Agenda and minutes

Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 9th March, 2023 1.30 pm

Venue: Bridges Room - Civic Centre

Contact: Rosalyn Patterson E-mail: 

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Hall, Cllr McCartney, Cllr Moir, Cllr Davison, Cllr Bradford and co-opted members Rachel Walton and Ayo Akin.


Minutes of last meeting pdf icon PDF 72 KB

The Committee is asked to approve as a correct record the minutes of the last meeting held on 19 January 2023


RESOLVED    -           That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 January 2023 be

approved as a correct record.


Impact of Covid on new parents - update pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Report of the Director of Public Health


The Committee received an update report on the impact of Covid on new parents and their babies.


National research has been carried out which gives a good indication of the issues faced by new parents and babies during the pandemic.  Findings by Ofsted showed that children’s communication and language development continued to be affected, with increased numbers being referred for additional support. There are also many children still lacking confidence in social settings, with some taking longer to settle into nursery than would have been expected prior to the pandemic. In addition, some children are lacking in the development of gross motor skills due to lack of physical activity, including access to large-scale play equipment during the pandemic.  There are also issues highlighted by the Ofsted report around recruitment and retainment of qualified staff since the start of the pandemic.  It was noted however, that these points cannot be assumed to represent the whole sector but rather to highlight challenges that some providers and children experienced.


A further report was published at the end of 2022 for the First 1001 Days Movement and the Institute of Health Visiting. The findings were highlighted and included; more young children exposed to stresses and adversities at home, the pandemic is having an ongoing impact on children’s health and development and many services are struggling to meet children’s needs.


It was acknowledged that it will be years until the impact of the pandemic on early development can be truly measured. There have been disparities in terms of outcomes for young people based on deprivation levels. It was also noted that some children thrived during lockdown due to the extra time at home with family.


Committee was reminded that Gateshead Council is eligible for funding to develop a network of Family Hubs. The main theme areas for these Hubs will be; parent-infant relationships and perinatal mental health support, infant feeding, parenting support and home learning environment to aid early years educational recovery. The funding for these areas is mainly in relation to the start for life offer (100 critical days – conception to age 2). However, the home learning environment funding is targeted at 3-4 year olds whose development has been negatively impacted upon by the pandemic. This will be evidence-based intervention through a number of programmes to support language, literacy, social and emotional development and self-regulation.


Through the Health Visiting Ages and Stages Questionnaire, this will help Health Visitors decide if a referral to the 0-4 Panel is required.  The data collected through the questionnaire has shown a drop in communication skills since 2020, however Gateshead still remains above the national average.  Currently 84.5% of children in Gateshead aged 2 - 2.5 years are at or above the expected level in communication skills.


The 0 to 4 Referral Meeting is unique to Gateshead and is aimed at those children identified as having additional needs. Developmental checks are carried out by the Health Visitor or key worker at nursery and this allows early identification of  ...  view the full minutes text for item F77


Regional Adoption Agency Annual Report 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 198 KB

Report of Strategic Director, Children’s Social Care and Lifelong Learning


The Committee received a report giving an overview on practice and delivery of adoption services in 2021/22.


Committee was reminded that it is the local authority’s responsibility for securing permanence plans for children and young people in its care. Adoption is the transfer of parental responsibility to the adopters. Adopt North East is the Regional Adoption Agency responsible for supporting the authority in matching children to adopters.


The Safeguarding and Care Planning Service is responsible for working with families to progress plans for permanency. Within the service there is a dedicated Support Assistant who undertakes Life Story work with the child and adoptive parents, this will allow the child to understand when and why decisions were made.


It was noted that all adoption decisions are ratified by the Assistant Strategic Director for Children and Families. Decisions for adoption means that there is no other alternative and that all connected persons have been ruled out.


There are three stages to finalise a plan of adoption, the first stage is that a plan is agreed internally as the best way forward. A Placement Order will then be sought and agreed through the Courts, for 2021/22 a Placement Order was agreed for 25 children. Stage three is to seek a match with adopters, there were 21 children in 2021/22 matched with adopters.


It was acknowledged that it is very rare that a decision is reversed once a plan is made. However, there was one case of this happening in 2021, this was due to a family member coming forward with a changed position who wished to care for the child.


It was reported that arrangements with children moving to early permanence arrangements have been very positive at Gateshead. particularly in relation to placing children at birth with expected adopters. Adopt North East have asked the service to provide training for other local authorities on this approach.  The benefits of early permanence mean a child is placed at the earliest opportunity, it avoids delay and disruption and allows early bonding.  It was noted that there has been a significant shift in early permanence plans, with 13 children placed in Foster to Adopt placements in 2012/22, compared to 4 children in 2019/20.


It was noted that Adopt North East continues to support the service to identify prospective adopters and match children. It also offers training and support post-adoption in terms of links to birth families.


It was acknowledged that the service works closely with all areas of the Council, for example Housing, to ensure prospective adopters are best placed looking at all environmental factors.


It was questioned as to what degree of adoption plans fail. It was confirmed that there is a robust process in place, the authority and adoption agency carry out extensive work to assess adopters and the child. In addition things such as geography to birth family based on risks will be looked at.


RESOLVD       -           That the Committee noted the information provided in the



National Transfer Scheme and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Report of Strategic Director, Children’s Social Care and Lifelong Learning


The Board received a report on the Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) national scheme and Gateshead’s progress to date.


It was reported that at the end of 2021 local authorities were served with notice to comply with the National Transfer Scheme.  Gateshead was initially given a quota of 0.07%, this has now risen to 0.1%, this equates to 39 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This is a rolling total so once the young person reaches 18 they will drop off the total.


From April 2022 to December 2022, 33 young people were allocated to Gateshead. 20 of this cohort now have a new home in Gateshead, 9 young people were withdrawn by the Home Office before they arrived. Work is ongoing to find a foster family or supported accommodation for 4 young people. 


It was noted that all the young people allocated to Gateshead were aged between 15 and 18 years old.  The majority of the 33 young people were male and identified their country of origin as Iran or Afghanistan. It was reported that all 33 young people are in some form of education and all have an allocated Social Worker. The young people that come to Gateshead have suffered trauma and trafficking.


Gateshead has been identified for a further 4 young people in the next cycle. It is not yet known as to when the next cycle will happen as this will depend on when they arrive into the country.  It was noted that there tends to be an increase in numbers across the UK during the warmer weather so that would be when the cycles move quicker.


Once young people are allocated to Gateshead, the authority has five days in which to provide accommodation. It was acknowledged that this is a real challenge. If the authority does not comply with the timescales there is a challenge process from the Home Office. Gateshead has only been challenged once so far.


It was recognised that this is a real challenge for all local authorities in terms of the provision of care. This impacts on the number of children and young people allocated to Social Workers. An additional 39 children in care equates to an extra two Social Workers, based on 20 cases per Social Worker.  It was noted that there are financial incentives attached to the scheme, however the challenge remains in terms of a lack of resources.


Foster carer recruitment remains a challenge across the region and Gateshead is part of regional fostering campaign for the UASC programme.


It was questioned how the language barrier is dealt with. It was confirmed that an interpreting service has been commissioned and often the young people speak English quite well.


It was queried what happens to these young people when they turn 18. It was confirmed that they would transfer to the care experienced service.


 It was questioned how the Legal Migration Bill will impact on this. It was noted that services will continue to be planned for young people and nothing will change  ...  view the full minutes text for item F79


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Joint Report of the Chief Executive and Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance

Additional documents:


Committee received the work programme report which included items requested and deferred for the next municipal year.


RESOLVED    -           (i)         That the provisional work programme for 2022/23 be



                                    (ii)        That further reports on the work programme will be

brought to the Committee to identify any additional policy issues which the Committee may be asked to consider.