Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities
The Head of Child Health and Wellbeing reminded members that the arrangements for £1.44m previously top sliced from the Dedicated Schools Grant for Early Help to partly fund LSTs to deliver tier 2 family support for 2018/19, were shortly to come to an end and the Schools Forum were asked to support a further 12 months’ funding to enable the arrangements to prove their effectiveness. The County Council had worked with schools on a district footprint to enable schools to make the most appropriate use of resource for each district. In spite of tight timescales, agreements had been reached on how to use the resources and procure new services. By April 2018 new services were in place and 25 per cent of resources had been used. A range of contracts had been put in place. Outcomes were not yet available but some case studies could be shared with members. Providers had been flexible in stretching numbers in terms of contract provision so that more families could benefit from the services. A task and finish group from across schools was being set up by September to support best practice. Members who are interested in participating should send their contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Early Years Commissioning Manager summarised the lessons learned. There was a need to be flexible as there is not a single mechanism for making local decisions. There is a real difference between schools, with some schools wanting to be more involved than others. Each district is at a different stage in the journey with Staffordshire Moorlands at a slower pace, but was now gaining ground. There are a range of schools using services and referrals are now coming in from outside the county. All providers are from the voluntary sector and they have worked flexibly, but are now wanting a longer term financial commitment.
Alison Gibson, representing the Secondary Heads Forum, asked how head teachers find out what is happening and how do they get involved. The Head of Child Health and Wellbeing stated that governance had been a challenge. In some areas groups of head teachers had come together to discuss commissioning of support for children and families in their district; in other areas discussions had taken place at the District Improvement Boards. Communication had taken place through the ebag and providers had been tasked with meeting head teachers. Forum members asked if communication could be reviewed as there was a sense that it was piecemeal.
Specifically in Staffordshire Moorlands, Homestart and Vision had helped with communicating with head teachers. An interactive pdf was being developed and this would be launched by the end of July. The District Commissioning Officers and Strategic Delivery Managers were also trying to assist with communication. The Head of Child Health and Wellbeing acknowledged that more needed to be done to improve communication and vowed to get better at this.
Members reflected that creating hubs where primary and secondary schools worked together had been very positive and others were encouraged to do the same.
RESOLVED: a) That the Schools Forum agreed that the Early Help Dedicated Schools Grant funding continues to be allocated for a further 12 months on a district footprint covering all phases. b) The Schools Forum agreed that the funding continue to fund family support using the current contractual arrangements for a further 12 months. c) That officers note the concerns regarding communication with the Secondary Heads’ Forum d) a further report on the Early Help Dedicated Schools Grant be brought to the Schools Forum at a date to be agreed and that this be added to the Work Programme.