Agenda item

COVID-19 UPDATE

Paper by the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive).

Minutes:

Members considered a report which provided the Board with an update on impact of COVID-19 on the children’s system as well as providing a look ahead to recovery and the priorities for children and families going forward. The report outlined the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Priorities across the Children’s System, which covered, Early Years and Schools, SEND, Social Care and Safeguarding, Think Family and Early Help and Children’s Commissioning.

The Assistant Director – Education and Skills provided a verbal update regarding the situation with schools and education providers. The whole system was continuing to manage the situation logistically but also with regard to managing concerns over physical and emotional health for both staff and students. An update was then provided regarding the additional funding  being made available to Head teachers which members heard would be inclusive of staffing costs. Members were given assurance about the provision of free school meals through a voucher systems which would be provided over school holidays and regarding support of newly vulnerable families through provision of IT equipment.

Early years Private, Voluntary and Independent sector (group based and childminders) had showed incredible resilience and support to families throughout the pandemic. The Council was not currently aware of any early years settings closing as a direct result of COVID-19, however the future of the sector was potentially fragile as a result of a combination of reduced demand from families for fee paying places, and the end of the flexible furlough scheme in March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic had also presented an exceptional challenge on our SEND services but members were pleased to hear that the Council had maintained continuity of support and provision for our SEND children and young people, and despite this disruption and adaptation to new ways of working business had continued as usual in the midst of a service redesign. The redesign was redesigned to improve how services would work to support the children and young people with SEND.

 

With regard to Social Care and Safeguarding, members heard that key partnerships had been maintained and strengthened during this period, fortnightly Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership (CSCP) business continuity meetings ensured a joined up partnership response.

 

During the response phase there was a significant drop in calls to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, which was in line with the national trend. Whilst figures increased later, the figure for October 2020 was 19% lower than the 2019 average.

 

In terms of social care the overall numbers of open cases had fallen by 7% since the start of the pandemic. The picture differed across the districts with Carlisle seeing a substantial decrease in case numbers, whilst numbers in Barrow had increased by 8%. Other districts had either remained stable or seen a small decline in numbers.

The impact of Covid on Emotional Health and Wellbeing was being seen across the system. In terms of calculating demand, the latest national survey results from NHS Digital showed a significant increase in the incidence of children and young people experiencing poor mental wellbeing to the extent of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. From 1 in 9 in 2017 to 1 in 6 in 2020.  Members heard that it was assumed that the increase was due in a large part to the impact of Covid on the CYP population.

 

Members asked about the Social Workers in school project. The Senior Manager – Children and Families provided an update on the project stating that a Team Manager had been in post for 4 weeks. One social worker had started in their role this week and though recruitment of social workers was still in progress it was expected that 6 social workers would be in place for the next school term.  It was explained that the Local Authority did not get to select the schools who would take part they were instead selected by the research body at Cardiff University. It was AGREED that the Committee be kept up to date on the progress of this research project.

 

The Assistant Director - Integration and Partnerships explained the importance of the Children’s Trust Board to building the understanding of system demand and the impact of Covid in each locality. An update was then provided on the Recovery Strategy developed by the Strategic Recovery Coordination Group (SRCG) and it was explained that the approach to recovery for Cumbria was built around existing partnership and programme structures rather than establishing a new set of subgroups. It was explained that the opportunities to comment on the Recovery Strategy priorities and measures of progress would begin early in 2021.

 

RESOLVED that,     members note the report.

 

 

 

Supporting documents: