Parish Council Summit
Our thanks to the parish councillors who attended the inaugural Parish Council Summit on Wednesday 17 October. The event was an opportunity to share experiences and discuss how Herefordshire council and parish and town councils can better work together to provide the best services for residents. With around 100 attendees, it will come as no surprise that we collected a wealth of thoughts and ideas which we will be collating and sharing with ward members in the near future.
What clearly stood out is that councillors welcomed information on the demographics of their local population to assist them in making decisions. There is already some information available (https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/info/200148/your_council/598/about_herefordshire/2), and we will be looking at how we can support this further.
We plan to hold the next summit in early 2019.
Cabinet decisions – meeting Thursday 18 October 2018
Cabinet approved the approach to recommissioning of a domestic abuse support service and the outline of a new domestic abuse strategy for Herefordshire.
Domestic abuse has a huge cost socially and financially, and to the children affected. In our county last year 1,294 referrals were made to the domestic abuse support service and 3,877 calls were made to the helpline.
It is essential that victims of domestic abuse and their children are safe and can access good quality advice and support, so Cabinet welcomed the focus on early intervention and education.
With around 4% of domestic abuse victims being male, Cabinet was also pleased to see a recognition of their specific support needs and an extension of support available to male victims.
Cabinet received the outcome report of the recent Ofsted inspection and approved the associated action plan.
The Ofsted inspection in June 2018 took place under the new Inspection of Local Authority Children’s services (ILACS) framework, with a much stronger focus on looking at practice and outcome (rather than processes), which has been largely welcomed by professionals.
The inspection report recognised a number of areas of good practice including early help, home education and MASH, and the £1.6m investment already made in making improvements in children’s services. Most importantly Ofsted found that no children were at risk of immediate harm
However, the report also highlighted poor management within some areas of the service, which is not acceptable and something which we are determined to change. We are already making progress, and the action plan provides a strong focus on ensuring further improvements are delivered, embedded and sustained. The action plan will be closely monitored and regularly refreshed and renewed. Updates will be provided to Cabinet as part of performance and budget reporting and the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee will regularly review progress against the plan.
Cabinet received the annual progress update on the corporate parenting strategy.
The term ‘corporate parent’ means the collective responsibility of the council, elected members, employees and partner agencies for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for every child in council care.
Progress has been made over the past year. The number of children in stable placements (over 2.5 years) has increased from 74 to 101, the number of children who move placement more than three times remains low, and six care leavers are studying at university.
There is more we can all do to offer opportunities to children in care and care leavers, and councillors are being asked to consider whether they could offer or facilitate work experience or apprenticeships.
Currently Herefordshire Council has 335 children in its care and provides support for 180 care leavers.
Cabinet approved the Herefordshire Autism Strategy 2019-2022
The council, in partnership with the CCG and the Herefordshire Partnership Board have co-produced the autism strategy, which spans all age groups from childhood into adulthood.
The strategy sets out a clear framework for improvements in a range of areas to ensure that people with autism have the same opportunities, and health and quality of life outcomes, as everyone else. The aspiration is that ‘reasonable adjustments’ in services start to become business as usual, as a reflection of the importance we place on supporting people with autism.
There were no Cabinet meetings held during August, however there are a few items I would like to take the opportunity to update you on.
Visit to Herefordshire by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy
Councillor David Harlow and I were invited to participate in a round table discussion with members of the House of Lords Rural Economy Select Committee on Wednesday 12 September. Organised by Community First, the visit was to highlight the challenges of a rural economy and so that committee members could hear first-hand from successful local businesses. We took the opportunity to share with them how we support local companies and our vision and plans for future business development in the county.
Article in Guardian newspaper – refugee resettlement
Some of you may have already seen the article in the Guardian newspaper regarding Syrian refugee families who have settled in our county.
When Cabinet took the decision in 2017 to voluntarily participate in the government’s refugee dispersal scheme and extend our pledge to support the resettlement of 95 individuals, it was not popular in all quarters. However, on reading this article it is clear the decision was the right one and it is heartening to read that the families feel welcome in our county.
New council publication
The council peer review in February highlighted that, “External communications should be more proactive and coordinated to better promote the council’s achievements and increase awareness of its vision”.
Building on the positive public response to the council tax brochure published in March 2018, a new quarterly publication is being launched at the end of September. ‘Herefordshire Now’ will provide the council with an outlet to explain its work and achievements to residents in its own words, and build a better understanding of the council’s strategic direction, vision and ambition. Articles will help explain to local people how their council tax is spent and how the council works, alongside information about the council working in partnership with other organisations and businesses.
The publication is available digitally via the council website. It is also planned to print 5,000 copies of each issue which will be distributed through established community outlets such as council offices, libraries and leisure centres. This has been at a cost of £499 for the first issue, however it is planned that advertising will cover the printing cost in future.
Parish Council summit
The first Parish Council summit is being held on Wednesday 17 October, 6.30pm in the Shire Hall, Hereford. The evening aims to improve the way we work with Parish Councils to share our collective knowledge and experience and identify practical ways to work together to address challenges and promote opportunities to provide the best for Herefordshire residents. A written report will be provided following the summit, for information.
Councillor Jonathan Lester – Leader of Herefordshire Council