Posted on 05/05/2021
I write this Blog as Chair of the Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee following an extraordinary and challenging year for us all.

The Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee was the second scrutiny committee to be re-instated following a period of training and preparation for holding our committees virtually and it was very timely as we received the first of many updates from the Director of Education & Inclusion Services in July 2020. In total, we have received five updates from the Director of Education & Inclusion in relation to the Council’s response to COVID-19, from an education perspective and from the Director of Children’s Services outlining the support in place for the vulnerable children and families of Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Following these updates, the Committee requested further information about how the two key Service areas were promoting family resilience and emotional wellbeing during Covid-19 and we used these reports as a basis for our lines of enquiry and our forward work programme for the 2020/21 Municipal Year. At a joint meeting of the two service areas in December 2020, we were provided with a wealth of information setting out how the services were working collaboratively and adapting to the ever changing and challenging situations.

We have recently received a further joint report describing the Council’s reset and recovery as both service areas move forward and exit lockdown, including consideration of the  medium to long term effect of Covid-19. There are undoubtedly huge challenges ahead for Education and Children’s Services as they respond to the easing of national restrictions. The Children and Young people Scrutiny Committee will continue to scrutinise the recovery plans and will receive termly education updates to stay abreast of the developments.

It’s important to stress that although a priority, the work of the Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee has not been entirely restricted to the local authority’s responses to Covid-19. In February 2021, we invited representatives from the Central South Consortium to maintain our challenge on their approaches to developing a school led system and to provide evidence that the service delivered on behalf of the five local authorities of RCT, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff is value for money. This performance monitoring warrants regular review of its contribution to raising standards in RCT’s schools.

With regards to the education remit of the Committee, amongst many other areas, we have also scrutinised the provision and effectiveness of counselling services for children and young people in Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) and the actions outlined in Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s (RCTCBC’s) Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) for the period between 2017 and 2020 as approved by the Welsh Government (WG).

In keeping with our commitment to receive regular updates on the work of the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) in transforming the children and young people’s mental health care in our community and schools, we welcomed this year’s update particularly as it addressed the additional challenges faced by young people throughout the Covid- 19 Pandemic. It was reassuring for the Committee to hear that the services had been maintained throughout the pandemic with ongoing and crucial face to face provision where necessary.  

In July 2020 a Notice of Motion (NOM) was referred by Council to the Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee providing us with the opportunity to consider and scrutinise the current services to friends and family members providing kinship care in line with the Council’s statutory duties. We invited the proposer and seconder of the NOM to our inaugural meeting where we learned that over the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of children placed with approved kinship foster carers, kinship placements made and the number of kinship foster carers approved. We will invite representatives from the ‘Grandparents Plus’ organisation to the next stage of our discussions as the links between them and the local authority strengthen to improve the support to kinship carers across the region, before making our recommendations.

As we take a moment to reflect on this past year, we can be proud of the work we accomplished and the goals we met through a high volume of virtual meetings. We look forward to the next municipal year with optimism. We have much to accomplish in the year ahead.

Posted on 05/05/2021