Agenda and minutes

Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Board (2) - Thursday, 23rd November, 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Diamond Rooms 1 and 2 - Council House. View directions

Contact: Tom Robinson  Email:

No. Item


Declarations of Interests


Cllr A Tucker and Co-Opted Member D Jackson highlighted they were members of the Fostering Panel, but this was not considered a pecuniary interest.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 229 KB

a)  To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 5th October 2023


b)  Matters Arising


The Minutes of the meeting held on 5 October 2023 were agreed and signed as a true record.


There were no matters arising.


Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider whether to exclude the press and public for the private items of business for the reasons shown in the report.


RESOLVED that the Scrutiny Board agrees to exclude the press and public under Sections 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 relating to the private reports in Minute 20 below headed ‘Homes for Looked After Children and Cost of Placements’ on the grounds that the reports involve the likely disclosure of information as defined in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. The grounds for privacy are that it refers to information relating to an individual and information relating to the financial or business affairs of an organisation and the amount of expenditure proposed to be incurred by the Council under a particular contract for the supply of goods or services. The public interest in maintaining the exemption under Schedule 12A outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


Social Worker Recruitment and Retention - Workforce Proposals pdf icon PDF 395 KB

Briefing Note of the Interim Director for Children’s Services


The Board considered a Briefing Note of the Interim Director for Children’s Services on social worker recruitment and retention – workforce, proposals, implementation and progress to date.


Recruitment and retention of social workers is a national problem and accepted in the government's response to the Independent Review of Social Care. The workforce profile over the past few years has led to Children’s Services supporting a “grow our own” approach, with a key focus on enabling social workers into the profession and developing into experienced social workers with high quality practice standards.


The local picture in Coventry in many ways mirrors the regional and national picture. Coventry has continued to face challenges to recruitment and retention of social workers, which has impacted the stability of the workforce and the number of agency staff required to cover vacancies. Coventry is based within the West Midlands, in an area where there are a number of local authorities all completing for the same pool of social workers, which makes it a competitive market for social workers.


Coventry Children’s Services vision for the Social Work workforce is to secure a stable, permanent, highly skilled and capable workforce; a workforce who are able to uphold the One Cov values of Coventry City Council, working in the ‘The Coventry Way’’ – the children’s services practice approach informed by signs of safety, relational and restorative practices. A stable and permanent workforce can more effectively work with children, young people and families in a way which supports to improve outcomes.


The Briefing Note outlined a range of positive recruitment and retention initiatives the service is progressing to help recruit and retain Social Workers further and reduce the number of Social Worker vacancies. These included but were not limited to:

-  The Review of Team Managers, Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO’s) and Child Protection chairs pay in order to bring in line with regional rates of pay.

-  Retention Payments to experienced Social Workers until end of March 2024, replaced with a Progression pathway for experienced social workers the opportunity to progress to Advanced Social Workers through a progression panel process to be implemented from 1 April 2024.

-  Continuation in the expansion of the Social Work Academy supporting more Newly Qualified Social Workers to grow experience in the service and fill vacancies on a more permanent basis.


The Board questioned Officers and received responses on a number of matters relating to social worker recruitment and retention including:

-  Recruitment campaigns and potential schemes with secondary schools for children who want to be social workers.

-  The ‘Grow Your Own’ initiative.

-  Fast-track programs and the qualifications received.

-  Cooperation with neighbouring authorities to pool resources and compete in a competitive recruitment and retention market.

-  Social Work courses from Coventry University.

-  Staff wellbeing programs and mandatory involvement.

-  Work placements for those studying health and social care.

-  Staff mentoring schemes for a younger workforce.

-  Retention rates in comparison to the national average  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Homes for Looked After Children and Cost of Placements pdf icon PDF 269 KB

Briefing Note of the Interim Director for Children’s Services

Additional documents:


The Board considered a Briefing Note of the Interim Director of Children’s Services which provided an outline to the challenges in finding appropriate residential care for children, including those who have a high level of diverse & complex needs, and consequent impact of the cost of these children’s placements.


Wherever possible children and their families will be supported to remain living together when it is safe to do so. Our Strengths based; outcomes focused Family valued approach seeks to enable families to find the solutions to challenges they face.


Families are supported through Family Network Meetings and Family Group Conferences (FGC) to identify family led solutions. If a child cannot remain in the care of their parent/s, we will explore the wider family network, supporting connected adults to become Kinship (Connected) foster carers, or a Special Guardian.


If this is not viable, a foster placement will be sought, enabling children to receive care and support in a family environment, through either the Coventry Fostering service or via an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA).


For some children, due to their complexity of need, placing them in a children’s home will be deemed the most appropriate care plan and only if our internal children’shomes or block providers cannot care for them, would we seek to explore the wider residential market of commissioned placements.


There are currently 67 children living in a residential children’s home, placed by Coventry Children’s Services, a reduction from quarter one of 9 children. Trend analysis of data shows there is often an increase in June each year as foster carers are unable/ unwilling to care for new children due to planned holidays and carers offering respite support to each other.


A bi-monthly review is undertaken of all children living in residential care, to consider their plans to move on, in line with their care plan. In September 2023, a deep dive review was undertaken of the 74 children who were living in residential care by Children’s Services Leadership Team (CSLT) and a review of the highest cost placements with the Chief Executive and Chief Partnership Officer.


The review identified that there were clear plans for each child living in a children’s home and highlighted the complexity and challenges of finding homes for some of our looked after children.


Although the numbers of children living in a children’s home have reduced, costs have increased for newly commissioned residential placements significantly over the last 12 months.


This is a national challenge as was evidenced in the Competition and Market’s Authority report of March 2022, the Independent Review of Children’s Social care of May 2022, and the Government’s consultation response to this review – Stable Homes: Built on Love (February 2023) there is recognition that the children’s placement market is broken. These problems break down into two main areas. A lack of placements of the right kind, thereby increasing risk of unregulated placements and secondly that larger providers are making materially higher profits, and charging materially higher prices, than we would expect  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 361 KB

Briefing Note of the Chief Legal Officer


The Board noted the Work Programme and agreed to bring the following item forward to the next meeting of Scrutiny Board (2):


-  School Place Sufficiency


Any Other Items of Public Business

Any other items of public business which the Chair decides to take as a matter of urgency because of the special circumstances involved.


There were no other items of business.


Homes for Looked After Children and Cost of Placements

Briefing Note of the Interim Director for Children’s Services


(Listing Officer: N MacDonald


Further to Minute 15 above, the Board noted a private item of the Interim Director for Children’s Services which set out the personal and commercially confidential matters relating to the Homes for Looked After Children and Cost of Placements.


Any other items of private business which the Chair decides to take as matters of urgency because of the special circumstances involved