Agenda and minutes
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Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Councillor Bossman-Quarshie and Councillor Ngongo.
Declaration of Substitute Members
Councillor Chowdhury substituted for Councillor Bossman-Quarshie.
Declarations of Interest
If you have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest* in an item of business:
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If you have a personal interest in an item of business and you intend to speak or vote on the item you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent but you may participate in the discussion and vote on the item.
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This applies to all members
present at the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 31st October 2023 be confirmed as an accurate record of proceedings and the Chair be authorised to sign them.
The Chair highlighted that the Committee had undertaken a scrutiny visit to the Rose Bowl Youth Hub and encouraged members to attend future scrutiny focus groups and visits where possible.
The Committee were informed that the Chair was working with Democratic Services to recruit to the vacant co-opted member positions on the Committee. This includes writing to the Church of England Diocese of London for the faith representative vacancy and to all Islington-maintained schools for the primary and secondary school parent governor representative vacancies.
The Chair then invited Councillor Jegorovas-Armstrong to update the Committee on the visit to Highbury Fields’ fathers’ group on Saturday 11th November, who started by expressing thanks to all participants in the session and outlined that some of the challenges that had been identified, included:
· Pay, with support staff sometimes having to seek employment elsewhere to stay afloat.
· A perceived imbalance between teaching and support staff, including support staff not being designated as key workers leading to issues with housing, and the perceived shortfall of incentives for support staff in comparison to teachers; to which it was suggested the Committee consider educators as a single group during the review.
· Wraparound childcare, specifically that some of the staff that work with or for Islington, are not always able to access this for their own families.
Councillor Jegorovas-Armstrong went on to state that there was a general appreciation among the staff, of the investment, job security and professional development that came with the role, and that they felt a freedom to try and to fail and to challenge. Also discussed was a marked difference between working for the Council as direct employees and working with the Council as partners, as there were several Islington staff that had been pulled back as consultants.
External Attendees (if any)
One member of the public was in attendance.
Items for Call In (if any)
For members of the public to ask questions relating to any subject on the meeting agenda under Procedure Rule 70.5. Alternatively, the Chair may opt to accept questions from the public during the discussion on each agenda item.
The Children's Workforce Scrutiny Review - Witness Evidence from the Metropolitan Police (Verbal Update)
The Chair invited the Metropolitan Police to present their verbal update to the committee, stating that the Committee had invited them to offer their recommendations on how the Council could do things differently, as part of the committee’s review into “The Children’s Workforce”. The committee were also keen to hear the experiences of officers and how they are supported, trained, recruited and retained, so as to understand the challenges facing the Metropolitan Police.
The Superintendent addressed the committee, outlining that their portfolio had responsibility for neighbourhoods and partnerships, including Islington’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams, Safer Schools Officers (SSOs) and youth engagement. His update included the following points:
· It was the Superintendent’s view that the Metropolitan Police were very fortunate to have the strength of partnership in community safety and youth engagement that there was in Islington. It was said that the relationship was such that each organisation worked as each other’s critical friends, aiming to achieve what the best possible outcomes for young people and the community at large.
· Recent structural changes had bought back neighbourhood specific superintendents.
· Upcoming structural changes include the partnership and prevention arrangements being split in January 2024 to give Camden and Islington their own hyper local team.
· Regarding Safer Schools Officers, it was stressed that the priority was to fill the vacancies with the right people, who were passionate about supporting and engaging with young people, that could communicate effectively with them, and that this was the most important attribute they were looking for. The three vacancies were in the process of being filled, with the aim for this be complete by January 2024, thus giving the borough a full complement of SSOs for the first time.
· Additionally, in January 2024, there will also be three Youth Engagement Officers. These officers will go out into primary schools, to provide education about safety, the police and build positive relationships with the borough’s young people from an early age. One of these officers that is currently in training, conducts Metrobox boxing sessions with young people at Sobell Leisure Centre.
· An area of improvement that the Police had felt was needed, was the involvement of them in the planning of the curriculum, so that their input was built into PHSE lessons and feedback sought from young people. This was already being addressed in discussions with Islington Council officers, designated safety leads and school leaders, where the Police now had the opportunity to input into curriculum conversations.
· Safer Schools Officers were also able to share information with a school, so as to allow greater vigilance and safeguarding of students.
· Safer School Officers also perform daily checks for their schools, such as providing confidential awareness of and support to pupils that have been either a victim or perpetrator of crime. The school also has the opportunity to flag pupils that they have safeguarding concerns around.
· There was also a priority list of which schools required the greatest focus, which was based on a mixture of crime data, school statistics, and the ... view the full minutes text for item 160.
Officers presented an update on the Early Years and Childcare provision to the committee. In the discussion, the following points were raised:
· Officers had set out to the committee what the national childcare offer was, what was currently offered in Islington addition, and what the future opportunities and challenges were.
· Officers told the committee that in terms of the national offer, there was currently a universal offer for all three and four-year-olds of fifteen hours, and a targeted offer for two-year-olds of 15 hours which is salary dependent, the threshold of which was particularly low for London, as it hadn’t been updated in the last decade. There were many families that were missing out because of not meeting that threshold. There was also a 30-hour offer.
· Islington complemented the national offer by providing a childcare subsidy to the value of £5 million.
· Priority learning places were aimed at working parents and at those that were particularly vulnerable as it was known that if families were able to access quality childcare without delay, there was a greater chance a disorder would not develop.
· Islington’s childcare offer was also offered to children who were aged six months old and not restricted to just working parents but was also available to parents or carers who were in training.
· Officers were in the process of reviewing the current offer and evaluating the new national offer.
· Officers acknowledged that the Islington offer was complicated and told members that they had recently commissioned an external review which led to a number of recommendations. Officers also acknowledged that accessibility and simplicity was important, and together with the recommendations, the new offer presented an opportunity to streamline the local offer.
· Priority learning places were not rigid and could be worked around developmental delay or Special Educational Needs (SEN) requirements.
· The free entitlement for working families (30 hours) worked well for families that were in permanent stable employment, but less so for those on less stable employment, that could fall in and out of eligibility on a termly basis as the entitlement operated on a per-term basis. This posed a real challenge for Islington families and officers were assessing how the subsidy could redistributed to best support those in need.
· Officers informed members that there was an issue in that there was quite a high reliance on agency staff, and they were currently working on a workforce strategy for this sector. It was acknowledged that their needed to be a creative approach to marketing this as a career choice that does provide career pathways into areas such as health visitors and other early years positions. Currently, roles in this area were said to be low paid and difficult to recruit and retain to. Officers were also working closely with providers on this matter and given the new rates will be really favourable to childminders, officers were hoping that were be more interest in these roles.
Officers to keep members updated on outcome of workforce strategy for childminders and ... view the full minutes text for item 161.