To consider a report of the Monitoring Officer following the publication of findings by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in relation to the Special Education Needs Service and failings by the former Dorset County Council.
Note: this report is to be considered by the Cabinet on 1 October 2019 and the minutes of that meeting will circulated to the People Scrutiny Committee when available.
Councillors considered a report of the Monitoring Officer that had been produced for Cabinet on 1 October 2019, following the publication of findings by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in relation to the Special Education Needs Service and failings by the former Dorset County Council. In presenting the report, the Monitoring Officer noted that Cabinet had supported all recommendations contained in the report. The committee had the opportunity to review the report and recommendations. The report would also be sent to all other councillors for their information.
The committee considered the contents of the report and during discussion the following points were raised:
· In response to a request to see information on the eight previous investigations, the Monitoring Officer confirmed that this point was covered within the final agreed recommendation, with monitoring of progress made in addressing the outstanding actions and review of the eight previous investigations to be undertaken by reporting to the People Scrutiny Committee and Health and Wellbeing Board
· Support was expressed for continued monitoring in order to embed learning into the organisation and seek assurance that the situation was not repeated. Support was also expressed for progress reports to be brought to this committee
· The Executive Director for People (Children) noted that the issues required a partnership approach, which would take place through discussion at the Health and Wellbeing Board. It was also noted that a progress report would be provided to the People Scrutiny Committee
· A written statement of action had been produced. There was also a programme of work to look at how improvements could be made to improve the experience of people going through the process to ensure better outcomes for young people and further work with schools
· An explanation was provided of the two types of placement and it was noted that a placement must be registered if operating on a full-time basis. The council’s ambition would be to use registered providers but may consider alternative provision for other arrangements. The council worked with a number of providers who were seeking to become registered
· A question was raised with regard to the eight previous reports and whether actions had been undertaken? In response, the Monitoring Officer noted that this provided an opportunity to review the eight reports and ascertain whether actions had been taken. There was no implication at this stage that the actions had not been completed. It was noted that the Corporate Complaints Team worked with the Ombudsman to ensure that required actions were undertaken. In addition, there was a planned programme of audit by the South West Audit Partnership, where priority areas would be identified
· The Executive Director for People (Children) reported that significant changes had been made within the service since herself and the Corporate Director – Education and Learning had come into post, with additional processes having been put into place and work undertaken to review individual cases looking at the quality of service and outcomes for children. This would inform work moving forward and ensure that themes continued to be addressed
· Particular questions were raised with regard to the circumstances around the cases. The Corporate Director noted that the Ombudsman had focused on repeated patterns. The Monitoring Officer added that the Ombudsman had been careful to ensure that the report was anonymous
· In response to a question, the Corporate Director assured the committee that the council was working hard to understand the situation with all children and to improve relationships and the flow of information with schools
· A discussion was held with regard to links with schools and it was noted that there were different rules for different types of schools, in terms of the requirement to notify the council of issues, although most schools did provide notification in relevant situations
· Reference was made to the work of the council’s attendance team who worked in areas of longer term persistent absence and further development that was to be undertaken in this area
· The Chairman noted the importance of building up good relationships with parents and the community
· A further report was to be provided for the Health and Wellbeing Board on 30 October 2019 and the Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help noted that the committee could review this and in addition, welcomed comments from councillors on the blueprint for change consultation currently underway
· The Chairman made reference to the blueprint for change consultation and noted that it was encouraging to see the proposals in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for children
· The Monitoring Officer reported that he would be writing to the 72 non-executive councillors and including a copy of the Cabinet report, and including the minute extracts of the Cabinet and People Scrutiny Committee consideration of the report. In addition, he noted that when a progress report was provided, this would include detail of all actions from the previous cases referred to
· The Portfolio Holder noted that once the committee had considered an update report on this issue, councillors could consider whether any further action was required.