Find Your Voice……..


Our Youth Engagement work is continually being developed and as part of it we took part in National Takeover Day this year. This programme, run through the Office for the Children’s Commissioner, allows  young people the chance to work with adults for the day and be involved in decision-making. We had six young people join us this year, all candidates for the forthcoming Youth MP elections for 2015. The students were Oliwia Geisler and Rose Baker from Greenshaw, Granthick Barua from Wallington Boys, Erin Horsley  from Wallington Girls, Ethan Smith from Stanley Park and Farida Augustine from Sutton High. As part of the day they got the opportunity to shadow managers in our division working with Claudette, Sharon and Paul at the Quad, as well as managers in other parts of the Council, working with Andreas who heads up corporate communications and Victoria who is the Head of the Chief Executive office. They also got to meet a group of elected members chaired by the Leader, Cllr Dombey and what was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for them – 4 of them had a short meeting with me! Mind you as much of my meeting focused on the travails of being a touch OCD, attention seeking and how it never leaves you, and a discussion on the merits of Batman, I have to admit that meeting with me might not have been at the forefront of their minds as a……………learning experience?!

Is it a trick of the light or are all the young people taller than me?!


I was delighted that we had so many young people wanting to take part and I’m grateful to those  staff who gave their time to support the event. Above all, my thanks to Lee for the work he put in to setting this up, and to everyone who helped him with the organisation of the day. The young people made this video to set out their ambitions and commitments for the forthcoming Youth MP elections  (no reference to being inspired by meeting with me surprisingly!)


We have a lot of attention focused on the role of our Children’s Centres at the moment and if anything, this is likely to increase quite a bit further in the next few months. Jackie and I have visited a number of the Centres to discuss how the providers will mitigate the impact of the recent Council decision to revise their funding by 14% in 2015-2016. In almost every case so far the Centres have found ways to avoid any direct impact on families in the short term by either making adjustments to their costs or by using their projected balances for the end of this year. The report to members on Children’s Centres Options for the future, making proposals about the role of our centres from 2016 onwards is in the final stage of drafting and will be considered byk members at the Children Family and Education Committee meeting on December 18th as planned. We’ve used the meetings with Centre providers to keep them informed of about the development of that Options Report, and it’s likely focus, as we have drafted it. A small group of elected members are now also involved in a series of visits and meetings about Children’s Centres for a Task and Finish Group review and they will use that experience and the perspective they have gained when members subsequently consider the Options Report.


Well I’ve not heard of any sudden upsurge in sales of The Orenda, the novel about the Iroquois which I recommended to you all in recent briefings! So I am clear that in my campaign to prove the Booker Prize committee wrong I will get precious little in the way of back up from all of you!

So be it!

I’m not disheartened because I’m used to my recommendations being ignored – I’ve certainly had a lot of practice being ignored at home!!

As ‘The Orenda’ isn’t your cup of tea (though it really, really, really, really, really, SHOULD BE!!!!!),  I have decided to recommend a film instead! I urge you to go see ‘The Imitation Game’, about the World War Two Enigma Code breaker Alan Turing. It’s a really great film and a terrific, though ultimately tragic story – and Benedict Cumberbatch really is as good as everyone says he is – don’t get me wrong I know he’s not the Adonis my family seem to think he is leading to mass sighing and ridiculous suggestions at home that he’s somehow better looking than me ( I’m not seeing it myself…..) but even I can admit……he can act!


I’ve started a further round of joining in with Team Meetings. Last week I was fascinated to sit in on the Virtual Schools Team Meeting. I couldn’t help but be struck by how much the approach has been refined and targeted and I can see that we are now much better placed to track and influence LAC pupil attainment and progress. Later this week I’m looking forward to meeting the Family Information and Development Service, the Speech and Language Service and I’ve also got visits coming up to the provisions at Sutton Out Of School and the play service based at Lindbergh Play Centre.


My travels are a perennial source of ennui and chaos usually – but occasionally they have a lighter side. This week I saw a bloke walking across a crowded Victoria-rush-hour concourse carrying………….a floor lamp! God knows where he was going or why!

Taking the instruction to "Let There Be Light" one level beyond the walking floor lamp!
Taking the instruction to “Let There Be Light” one level beyond the walking floor lamp!

I also saw a couple of famous (ish) footballers on the Tube! In the middle of last week I got on the Victoria Line and there was Steve Sidwell who currently plays for Fulham! The following day I was on the Central Lime and who got on but Graeme Souness!………Well it might have been Graeme Souness …………………….though he was in painting overalls and carrying an extendible paint roller over one shoulder…….but I’m CONVINCED it was him! And I’m even more convinced it was definitely THE Steve Sidwell! (Or as my daughter called him when I told her ‘Who’s Steve Sidwell?!’!!!!!!)

At DMT last Monday we focused largely on reviewing the most recent improvement work against the documentation list and against the revised criteria in the updated OfSTED Safeguarding Inspection Framework. We’ve been working on a range of plans, policies and other documents that are needed as part of Annexe A (eg Early Help Strategy, LSCB Business’s Plan, Annual Report on LAC Attainment and Progress). Broadly everything we need is in place so we are now focusing on more detailed aspects within some of the Annexe A documents we will need to have available. Following on from this Richard gave us an overview from the recent series of case file audits. As anticipated they suggest practice and recording continues to improve overall but it’s not yet consistently as good as we want it to be. So we are focusing on what needs to be done to secure practice that is consistently good in all areas. The other main area of discussion at DMT was on budget. We reviewed Month 6 and for our division we are on track to deliver all of the required savings and an additional small underspend by the end of this financial year. We also reviewed the options for future budget savings. Members have asked for reports on Children’s Centres and Spinning Out Services to Schools for their December meeting and have decided that other potential saving options will be put forward to the March 2015 CFE Meeting.

On Thursday last week the Chief Executive and myself were both meeting with school governors and Headteachers. Niall was discussing and responding to questions about the Council restructure proposals for children’s and adult services, and I was updating governors about the Services for Schools Spin Out Feasibility Study we’ve just gone out to tender on. Governors and Heads had a lot of questions as you’d expect on both items. At this stage I expect the initial high-level feasibility report back about the beginning of February next year. I’ve committed to sharing the initial report with schools and I will also share it with the relevant staff in CYPLD too. I anticipate reporting any recommendations for the next stage of consideration to members in March 2015.


These are currently being recommissioned. At this stage the specifications are complete and have gone out to the market. Currently we are awaiting tender submissions and from there, staff from CYPLD will be working with partners from the Clinical Commissioning Group to complete the process . Once the decisions are taken and the contract is awarded I will let you know the outcome .


To maintain the early help focus on the right priorities, we have had the Families Matter locality area needs analysis updated and we will be reviewing this imminently. We don’t anticipate any major changes in the needs profile for any of the areas, nor do we anticipate any shift in the balance of needs between the locality areas, but we will check these and will continue to do this on a regular basis. We will also be using this revised data to redraft the Council’s Early Help / Early Intervention Strategy. Once we have finalised the redraft I will make it available to you but will also provide a summary of the key points .


This has been redrafted by staff in the Safer Sutton Partnership. Jenny Rowley, Jackie and I are part of the Steering Group on DV  and we are currently working through the draft before we feed our comments back to the wider Strategy Steering Group members. This is a crucial document for us given both the prevalence and impact of DV in the lives of a number of the children and families we are supporting. Again once the strategy is finalised and agreed I will update you and let you know the key points.


…………………………………….I’m currently finishing the draft of this blog post on the early morning training out from Victoria. I have to share  with you that the guy in front of me fell asleep about 2 nano-seconds after he got on at Clapham Junction (a talent reserved exclusively for men of a certain vintage according to my family!!!!!!!) Since then he’s been snoring all the way but better than that is he is…………………….well………………………………………….let’s just say he’s rather noisily expelling wind……………………………………….and with an astonishing frequency!!!!!

I’m typing with a pencil between my teeth to stop me giggling out loud!!!!!!!! ( NOTE TO SELF – Should spend less time giggling and typing and more time looking at surroundings – just looked up to see train pull out of Carshalton Station and have missed my stop – AGAIN!! Aaaaaaaagh!)



( This space was initially left blank to allow me to add a comment on last weeks Scotland v England football – but for some reason I find I’ve sort of……………………………………………….nothing to say!!!!!!! – For once don’t feel you need to leave any comment whatsoever! It’s bad enough at home!)




One thought on “Find Your Voice……..”

  1. I was fortunate to meet the members of the youth parliament. I was very impressed. Listening to their passion about local issues filled me with hope for the future. They are our next generation. Well done to you all.

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