The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report providing the Panel with information in relation to its 2015 scrutiny investigation of Early Help - Improving Outcomes for Children, Young People and Families.
The aim of the review had been to investigate local practices that aimed to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families in respect of early help, early intervention and prevention.
The submitted report provided details of the terms of reference used for the investigation and the conclusions made by the Panel, based on the evidence gathered throughout the investigation.
The Panel made a number of recommendations in its Final Report, which was submitted to the Executive on 17 March 2015. The recommendations were detailed in the report at paragraph 5 a) to j). Appendix 1 to the submitted report provided an update in respect of the departments action plan which was prepared in response to the Panels recommendations.
The Scrutiny Support Officer had circulated a copy of the Final Report electronically to Panel Members prior to the meeting for information.
The Assistant Director for Supporting Communities had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the progress made in relation to the agreed recommendations/actions and also to provide the Panel with information on the Incremental Change Model (developed to track and improve the development of pre-school children) and the overall early help offer, including the early help strategy.
R Horniman, Assistant Director for Supporting Communities, was welcomed to the meeting and provided the Panel with an update on progress made in relation to the actions arising from the Panels recommendations, as set out at Appendix 1.
The Panel was advised that the majority of actions had been covered by two main factors; being better organised at the early years stage in relation to school readiness and; how the Service worked with other partners, eg public health, health visitors, etc.
It was stated that one of the key elements in relation to improving Childrens Centres was that the management of the Central Childrens Centre, based at Abingdon Primary School, had now transferred to the school. The Centre was accessed by other schools as well as Abingdon Primary.
In relation to recommendation b) it was queried whether there was any comparative information in relation to school readiness. Members were advised that, in Middlesbrough, school readiness had increased from 50% in 2014 to 56% in 2015. To put the figures into context, it was highlighted that school readiness in Middlesbrough was around 36% three years ago. This figure had increased from 60% to 66% nationally.
The Assistant Director circulated copies of the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model which had been developed in conjunction with partners in the early years sector and was based on a similar model adopted in Greater Manchester.
The document provided background information as to how school readiness was currently measured and how the new model had been developed to provide an over-arching framework to ensure opportunities for effective communication and integrated working in preparation for school readiness.
Pages 8 and 9 of the document set out the school readiness pathway and highlighted the points of contact, assessments required and the universal and targeted interventions at each stage of a childs life from pre-birth to five years. At any point where a child was deemed not to be meeting expected targets, the information would be fed into the system and shared with appropriate partners in order to provide co-ordinated support where necessary.
Pages 11 to 14 of the document set out what should be expected in life - what a child should be able to do at three years old and being ready to start nursery, how a childs carer could help them to be ready for nursery, what was expected of people supporting the child and their carers and what was expected of the services working with a child and their family. These key messages needed to be targeted at the right families at the right time and were intended to be thought-provoking.
The document in its entirety was a framework aimed at anyone working with families and young people.
During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-
A Member of the Panel queried whether there were sufficient resources to support the initiative and it was confirmed that, based on the current checks that were undertaken and the interventions available, there was the ability to deliver the programme. The Service had been reconfigured to ensure that there was greater emphasis on intensive support programmes, delivered by skilled staff and health visitors for those families that needed it, however, childrens centres would continue to provide an inclusive offer of services for all. It was acknowledged that the levels of demand arising from the implementation of the Incremental School Readiness Model were still unknown at this stage.
In response to a query, it stated that the new model was aimed at targeting harder to reach families. The information sharing between relevant partners would assist in identifying harder to reach families and allow the Service to be proactive in encouraging them to use the services/support available.
In relation to children being ready for school, it was clarified that the school readiness assessment was undertaken once a child started school and that, currently, this was the first indication of whether a child was school-ready. The new model allowed information around a childs development to be collated, for the first time, in order for early intervention and support to be provided to children and their families.
It was queried whether any data was held in relation to provision for two-year-olds and how the model for community support was being reshaped in order to engage with parents to ensure that those who most needed intervention and support were identified. The Assistant Director summarised that a record of all children under five years did not exist in Middlesbrough. The starting point for the incremental model for school readiness was to identify all those that were not meeting targets and, where the criteria was met, personalised support provision would be identified and work would be undertaken with those families to encourage them to engage with the identified interventions.
In relation to the establishment of the model, it was clarified that the Service had worked very closely with the Health Visitor Service Provider and that a Health Visitor had been seconded to work within the team to establish the data system required to underpin the work. Consideration was being given to locating community support teams nearer to the childrens centres.
Reference was made to recommendation d) (that an overarching information sharing protocol be devised, including the health service, Police, schools and DWP) and it was highlighted that there were still restrictions on what information could be shared and why. Local arrangements were in place to work around these restrictions wherever possible. The protocol provided a whole population approach to identify vulnerability issues and to inform improved service provision.
Reference had been made previously to the Incremental School Readiness Model being based on a similar model in Greater Manchester and it was queried how long that model had been in operation and whether it had been successful. The Panel was advised that the Manchester model had been in operation for five years and was working well.
The Panel wished to highlight the importance of ensuring a robust Community Development structure was in place in order to properly support communities and to promote the work that had been discussed.
The Panel was advised that the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model was due to be launched in September 2016 and that the Panel could be provided with an update in relation to progress in the future.
The Assistant Director circulated the Early Help in Middlesbrough flowchart which provided details of available services that could be accessed in relation to a range of issues. The flowchart was based on the Tees-wide Framework used by the other Tees Valley authorities.
The Chair thanked the Assistant Director for attending and for the information provided.
AGREED as follows:-
That the information provided be noted.
That the Assistant Director of Supporting Communities be invited to attend the Panel in the future to provide an update on progress in relation to the Middlesbrough Incremental School Readiness Model, due to be launched in September 2016.