Corporate Minutes Adding Officer

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MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES OVERVIEW & SCRUTINY
COMMITTEE

DATE:        19 March 2007

TIME:        2.15pm

VENUE:       Committee Rooms 2/3, Civic Offices Angel Street, Bridgend

PRESENT: Councillors: D A D Brett, W B Evans, D T Greaves, J J Hipkiss, C J
         James, R D Jenkins, L C Morgan (Chair), B I Quennell, M Quick, M L
         Simmonds, H M Williams.

             Officers:     R David Knight, Principal Scrutiny Officer
                           E Littlejohns, Assistant Scrutiny Officer
                           S Hughes, Solicitor

1.   Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from Councillor M Jones and L Phillips.

2.   Declarations of Interest (Including Whipping Arrangements)

None

3.   Minutes

The minutes of 18 January 2007 and 12 February 2007 were approved as a true and
accurate record.

4.   Corporate Parenting : Results from questionnaire

The Principal Scrutiny Officer presented the report to Members and outlined the
results of the Member Survey undertaken in November 2006 by the Task and Finish
Group considering current approaches to Corporate Parenting and how they can be
improved. Members were provided with a summary of the key issues identified within
the report and the key outcomes of the research. Members were advised of the role
of the questionnaire within the investigation into the effectiveness of Corporate
Parenting within Bridgend County Borough Council.

Members were advised that the Directorate had commented on the research and
were offered the opportunity to attend this meeting to offer further comment, however
it was believed that the research made a valuable contribution in highlighting the key
issues and that it was now for Members to consider how best to take this forward.

Members welcomed the research undertaken and commented on the quality of the
work undertaken by the Principal Scrutiny Officer. Members discussed the results of
the Survey and agreed that this identified training needs amongst Members.

Timing of Training


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Members discussed whether it would be appropriate to begin training at this stage
given the close proximity of the 2008 Local Government Elections. Members
suggested that this training should have been undertaken at a much earlier point
when requested back in 2004, however it was agreed that this was not possible as a
policy or definition of Corporate Parenting had not been established and as such
there was nothing to base any training on. The need for training was emphasised to
ensure Members were aware of their role as Corporate Parents. Members discussed
the need to establish training to help and support those Members who wish to take a
more in-depth interest.

Content of Training

It was highlighted by the Task and Finish Group that no working definition or policy
relating to Corporate Parenting existed prior to the investigation. Members suggested
that it would be appropriate for training at least in part to come from outside the
Directorate due to the lack of an agreed policy within the directorate. Members
discussed who should undertake the training and it was agreed that experts would
need to be brought in on some level to advice on areas being developed to ensure
full and rounded information was provided to Members.

Members discussed the training requirements of the Authority and how this should be
structured. Members stressed the importance of not interfering with the running of the
Directorate or any issues of day to day management, stressing that the purpose of
the training would be to improve awareness of the issues not interfere with the
management side of the Directorate.

Members suggested that the training should be approached through briefing
sessions rather than through formal training as it was considered that a little and
often approach would raise awareness more effectively. Members also discussed
more practical ways of improving awareness through visits to experience first hand
the issues facing children in care; however it was acknowledged that this would need
to be undertaken sensitively and formally.

Potential Use of a Task Force

Members discussed the possibility of the use of a Task Force to look at this issue
and it was suggested that it might be more appropriate to train a smaller number of
Members on a more in-depth basis as the viability on a practical level of training all
Members would be difficult.

Members were informed by the Principle Scrutiny Officer that a Task Force approach
had been taken in other Authorities and had proven successful in celebrating
achievements and take ownership of this issue. It was suggested that these
Members would receive in-depth training and would formally report to Council to
raise awareness on a general level for the remainder of the Council. Members
acknowledged the potential benefits this option as it negated potential tension with
the levels of detail appropriate to be given to all Members by allowing more focus
within a much smaller group.



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Item .3

Members discussed the potential remit of this Task Force and agreed that a balance
was required between adding value to the issue through promoting awareness and
avoid getting involved with Service issues in terms of administration and delivery.

The potential membership of the Task Force was briefly discussed and Members
agreed that it would need to be a politically representative forum. It was suggested
that involving other Overview and Scrutiny Committees would be of benefit and
considered the option of having representatives of the other Committees on the Task
Force.

Children Champions

Members discussed the potential benefits of electing a Children’s Champion to take
the policy forward as it was considered that awareness would most effectively
increased through one informed person who was able to highlight the issues as
relevant in a number of different forums.

Members commented that the benefits of this would need to be looked into in more
depth, as previously the title of Champion was not distinctive in its responsibility from
that of the Cabinet Member. It was suggested that the concept of a ‘Children’s
Champion’ needed to be explored further to ensure that the Corporate Parenting
Agenda is taken forward in a meaningful and balanced way where responsibility is
shared by more than one Member.

The Role of the Task and Finish Group

Members agreed that the role of the Task and Finish would be ongoing with the aim
to look into this area in more detail without loosing track of the aims and objectives of
the Task and Finish Group. Members agreed that this would be a long term process.

The Principal Officer advised Members that this second phase of the Corporate
Parenting investigation was due to be started soon and informed Members that the
Directorate had been consulted and the Assistant Director Children Services had
been positive and offered support. Members were advised that phase two involved
obtaining the views of service users, which would mainly involve talking to care
leavers to gain their perspective and views. Members suggested that if possible there
should be references to Foster Caring within this section of the investigation.

Members suggested that the original purpose for the Task and Finish group was to
gain an understanding over levels of awareness amongst Members, which had now
been established through this survey. Members expressed great interest in acting
upon this finding through examining ways of improving awareness.

Underlying Issues of Looked After Children

Members discussed the importance of looking at the wider issues of why Children
enter the care system to better establish how the Authority can improve these
children’s experience of the care system and possibly prevent children entering the
system by exploring other options. Members agreed that examining the issues facing
children would improve understanding and awareness; however it was stressed that


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this should be done on very general terms. Members agreed that there would be
benefit to looking at the key linked issues such as the links with alcoholism and
preventative services.

Members agreed that the future direction of this policy would be to address these
issues in terms of how the Authority addresses without interfering with personal,
individual issues. Members agreed that talking to care leavers would be an important
way of establishing these issues. The Principal Scrutiny Officer advised Members
that this was intended to be part of the research methodology for phase two of the
investigation into Corporate Parenting.

Conclusion

Members agreed to seek the views of the Cabinet Members on these research
findings and requested that the Principal Scrutiny Officer forward the research to the
Cabinet. It was requested that any feedback from the Cabinet be presented to the
Committee at its next meeting.

Members agreed to receive an interim report based on the discussions at this
meeting at the Committees meeting on 21May 2007 outlining how the Committee
could progress this investigation.

5.   Forward Work Programme

The Principal Scrutiny Officer presented the report to Members and outlined the
items due to be considered in the Committees upcoming meetings. Members noted
the report.

6.   To Consider any other item(s) of business in respect of which notice has
     been given in accordance with Rule 4 of the Council Procedure Rules and
     which the person presiding at the meeting is of the opinion should by
     reason of special circumstances be transacted at the meeting as a matter
     of urgency.

None

                            The meeting closed at 15:40




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