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Agenda and minutes

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

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Brunt and Neil with Cllrs Kenny and Fraser substituting.  Additionally, apologies were received from Cllr Holmes and Colin Powell.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Matters arising

·         Care leaver accommodation reference going to Cabinet on 16 October 2017;

·         Statutory member, Mansoor Ahmad has resigned.


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


Matters arising

Further scrutiny of accommodation for care leavers was undertaken by the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel at its meeting in September with members from the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel in attendance.  The resulting reference is going to Cabinet on 16 October 2017.  It is anticipated that if accepted by Cabinet, a departmental action plan will be presented to the Panel at a forthcoming meeting (most likely in January 2018).  In the meantime, the Children Social Care team continues to work with colleagues in Housing, exploring the potential of setting up a small House of Multiple Occupation for care leavers in addition to other options.


Cabinet Member priorities


Cllr Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, Cabinet Member for Education, provided members with an update, highlighting the following:

1.    Merton’s exam results: despite changes to the content and expression of grades for English and Maths GCSEs, the Merton family of schools has done well.  Overall, 72% of Merton’s students achieved a grade 4 to 9 for English and Maths.  This is a 2% increase on last year and higher than the national average for 2016.  Similarly, there have been reforms to A Levels.  However, 99% of Merton’s students still received an A* to E which is 1% higher than the national average.  Thanks were expressed to heads, teachers, students and officers for this performance;

2.    Ofsted school inspections: the outcome of the Ofsted inspections of two Merton primary schools was reported.  Park Primary School received a good judgement and Harris Primary was judged outstanding; and

3.    New Harris Wimbledon Academy: planning permission for the development of Merton Hall has been granted meaning that progress can now be made on assembling the site for the new school (Merton Hall will be modified for use by one of the current residents of the site which will be used for the new school development).  Officers have worked hard on the new design for Merton Hall, responding to initial criticisms and allowing the authority to progress with provision of new school places.


In response to member questions, the Cabinet Member clarified,

·         Heads are trying to understand all the changes currently ongoing to the exam system and not just the new approach to expressing grades at GCSE.  All schools will be working with students and their parents to explain these changes.  (Councillor Neep added that the British Chamber of Commerce has produced a video clip for businesses on the new expression of GCSE grades.  This might be appropriate for use by the Merton Chamber of Commerce and LoveWimbledon with local businesses and employers.  It may be possible to engage with both through the Economic Wellbeing Group.); and

·         Cllr Taylor asked why the Wimbledon Park nodal point for the Wimbledon Harris school had been removed when there is no secondary school for boys in the north of Wimbledon, which is one of the largest concentrations of young families in the borough.  Cllr Cooper-Marbiah explained that the nodal points for the Wimbledon Harris catchment area are determined by the Academy chain to reflect the results of its consultation process and following expressions of interest/demand.


Cllr Katy Neep, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, provided an update to members.  The Cabinet Member noted the good judgement of the recent Ofsted inspection but also highlighted that the Council cannot rest and that Merton needs to remain dynamic, ambitious and successful:

1.    Autism Spectrum and Emotional Social and Mental Health Disorders: there is a growing need to provide for these conditions.  As a result, the Council is just about to relaunch its strategy covering this area.  The Cabinet Member highlighted the need to focus on transition points such as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Ofsted update report pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Additional documents:


Yvette Stanley, Director of Children’s, Schools and Families, gave a presentation outlining the outcomes of the recent Ofsted Single Inspection and LSCB review.  The following points were highlighted:

·         This was a forensic inspection of Merton’s services which even included a visit from the new Minister;

·         Over 206 staff and partners were interviewed;

·         Additionally, members of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel were interviewed.  Ofsted complimented the Panel for its cross party working for the benefit of vulnerable children in Merton.  Additionally, the Panel was credited for receiving a full suit of performance monitoring indicators at every meeting;

·         The inspection has confirmed that Merton is in the top 10 local authorities nationally for its provision of children’s services;

·         Ofsted found that managers and social workers know their children well.  This reflects the approach of having small teams within the Department allowing clear line of sight and understanding of all cases;

·         The important role of schools and settings in helping to deliver services was also highlighted by Ofsted;

·         Merton’s systemic model and approach to safeguarding was found to be robust by Ofsted; this works to ensure children are heard and where possible child in need, protection and care plans are focussed on making children safer and improving their outcomes as a result;

·         Merton’s good multiagency working was highlighted;

·         The Council had just started a new contract for return home interviews with missing children.  This will as it is embedded be providing high quality interviews.  The process has been shortened meaning interviews are happening quicker.  However, this was too newly established to be able to influence the outcome of the inspection; and

·         The weekly Missing meetings hosted in the MASH and The Children Missing from Education Board were both developed based on Ofsted best practice and therefore were also praised as part of the inspection.


Looked after children

·         The approach of the Corporate Parenting Board with the involvement of opposition members and the Chief Executive as chair, was praised by Ofsted;

·         Merton’s approach to care proceedings was credited with being the best out of boroughs using the South West London courts;

·         Care planning was seen to be effective in a significant majority of cases;

·         All out of borough placements have to be reviewed and approved with a review undertaken of potential risks;

·         The Virtual School was seen to be supporting children in achieving the right targets which are expressed through personal education plans;

·         Merton was again complimented for its multidisciplinary working;

·         Placements for children were shown to be stable resulting in positive outcomes; and

·         Services for young unaccompanied asylum seekers impressed Ofsted.



·         The service gained a rare outstanding judgement.  This is against a backdrop of all services having been challenged by Government to improve;

·         At the time of the inspection, all children had been placed with their adoptive families with none waiting placements.  The service was praised for the timely and careful way in which it approaches placements;

·         The quality of the assessment of adoptive parents and life story  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Ofsted single inspection framework outcomes in London pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Contribution from Kathy Bundred, Children’s Improvement Adviser for the Local Government Association


The Panel received a presentation from Kathy Bundred, Children’s Improvement Adviser for the Local Government Association, providing members with context on the outcome of the recent Ofsted Single Inspection and LSCB review.


Kathy noted it was a pleasure to read Merton’s Ofsted report and that it is one of a small number of authorities that are doing well in the provision of their children’s services; currently there are more authorities in London that are inadequate or requirement improvement than are good and outstanding.


The deteriorating performance in children’s services in London has been a shock: there has never before been six authorities in London that have been judged inadequate.  There has been a resulting debate about funding.  Certainly it is easier to be successful with more funding.  However, it was noted that in Kensington & Chelsea, which has a similar range of judgements to Merton, social workers only have seven cases to hold whereas Merton social workers will have 15. For Merton to be funded at the same level as Kensington & Chelsea would require an additional £4m per annum.


There are only three outstanding authorities in England: Lincolnshire, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster and across England only a third are judged good or outstanding.  In London, this is a little better with 47% achieving at this level.  However, there are proportionately more judged inadequate in London compared to England as a whole, showing that the capital is more polarised in the provision of children’s services compared to the rest of the country.


Merton is one of just a handful of authorities that are currently judged outstanding for the quality of its leadership, management and government.  The others are the Triborough, Hampshire, Leeds and Cheshire West.


The shared features of authorities with children’s services judged good or higher were noted:

·         Relentless in their pursuit of the best for their children;

·         Stability in their services and their management;

·         No playing politics with children’s services.  Rather members are interested in services and are keen to learn;

·         Focus on what’s happening for children and drill down into individual cases;

·         Good self knowledge often built on a self audit which is challenging;

·         Workforce strategy in place to lessen the effect of workforce turnover.  This means there is a continual focus on training, performance and support.  Spans of control are not extended and allow managers to have sight of individual cases; and

·         Partner engagement is effective in helping to deliver services.


Merton’s Ofsted judgement has been compared with those of authorities judged outstanding and it’s hard to point out the differences.  It was specifically asked if not receiving an outstanding judgement is linked to the recommendation on health histories.  However, Kathy was able to clarify that this has also been featured in the inspection reports of authorities judged outstanding.


In response to member questions it was clarified that authorities where the Ofsted judgement has been surprising, have often made a key decision that has adversely impacted on services.  For example, removing a whole management layer,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Performance Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:


Yvette Stanley, the Director for Children, Schools and Families, explained to members that a new social care case management system, called Mosaic, has been implemented and the Department is in the process of building the reports needed to extract data from the system.  As a result, whilst it is possible to review data in the system, this isn’t presented as needed and can’t be extracted for review by the Panel. 


Work is currently ongoing to refine the system and to get it working as needed which is the first priority.  This is why the performance management data isn’t currently available.  It is anticipated that this work will take until the end of December 2017 to complete with data not becoming available for the Panel to review until its meeting in January 2018 at the earliest.  Members noted that they would be concerned if the data wasn’t available in January 2018.


Two changes in performance data were reported:

·         an increase in referrals to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub.  These have increased from around 400 a month up to around 620 in June.  This is to be anticipated as a result of the recent Ofsted inspection but means a significant increase in activity that has to be resourced including leading to a rise in numbers of children on child protection plans; and

·         care proceeding times have lengthened recently reflecting a more challenging case.


RESOLVED: members requested that they be proactively informed by the Department of any significant changes that occur during the period for which performance monitoring data isn’t available.



Department Update Report pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:


Yvette Stanley, Director Children, Schools and Families, highlighted the development of the new pan London adoption agency.  This will provide a different delivery model comprising a hub and four spokes with Merton part of the South London spoke.  Whilst this has been to the Panel previously, it will need to return to the Panel in the near future for pre-decision scrutiny.  The Department will liaise with the scrutiny officer about timing.


In response to member questions the Director in addition to Paul Angeli, Assistant Director for Children's Social Care and Youth Inclusion and Jane McSherry, Assistant Director for Education, provided the following clarification:

·         Quality of early years provision: the Council is working with early years providers including those that are privately owned.  This is because the Council funds these settings.  All are subject to quality assurance visits and safeguarding checks;

·         Collaborative school improvement: the formation of the new partnership has resulted from the Council working with schools to develop a preferred model and then consulting with heads;

·         Whatley Avenue: there is confidence that the interim site for the new Harris Wimbledon school will be ready in time for opening of provision in September 2018;

·         30 hours free of early education: this is being implemented through existing providers and currently there is no concern about its implementation although the process appears complex.  The Department will continue to monitor this going forward;

·         Contextualised safeguarding: this is a new approach which recognises the risks to young people caused by what they are exposed to in their everyday lives.  This necessitates joint working across the Council to try and remove some of these risks.  For example, environmental services would be responsible for tackling the sale of drugs in a particular location in the borough.  Central Bedfordshire Council is about to conduct a pilot around the approach and Merton will participate;

·         Increase in those with SEN: schools mainly provided assistance for children and young people through the SEN Support programme; and

·         Neglect: the Merton Children Safeguarding Board is looking at neglect and how this can be addressed through Think Family.  Whilst it might not be possible to eradicate this entirely, the focus is on early intervention.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 147 KB


Members were reminded that the first round of the budget process will come to the Panel at its next meeting on 8 November.  Additionally, there will be a public health briefing on health and wellbeing outcomes before the next meeting (from 6pm in the committee rooms on 8 November 2017).