First meeting of new independent Children’s Scrutiny Committee

A new independent committee met for the first time today to discuss the progress being made to improve Children’s Services in Somerset.

The Scrutiny for Policies, Children and Families Committee is chaired by Cllr Leigh Redman and was formed in May 2015. It will provide additional councillor oversight on all services provided for children and young people by Somerset County Council and partners.

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member, said: “This independent committee will help inform and assess the journey of improvement the council and key partners must make to ensure that all children and young people receive the best possible care and support in Somerset.

“The first meeting was both purposeful and stimulating. I look forward to both the in-depth scrutiny and the insight the committee will bring to our improvement plan and activities in the future.”

Members of the committee today heard from Julian Wooster, Director of Children’s Services for Somerset County Council. He set out his nine priorities for improvement and told the committee about plans to recruit 50 permanent social workers by April 2016.

He also explained the work being done to improve partnership working, reinforcing the message that the health, safety and wellbeing of all children in Somerset is everyone’s responsibility.

Members also welcomed recommendations to provide a written policy on elective home education that gives parents the opportunity to access important information about their legal responsibility to ensure their child is educated. More evidence from parents will also be collected to understand why they choose to educate their child at home and to ensure every child in Somerset is receiving a good level of education.

The next meeting of the Scrutiny for Policies, Children and Families will take place on Friday 3 July.

The nine priorities to improve Somerset’s services for children and young people are:

• Strengthening strategic leadership
• Improving social work capacity
• Developing management capacity
• Ensuring quality safeguarding across all agencies
• Systematically identifying children most at risk across all agencies
• Assessing the safety of all children who go missing
• Embedding Early Help
• Increasing local care placements
• Achieving permanence for children in care