demand for social care remained a challenge, but good progress was seen on the measures under priorities 3 and 4 for Regeneration and Environment. 


The focus for the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board was on the 18 measures rated as red which were discussed on a priority by priority basis.


Priority 1


1A3 Number of Looked After Children

There had been a big improvement since the last quarter to just below the target figure, with numbers reducing as predicted due to the actions put in place such as right child, right plan.


1A4 Proportion of families who rated Early Help as good or excellent

Members observed that performance on this measure had dipped and queried whether exit surveys were carried out with all families, including those who had not had a positive experience. It was agreed to doublecheck that everyone was offered the opportunity to feed back. Some would choose not to respond and as the numbers involved were small this made the measure liable to large percentage changes.  Attempts were being made to encourage more responses and to make the survey more service user friendly.


1A5 Proportion of children on repeat child protection plans (within 24 months)

This was still below target although with an improved direction of travel and Members asked about work to identify who may go back on a plan and were concerned in particular about high numbers returning after 12 months.  Specific work by the safeguarding lead looked at cases of returners, which could be due to unforeseen changes in family circumstances within a short period such as a new partner or other children joining the family.  Sometimes people had been over optimistic in removing a child from a CPP and they would be put back on one.  Children stayed on plans as long as was needed.  Compared with neighbours on measures regarding repeats, Rotherham was slightly lower than middle, performing well on no repeat plans ever, but was still addressing some legacy issues which could mean possibly going back on a plan in their teens.


1B4b Permanent Exclusions - primaries

Officers agreed with the view that exclusion for a child was problematic, especially in primary school, with serious long term consequences and should be avoided at all costs. Exclusion rates were quite high but with a lot of actions taking place to support schools and families to avoid it being necessary.



1A7 Proportion of Looked After Children with disrupted placements

A concern was raised that the Intensive Intervention Programme  ...  view the full minutes text for item 120.


Budget Consultation 2020-2021 pdf icon PDF 103 KB


Cabinet Portfolio:               Corporate Services and Finance

Strategic Directorate:         Assistant Chief Executive

Additional documents:


The findings of the recent public consultation on the Council budget for 2020-21, which took place from December 13th 2019 to January 13th 2020, were presented to the Board.  The report covered a breakdown of responses and issues raised through on-line consultation, social media comments and feedback from partners and other stakeholders.


Feedback consisted mainly of comments rather than suggestions, with issues raised similar to those that had emerged during the more in-depth consultation the year before when the two-year budget had been set.  In terms of spending priorities, issues in respect of children and young people were mentioned most frequently by on-line respondents, followed by adults and older people; social care and social services; transport, roads and highways; and housing.  The most common themes from social media comments focused on the value of the consultation and on transport, roads and highways.  Partners had recognised that no major new proposals had been included since their involvement in the budget proposals a year ago.


Resolved: To note the findings as part of the overall budget discussions.



Employee Opinion Survey 2019 pdf icon PDF 290 KB


Cabinet Portfolio:               Corporate Services and Finance

Strategic Directorate:         Assistant Chief Executive


Consideration was given to a report and presentation which provided an overview of the outcomes of the Employee Opinion Survey conducted in the summer of 2019 and the key actions identified as a result of the findings.  The report compared outcomes from the 2019 survey with those of the previous survey undertaken in 2017.  32 questions within the survey also allowed direct comparison with BMG’s Local Authority (LA) Benchmark of over 50 UK wide local authorities.  18 of these questions resulted in scores significantly above the benchmark, ten were in line and four below other authorities.


Overall the staff survey results demonstrated positive progress across the Council since the last survey in 2017, with significant improvements against 57 questions, which reflected the work done by middle managers and heads of service.  No areas had declined corporately when compared with the 2017 survey results.  The composite score for workforce engagement had improved from 65% in 2017 to 69% and the roadshows led by the Leader and Chief Executive had played a part in this improvement.


The major area for improvement related to internal communication between units or departments within the Council, as only 21% of respondents rated this as good (18% in 2017) compared with 42% in the BMG LA Benchmark. Largescale pieces of work such as customer and digital transformation, which would necessitate a whole council approach, would provide opportunities to bring people together.


Senior management visibility was another area for further work, including teasing out who employees would class as a senior manager when asked this question as perceptions varied.  Other lower benchmarking scores were for job satisfaction and work-life balance.  It was observed that employees with 11-20 years’ service and those on Bands D and E reported lower levels of job satisfaction, which would merit further investigation into underlying reasons.


Members explored several issues in relation to the survey and questions:


-        Lengthy survey with 73 questions which could be a deterrent to completion – People were given time to complete the surveys at work and guidance had been sought from BMG regarding industry standards but it had been important to compare results with 2017.


-        Encouraging more responses from employees based away from Riverside House or alternative ways of capturing their views – Follow up work would try and ascertain reasons for non-completion, particularly in Regeneration and Environment which had the lowest response rate despite a strong drive to encourage responses.


-        If people had answered the questions about senior management visibility in terms of their more immediate manager that was also a concern as they would be less likely to see senior managers. - Anecdotally it seemed many employees, particularly front-line staff, had answered in respect of managers in the tier above their first line supervisor.  A framework was required around management visibility, supervision and one-to-ones across the organisation, coupled with more work on communications.


-        Variation in the numbers of tiers of management – This was being looked at and it was generally accepted practice  ...  view the full minutes text for item 122.


Children and Young People's Services - Update on the High Needs Block pdf icon PDF 190 KB


Cabinet Portfolio:               Children’s Services and Neighbourhood Working

Strategic Directorate:         Children and Young People’s Services



OSMB considered a paper which highlighted the increase in numbers of Education and Health Care Plans, the growth in demand for specialist provision and the resulting financial implications for the High Needs Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant.  The High Needs Block Recovery Plan aimed to bring in-year expenditure in line with the annual budget allocation and focus on a longer-term plan to contribute to reducing the cumulative deficit.  


Phase 1 of the SEND Sufficiency Strategy was in place and Phase 2 would be coming in to help mitigate against high unit costs.  Nevertheless, the report showed a variance from the recovery plan of £1.9m with £3.3m estimated pressures on the High Needs Block, even allowing for money being redirected from the Schools Block.  Particular pressures were in relation to social care placements, Independent Specialist Providers and provision at Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).


Rotherham’s PRUs (Aspire and Rowan) had both achieved good Ofsted inspection ratings.  In addition to meeting mainstream school exclusion provision the PRUs were good at responding to those with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, which added to the pressures on places as they supported both cohorts.  Budget pressures were not solely attributable to permanent exclusions but also to the growing numbers with SEMH needs.  The service needed to review specialist places and the current offer to ensure it met local needs, as well as looking at funding, work which was taking place through the SEND Sufficiency Strategy and another piece of work due to commence. 


A question was asked about the prospects of being able either to extend the building at Rowan or to build another classroom to accommodate more children and reduce the need for out of borough provision.  It was confirmed that the review of alternative provision would consider those arrangements and if funding became available for capital investment the service would be well placed to act following positive engagement with providers.


Members sought assurances that Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS) would be able to get a grip on the continued overspend in the face of ever growing demand and expensive out of borough places and that the service was doing all it could to address these issues.  Various factors were involved including budget allocation and the SEND Code of Practice which had a strong emphasis on parental preference and was quite difficult to challenge.  If parents expressed a strong wish for specialist provision, there was a risk of this resulting in a costly case at tribunal if not provided.  Several actions as outlined in the report would come together like a jigsaw puzzle over time resulting in a levelling off of demand and a balanced in-year budget.  However, officers were cautious over the timescale for reduction of the deficit.



1)    To note the growth in Education Health and Care Plans in Rotherham and the increased demand for specialist education provision.

2)    To note the financial model proposed in the High Needs Block Deficit Recovery Plan.

3)    To note the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 123.


Update on the Strategy to Increase In-House Foster Carers and Related Budget Profile and Targets pdf icon PDF 164 KB


Cabinet Portfolio:               Children’s Services and Neighbourhood Working

Strategic Directorate:         Children and Young People’s Services



As part of their regular in-year budget monitoring the Board considered a report from Children and Young People’s Services which identified activity to increase the number of in-house foster carers, and the impact this would have on the fostering targets and budget profile.  Although the ambition was to have children placed in family-based settings wherever possible, it also had to be recognised that the nature of some children’s experiences was such that they needed alternative provision.


Family-based settings included independent foster carers and in-house foster carers and Rotherham had been less effective in recruiting the latter or in managing that demand.  Inevitably each year some people also decided to cease fostering for a variety of reasons.  Actions were taking place, which should see increased requests for the Fostering Panel to meet, but would take a while to come to fruition.  These included:


-        revised fees and allowances payment scheme for in-house foster carers to encourage additional placements within existing approved fostering households

-        Muslim Foster Carer project

-        allocated capital funds for Pathways to Care to deliver adaptations to the homes of foster carers, allowing them to have an additional child in placement.

-        strategic partnership with Brightsparks


The work with Brightsparks was praised but a question was posed regarding the capacity of assessment teams and of the panel to get people through more quickly for approval to become foster carers, subject to the necessary safety checks.  This was being looked at and the work with Brightsparks had helped as it was also in their interests.  Each side provided challenge to the other on performance and outcomes, including how quickly people were moving through the process.  It was an issue of performance management rather than team capacity.  In follow up, Members inquired about the average time from expression of interest to taking the first child once approved.  The aspiration was for 12 weeks from when a person submitted their papers to panel approval, which was welcomed by Members if that timescale could be achieved.



1)    To note the fostering placement budget and target profiles for in-house fostering and independent fostering placements.


2)    To note the activity that will increase the number of foster carers in the final quarter of 2019/20 and throughout 2020/21.


Youth Cabinet/Young People's Issues


To receive an update on the activities of the Youth Cabinet and other Young People’s Issues.


The Governance Advisor informed the Board that the theme for the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Challenge on 12th March, 2020 had been confirmed by Rotherham Youth Cabinet as hate crime.


It was also reported that the intention was to have an update on the response to the last Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Challenge: Young Carers at the same meeting.


Forward Plan of Key Decisions - January to March 2020 pdf icon PDF 308 KB


To review and identify items for pre-decision scrutiny from the Forward Plan of Key Decisions covering the period from January to March 2020. 


Consideration was given to the Forward Plan of Key Decisions for the period from January to March 2020 detailing the decisions to be taken by the Cabinet over that three-month period.  Members identified the following two reports for pre-decision scrutiny at the meeting on 12 February 2020: December Financial Monitoring, and Budget & Council Tax 2020-21 and Medium Term Financial Strategy.


Cllr Cusworth confirmed that progress on developments with the Looked After Children Sufficiency Strategy would be reported at Improving Lives and the Corporate Parenting Panel.


Resolved:- 1) That the Forward Plan of Key Decisions from January to March 2020 be noted.


2) That the following reports be presented for pre-decision scrutiny on 12 February 2020:-

·       Budget & Council Tax 2020-21 and Medium Term Financial Strategy

·       December Financial Monitoring


Call-in Issues


To consider any issues referred for call-in from recent Cabinet meetings.


The Chair reported that there were no call-in issues requiring the Board’s consideration.


Urgent Business


To determine any item which the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.


The Chair advised that there were no matters of urgent business to discuss at the meeting.


Date and time of next meeting


The next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board will be held on Wednesday 12 February 2020 at 11.00a.m. at Rotherham Town Hall.


Resolved:- That the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board take place on Wednesday, 12th February, 2020, commencing at 11.00 a.m. in Rotherham Town Hall.