Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford
Contact: Helen Phillips Email: email@example.com
Declarations of Interest
There were none at this meeting.
RESOLVED - That the minutes of the Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee held on 28 May 2019 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
The Select Committee considered the draft Education Safeguarding Policy which set out the Local Authority’s (LAs) response to obligations placed on it by key guidance: “Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018”; provisions in the Education Act 2002; guidance from the DfE in respect of Elective Home Education (EHE); and the Timpson report into school exclusions. The draft policy also set out the duty of care to all children attending Staffordshire education settings and linked to statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018”. The document represented workstreams which were already in place and also referred to upcoming threats and areas for development, such as contextual safeguarding.
The Select Committee were aware that children who were excluded, or otherwise missing from education were the most vulnerable to criminal and sexual exploitation and, along with those going missing, were the most significant indicators of risk to a child.
The Policy encapsulated all safeguarding areas for those children and young people of education age and identified emerging areas of risk and concern. The document would continue to develop and evolve to ensure all elements were considered to improve safeguarding for young people in Staffordshire.
Members heard that under Section 175/157 of the Education Act 2002 the local authority produced an annual audit of the safeguarding measures across education providers. Each provider was required, under the legislation, to complete an audit of their current legislation compliance, including any implications and learning from local, regional or national safeguarding issues. The information from providers was collated by the local authority and used to inform the annual Education Safeguarding Report, which reported to the local authority directorial leadership team and the local safeguarding board.
Members felt it would be helpful for the Select Committee to receive details of the annual audit and it was suggested that a summary of key audit findings could be provided annually.
The Select Committee were pleased to note that the officer resource for Elective Home Education (EHE) had been increased from one to three. They remain concerned at the significant rise in EHE numbers. Acknowledging that many of those parents who traditionally chose to educate their children at home did an exceptional job, Members remained concerned at the rise Year 9, 10 and 11 pupils whose parents were encouraged to home educate as an alternative to exclusion and often without understanding the implications of undertaking home education. There was some wide-ranging discussion around whether the authority should have a more forceful stance on EHE in positively discouraging it. Members were aware that legally parents had the choice to home educate their children and the local authority had a duty to ensure the education given was suitable. The additional EHE officer resource would help fulfil this duty.
The Government published guidance on EHE in April 2019 but Members felt that an opportunity had been missed as the guidance gave local authorities no further legal power. Resulting from the two working groups previously undertaken by Members around EHE, the Government had been lobbied to ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
Presentation on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
The Select Committee received a presentation on contextual safeguarding. Following the Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Services and the success of the work around Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), a broader approach was being developed to consider all safeguarding risks rather than the focus on CSE. Work undertaken by Dr Carlene Firmin MBE (University of Bedfordshire) looked at contextual safeguarding, how young people were exploited and groomed into gangs. This work had been used by Officers when considering contextual safeguarding within Staffordshire, considering contextual dynamics of abuse, vulnerability and risk. Members heard that contextual safeguarding was an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. Different relationships formed by young people in their neighbourhoods, schools and online, could feature violence and abuse. Parents and carers had little influence over these contexts and young people’s experiences of extra-familial abuse could undermine parent-child relationships.
The importance of creating safe spaces was highlighted. The Select Committee were informed that the Prevent agenda had emphasised the need to build resilience and critical challenge in young people rather than creating safe spaces as they had felt there was limited influence over external pressures. Members heard that as part of the work around contextual safeguarding the aim was to both provide safe spaces and help children and young people to become better thinkers making better choices.
A full training programme to all partners was underway. Members heard that partner organisations were very positive about this work. An implementation plan was being developed, built upon the success of the CSE Panels. A joint Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Child Exploitation Strategy had been developed which brought together all areas of exploitation within the safeguarding partnership, and this had been shared with the Safeguarding Partnership Board. Vulnerable Adolescent Panels were being implemented and a process of reviewing screening and assessment was being undertaken for adolescents to identify unsafe contexts.
Members heard details of pilot projects in both Burton and Uttoxeter over a three-month period that had been very successful. The intention was to roll out the learning from these pilot projects across the County. There would also be a media campaign to help support this work and bring communities on board.
Staffordshire was working closely with the Contextual Safeguarding Network, with learning being shared. Close working with partners also supported this work, sharing intelligence and helping to identify and then disrupt areas of risk. A child exploitation disruption toolkit was being developed which would be used within communities to disrupt risks as well as creating safe spaces.
Members heard that information sharing existed with the Channel Panel, although most of the individuals within the contextual safeguarding context would not meet the criteria for the Channel Panel.
On asking whether they could help with this work the Select Committee were informed that their help would be welcomed in raising awareness of the issues, particularly around the interface with district and borough councils. Support would also be welcome in helping to change perceptions around children and young ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
The Select Committee considered their work programme and noted the following amendments:
· Care Packages & Communications item had been referred to the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee and will ne taken forward as part of work on Discharge to Assess;
· the item on domestic abuse should consider both the perpetrator and the victim; and
· the perceived rise in drug use by children is residential care will be removed from the work programme.
RESOLVED- That the amendments to the work programme be noted.