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Declarations of Interest
The Chairman welcomed colleagues to the meeting and apologies were noted.
There were no declarations of interest.
A children's representative from Public Health England will be in attendance for this item.
Cllr Judith Blake CBE (Chair) introduced Dr Kirsten Asmussen, Head of What Works, Child Development, Early Intervention Foundation (EIF).
The speaker had kindly agreed to attend at short notice after the original presenter from Public Health England had to withdraw due to sickness and the Chair acknowledged this. She informed Dr Asmussen of the Board’s support of their work and that members were pleased to have the opportunity to work directly with them.
Dr Asmussen introduced the background to her talk and thanked the Board for the opportunity to participate and present to the Board. Members received the presentation on work currently underway to look at a range of early interventions with an aim to improve outcomes for children and families. The speaker outlined the purpose behind the EIF and the importance of supporting its work with most recent evidence, proven outcomes and the most important domains vital to early development.
The presentation looked at the important period of children’s brain development and in particular school readiness at age 5. This looked at physical readiness, cognition and factual knowledge at that age, communicative ability, management of impulses and social and emotional measurements. Dr Asmussen referred to factors which impact negatively on progress.
Members noted a range of interventions and practices published in a series of reports. The speaker outlined the nature and timing of support recommended and ways in which parents can be provided with targeted help, appropriate to their own requirements and needs. Evidence-based therapies have proven to have a positive impact on some outcomes for the parent. These have also been shown to have long-term benefits.
Dr Asmussen referred to The Healthy Child Programme which is set to make delivery possible of a range of interventions available at the level of need. She acknowledged however that there are certain challenges in identifying the actual needs and discussed processes being used to access data and correct information. Part of this includes the work of the Early Years Transformation Academy which supports five local areas to assess local needs and determine priorities in order to address these, working together with the local authorities.
Members heard about the different kind of issues faced by populations within particular areas and how specific circumstances affect these. Delays in development are evident in certain cases and the speaker discussed how helping local authorities develop an evidence based combined strategy and theory of change would help address future needs.
Dr Asmussen spoke about EIF’s recommendations to Government and local authorities for an active focus on enabling more effective management of these issues.
The Chair thanked the speaker and invited comments from the Board.
Key points from members included;
· Appreciation of the work done to date on Bright Futures. However, there are concerns about training and responsibility referenced in the background paper for this item – is it the responsibility of the NHS to train ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
The Chair outlined the purpose of discussion in anticipation of future consultation with government on a decision. Louise Smith summarised the background and government’s position and briefly outlined key points from the report. She invited members’ opinion in order to get an idea of their views in case the LGA is asked.
Members noted the report and made the following points;
· Although sympathetic to the direction of the report, they felt that the actual numbers of children affected are small and have fallen even more since 2011. Alternatives need to be clearer, particularly for those just under the age of criminal responsibility and they asked what the implications for new burdens on local authorities would be.
· There were concerns about the youngest children who are targeted and used by older people to commit crime and said that assurance needs to be given that these children would get the right support over a criminal record.
· There would be an impact on the law enforcement system and members felt that an informed decision cannot yet be reached until statistics on current levels of support are provided. In other words, are systems in place already to divert those particularly vulnerable children who are not convicted but need intervention?
· There were concerns at a lack of evidence around whether interventions were working and although the majority of members agreed in principle that the age of criminality should be increased, they agreed that the Board should receive further information to formulate a fuller position.
· It was suggested that in order to be better informed, engagement with youth workers and other relevant service officers, as well as the Youth Justice Board would be useful.
Members noted a future review of how young people are looked after and their outcomes. They agreed that the LGA will need to provide input into this when it happens. They felt that this issue needs to be taken forward with greater discussion and with a view to contribute in due course. Evidence of outcomes is vital to any decision and members were in agreement that it was correct for the LGA to campaign further on this work.
Members asked for more information on numbers and types of convictions of children aged 10-12 in order to help them take a proper informed view. They were in support of an LGA campaign to look at this and agreed that the Board should continue to take this forward at future meetings. Research should also include looking at ethnicity and similarities around local areas and also study the background of those diverted to crime.
In principle, the group agreed that the age of criminal responsibility is too low. It was agreed that this work will be incorporated into the priorities of the Board in order to inform a decision should it be needed in the future.
Members noted the paper which outlined priorities for the Board after the recent election. Ian Keating (Principal Policy Advisor, LGA) discussed the current processes in agreeing and setting these. Members noted the item and suggestions for future work.
The Board heard of pressures around funding and the work being done to lobby for more funding for children’s services, high need and the early years programme. Mr Keating addressed issues around school placements, particularly for those with special needs and local authority input into where schools should be built. Members agreed that Local Authorities should have the final say on these type of decisions.
Key points were noted of work undertaken to;
· Allow flexibility around the funding formula and distribution;
· Focus more on reviewing schools capital and support of failing academies;
· Deal with items not addressed within the Queen’s speech.
Members went on to discuss the current debate around adoption processes and current legislation in addition to the lack of support to councils in ensuring high quality education.
Concerns about the context of the report included;
· Voice of the Child should be the first point and their feelings should be fed in to the review of the care system;
· A proper definition of ‘early years’ needs to be included;
· There were questions about supporting teachers in their discipline decisions and growing numbers of exclusions;
· The lack of firm decisions on home school registers following the recent consultation;
· SEND is not just a funding issue but also a systemic problem;
· Vulnerable children falling out of the system is a key issue to be considered;
· The use of isolation booths needs to be properly considered;
· More security is required over long-term funding rather than a proliferation of one-off grants;
· Transition from children to adult services is very complex and should be looked at, while specific issues to consider for care leavers include management of finances etc.
The Chair thanked members for an interesting contribution to the discussion.
Members noted the report on Bright Futures 2019 – Getting the Best for 30 years. The Bright Futures Champion – Councillor Dick Madden – provided a summary of the background behind the document. Members were reminded of their contribution to the first version and were pleased to hear it continues to feed back to senior ministers, including the Children’s Minister, and other Parliamentarians.
Members suggested that young people could be invited to speak to the Board now and again.
Decision – Agreed to invite the Children’s Minister to attend a future meeting.
Members noted the report.
It was felt that Climate Change should be pushed more to the front and that the business plan of the whole organisation needs to be more proactive in working with the Board.
The note of the previous meeting was agreed.
Next meeting: 19 March 2020, Local Government Association.