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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee rooms C, D & E - Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX. View directions

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Co-opted representative Simon Powell gave his apologies.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 71 KB


The minutes were agreed as a true and accurate record of the meeting.


Matters arising:

·         Yvette Stanley, Director of Children, Schools and Families (CSF), reported that events promoting adoption are organised regionally and will cover the Wimbledon area in rotation; and

·         With reference to discussion of the Panel’s task group activity for 2016 – 2017, (under Agenda Item 11), Councillor James Holmes expressed his concern that scrutiny is being eroded.  It was agreed at the October meeting that the Panel will not have a standing task group for 2016/17 but instead use this capacity following the anticipated Ofsted inspection to scrutinise any resulting work programme.  Councillor Holmes notified the Panel he had contacted Councillor Peter Southgate, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, and Julia Regan, Head of Democracy Services.  It was agreed that the concerns expressed will be discussed subsequent to the meeting by Councillor Holmes and Councillor Pearce, the latter in his capacity as chair of the Children and Young People Panel.



Update report: safeguarding of children and young people in Merton pdf icon PDF 69 KB

This item will include:

·         The Annual Report of the Merton Safeguarding Children Board (Keith Makin, Independent Chair, Merton Safeguarding Children Board); and

·         A representation from the Muslim Women of Morden regarding the effect of Prevent on children’s wellbeing.


Steven Wallace, Superintendent Crime and Operations, Acting Borough Commander, will also join the meeting for this item.


Additional documents:


Keith Makin, the independent chair of the Merton Safeguarding Children Board, provided the Panel with an introduction to its work as detailed in the annual report.  Effective partnership working, good lead member representation and multi-agency quality assurance were all highlighted as strengths.  The provision of training, listening to the voice of children and young people and the link with the safeguarding adults board were noted as key focuses during the year.  It was also explained that the board has undertaken a self evaluation ready for Ofsted inspection.  Additionally, it has conducted a serious case review and undertaken a number of task and finish groups looking at Prevent, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), neglect and the performance management data set. Over the next year the three key focuses for the board will be on ‘think family’ approaches, supporting vulnerable adolescents and early help for families to support them in strengthening their own resilience to address problems.  The Panel was asked to note that the Wood Review of local safeguarding children boards has been published but that, at this stage, it is not clear what impact there will be on arrangements going forward.


Yvette Stanley emphasised that the board’s annual report (which will be inspected by Ofsted), its independent chair and membership of the board by the police, health agencies and the council are all statutory duties.  Also, that the board, through its independent scrutiny of the service, is part of the overall quality assurance framework  for children’s services.  Over the last year there has been an improvement in front line practice and a reduction in use of agency staff.  Whilst FGM, radicalisation and child sexual exploitation have long been issues, the profile of these has increased and it is right to reflect on whether the response being given is correct.  There has been additional investment in addressing child sexual exploitation and missing children.  Also, processes for dealing with child sexual exploitation and gangs have been strengthened.  Whilst the service is increasingly successful, the focus is now on continuing to refine practice to drive up quality standards.  Against the background of funding reductions, the focus is on working together to make sure every penny counts.


Councillor Katy Neep, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, emphasised that the board provides the opportunity for partners to come together, to interrogate challenges and share good practice.  The Cabinet Member highlighted the importance of the interface with the safeguarding adults board and the challenges for safeguarding caused by housing issues.


Acting Borough Commander, Superintendent Steven Wallace (Crime and Operations) noted that many of those in borough for whom there are safeguarding concerns aren’t residents.  Offender management is good and improving.  As a result of investment, there are now dedicated officers addressing child sexual exploitation and the ‘safer schools’ police officers have been retained.   It is a focus to divert young people before they access the criminal justice system as a key prevention strategy.  However, reflecting the increase across London, there has been a 30% rise in missing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Budget and business plan (round 1) pdf icon PDF 455 KB


This item was introduced by Caroline Holland, Director of Corporate Services.  The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) has a gap of £1.4m in 2019/20 and £16m in 2020/21.  The proposed CSF Department replacement savings for 2017-18 are achievable partly through  the deletion of the Commissioning, Strategy and Performance Assistant Director post and a Head of Service post. Other savings have either been brought forward into 2017-18 or moved into subsequent years.   Savings are also being made to the capital programme which is anticipating funding from the Education Funding Agency for the development of the Harris Wimbledon Free School.  This has been fed into the MTFS, reducing the funding gap and  decreasing the level of required revenue savings.


In response to Panel member questions, it was clarified:

·         Significant items of school maintenance are funded through a central government grant to local authorities (more minor items valued at up to £20K are funded by schools themselves through their own budgets).  The council maintains a register of school maintenance issues which establishes priorities.  Over recent years the priority has been on the school expansion programme meaning there is now a need to invest in the schools estate and over time this will become an increasing priority.  Whilst the government’s grant for school maintenance isn’t ring fenced, there is a need to keep the level of investment under review and to potentially increase this in the future.  It was noted that there are sufficient funds available to achieve the expansion of SEND provision;

·         The savings process is framed over a three year period.  Additionally, the CSF Department is projecting a £1.5m overspend during this financial year.  This means that savings are continually subject to review to ensure they can be realised.  Proposed CSF savings resulting from a new information system will come to fruition over a longer timeframe than originally envisaged.  The Department has responded proactively, bringing through alternative savings resulting from changes to the Department structure;

·         Savings to be realised through a reduction in staff numbers will be handled very carefully over a two year period.  It will be important not to destabilise staff and cause a loss of social workers for instance.  It was highlighted that many posts in the Department are proscribed and others required as a result of guidance; and

·         Funds raised through solar panels on school roofs were noted as the responsibility of the Environment & Regeneration Department.  Whilst these were initially subject to a very sound business case, this has been undermined by the Government’s reduction in feed-in tariffs.  However, these are still financially beneficial to the council given energy costs for schools.



Responsible Cabinet Member review

·         Cabinet Member for Education (Councillor Cooper-Marbiah)

·         Cabinet Member for Children’s Services (Councillor Neep)


1.    Cabinet Member for Education (Councillor Cooper-Marbiah):


The Cabinet Member highlighted the following:

·         Harris Wimbledon: more information about the new secondary academy will be made public shortly - officers are working on communications;

·         Ofsted inspections: these have happened recently at Wimbledon Park, the Priory and Links Primary Schools.  The reports are not yet available;

·         School visits: these have highlighted how difficulties recruiting and retaining good teachers are linked to the provision of housing.  Also the Cabinet Member has seen how schools are utilising the diverse languages spoken by pupils to boost their teaching provision; and

·         National teaching award: congratulations were given to Richard Brown of Cricket Green School who has been awarded a Pearson Teaching Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education.


In response to member questions, the Cabinet Member clarified:

·         Her vision for education over the mid to long term is that there are sufficient school places and a consistently high quality of education across the borough;

·         A public meeting is being planned to provide more information about Harris Wimbledon.  The precise timing and details are currently being discussed.  Officers are continuing to work closely with all those involved in the new school and taking time to go through questions raised by stakeholders.  Careful management of information into the public domain is needed given that  some information has already ‘leaked’ into the public domain.  Rather than being drawn into discussion about what of this information is or isn’t correct, it has been agreed that communication should focus on this public meeting when all can be clarified; and

·         Clarification will be sought about the ownership of the pavilion at Sherwood School.


2.    The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services (Councillor Neep):


The Cabinet Member highlighted the following:

·         Voice of children and young people: the Cabinet Member expressed the desire that the Panel should hear more of the voice of children and young people as this is at the heart of all we do;

·         Housing: specifically overcrowding is a significant issue for children and young people and is a priority.  This is linked to the Merton Safeguarding Children Board’s focus on think family; and

·         The great weight debate: a resident consultation is currently happening and looking at what is causing the increase in childhood obesity which is an issue across the whole borough.


In response to member questions, the Cabinet Member clarified:

·         The majority of youth provision and participation is no longer funded by the council but it has been successful in gaining alternative funds to support provision in Pollards Hill and Phipps Bridge.  The focus is now on securing sustainable funding.  Social landlords are being targeted.  It was emphasised that whilst this activity isn’t council funded, it is important provision which should be supported and endorsed;

·         The aim is as near as possible to have sufficient in-house foster carers to end the use of agency foster carers.  Recruitment was reported as going well and existing capacity is being used more efficiently including a reduction  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Performance monitoring pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Additional documents:


Councillor Brunt, the performance lead for the Panel, highlighted volumes are now included on the monitoring information.  The rationale for the inclusion of each measure in the performance monitoring information is also now available to the Panel.  Additional context information has been requested where there is no target measure - for example, the cohort size to illustrate the relative scale.  Where measures are annual, the department has been requested to provide any information that is available within the year.


In response to member questions, it was clarified that the number of new Education, Health and Care plans issued within the 20 week target continues to be a focus.  This is behind target because of the increase in demand for these plans. The council is performing relatively well, however, in transferring ‘old’ SEN Statements into EHC Plans (Merton’s performance on this measure is currently 7th in London).  Good feedback is being received from parents going through the new EHC planning process with a decline in the number of associated tribunals taking place.  It was agreed that Jane McSherry, Assistant Director of Education, would provide more information on the transfer of these plans to the Panel at the next meeting through the update report.



Department update report pdf icon PDF 63 KB

Additional documents:


In response to member questions, it was clarified that:

·         More detail on the restructuring of the CSF Department has been provided to the Department Management Team and will be shared with Panel members subsequent to the meeting.  The restructure provides the opportunity to bring together CSF Department commissioning with Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Group to provide the benefit of integrated services through single contracts in addition to achieving a financial benefit for the council. 

·         CSF taking over SEND travel reflects that the Environment & Regeneration Department is changing shape with increased outsourcing of service but that the commissioning of passenger transport will need to stay inside the Council.  In taking over responsibility for the taxi element of this service, CSF is aiming to use tighter controls to bring down the cost; and

·         Merton is doing what it can to support unaccompanied asylum seeker children that are being relocated from camps in Calais.  This includes coordination for the London area. 


Additional note: At the Panel’s subsequent meeting, it was agreed to add a note to this item of the minutes that six Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children had been placed with Merton.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 124 KB


Members were informed that Councillor Neil will provide information to the next meeting on his individual review of the voice of children and young people.