Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford
Contact: Helen Phillips Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Declarations of Interest
There were none at this meeting.
Following changes to membership made at the Annual Council meeting on 23 May, the Chairman welcomed Ron Clarke, Bob Spencer (Vice-Chairman) and Carolyn Trowbridge to the Select Committee.
RESOLVED- That the minutes of the Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee held on 4 March 2019 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Children & Young People
In 2017 Catch 22 were commissioned to deliver Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Missing Services across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. The integrated commissioning arrangements were led by Stoke-on-Trent, with funding from Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Stoke-on-Trent Public Health, Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (OPFCC).
Catch 22 conducted all independent return interviews for missing and absent children and young people aged up to 18 years residing in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, including those placed by other Local Authorities (LAs). Members received details of the interview process and use of information gathered. A performance and quality assurance framework was in place, with monthly and annual reporting to ensure appropriate intervention meetings were undertaken based on vulnerability and to build intelligence and insight to enable appropriate safeguarding initiatives were in place.
The Select Committee received an analysis of service performance over six months. Catch 22 had completed between 70-80% of missing person interviews in comparison to a national average of 38%. The Team had a good record of building rapport and relationships with those at risk of episodes to help reduce risk. Use of a co-designed interview form created a consistent approach to return interviews. There were strong links between the CSE and Missing Co-ordinator, Catch 22 and Children’s Services in sharing information. The Annual Contract Report was due to be produced in June 2019 and would reflect demand and performance during 2018/19.
Members received details of developments in place in response to the Ofsted Focused Inspection on the LAs services for the protection of vulnerable adolescents. They also received details of priorities for the next 12 months.
The Select Committee were aware that Stoke-on-Trent’s Children’s Services had been judged as inadequate by Ofsted and queried whether this would have an impact on the joint Catch 22 commissioning. Whilst Catch 22 had been commissioned to undertake visits for all missing episodes across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, the details of that work were fed back to the host authority. Therefore Staffordshire would receive details of the interviews undertaken with their children and young people and would take appropriate action, and Stoke would do the same for their children and young people. Members were informed that Stoke on Trent City Council were developing an improvement plan and had a new Director and Assistant Director for Children’s Services. The DfE appointed Commissioner would need to be satisfied that their improvement plan was good enough to make the necessary improvements, with Children’s Services being outsourced if this was not the case.
The Catch 22 contract ran until 2020, at which time all partners would need to consider if they wished to continue commissioning this service. Both Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent had received some criticism around the overall management of missing children in that, whilst the information gathered through interviews was used to inform work on an individual basis, it had not routinely been used for collective analysis. Work was now underway to include a more strategic response from the ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Children & Young People
The Select Committee received details of the Improvement Plan post the outcome of Ofsted’s focused visit on 26-27 June 2018 and the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services on 4-8 February 2019, which rated services as “good”.
The June Focused Visit had evaluated the LAs arrangements for the protection on vulnerable adolescents. Inspectors found that Staffordshire had clear strategic plans in place to strengthen their approach and praised the work taking place in Staffordshire, including that of partner agencies. They also identified the following areas for improvement:
a) Changes to the auditing process to include greater focus on the quality of practice taking place;
b) High workloads in specific parts of the service impacting on case planning for children and young people;
c) Plans for children and young people not being outcome focused and SMART enough linked to timescales;
d) Management oversight and supervision to progress plans for all children and young people.
An improvement plan to address the areas highlighted was implemented in August 2018, focusing on; recruitment and retention; quality of practice; management oversight; and caseload.
At the February 2019 Ofsted inspection, where services were rated as good, Ofsted also noted that leaders and managers had made impressive progress since the focussed visit in 2018. They also found:
a) The impact of leaders on social work practice within children and families was good;
b) The experience and progress of children who need help and protection required improvement;
c) The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers was good; and
d) Overall effectiveness was good.
The areas highlighted for improvement had been built into the improvement plan. This plan was regularly reviewed by both the Children’s Social Care Management Team and the Children’s Improvement Board.
Members received a link to the Improvement Plan and copies of the Ofsted Inspection and Focused Visit report/letter.
Members noted comments around the management of Electively Home Educated (EHE) children. This Select Committee had undertaken two separate pieces of work around EHE and remained concerned around the growth in numbers and the lack of resource to deal with this growth effectively. They were also aware the Edward Timpson review on exclusions, which highlighted concerns around EHE.
Members were pleased that Ofsted had rated Staffordshire Children’s Services as “good” and that a proactive approach was evidenced in the improvement plan to work towards becoming outstanding.
The Select Committee noted concerns around caseloads and asked whether the caseload number for social workers was appropriate. Appropriate casework levels were dependent on the type of work undertaken. For example, those working within safeguarding should have no more than 25 cases at any one time, with those working with looked after children having case loads no higher than 20. Other areas of Children’s Services may have higher caseloads, with the number being dependent on the complexity of cases. Recruitment and retention of experienced social workers, particularly within safeguarding, remained difficult. A recruitment drive had been undertaken and agency social workers were used to help ensure appropriate ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Safeguarding Children's Board
Presentation of the Cabinet Member for Children & Young People
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) were being reviewed following the Wood Review, the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent LSCB statutory partners were:
· ACC Jennifer Sims, Staffordshire Police;
· Heather Johnstone, Executive Director of Nursing and Quality, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs;
· Mark Barratt, Director of Children and Family Services, Stoke-on-Trent City Council; and
· Helen Riley, Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities, Staffordshire County Council.
The new Board started from 1 April 2019. The Board will meet monthly during the initial implementation period and quarterly thereafter. Chairing the Board would change, with Heather Johnson in the Chair initially. The role of the Chairman would be different from the role of the previous Board, in that they chaired the individual meetings rather than being responsible for the whole work of the Board.
The Board would be supported by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Partnership and would interface with other key partnership boards in respect of safeguarding. The Select Committee received details of the new structure, key functions and activities.
There had been suggestions that schools should be included as the fourth statutory partner. Work was currently underway to find the most appropriate mechanism for schools to feed into the Board.
The new arrangements were expected to be reviewed in December 2019.
RESOLVED – That the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Safeguarding Children Board new arrangements be noted.
The Select Committee received details of their closing work programme for 2018/19 and draft new work programme for 2019/2020. They considered details of outstanding items from their previous work programme, considering if these should be carried forward to the new municipal year.
Members noted the proposal to refer items to alternative Select Committees where appropriate.
RESOLVED - That:
a) the following referrals be made:
· Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee - Stresses within Mental Health Services
· Cabinet (following the APMG in 2018/19) – Children’s Mental Health
· Health Staffordshire Select Committee – Care Packages and Communication
b) children not in full time education be considered by this committee when looking at the safeguarding implications of the education policy report being produced by Clive Cartman Frost;
c) the proposed working group on transition and preparation for adulthood be postponed in light of the recent work undertaken by the TSU; and,
d) the following additional items be included:
· the perceived rise in drug use by children in residential care;
· the new Child Exploitation Strategy;
· considering the work and internal audit of Catch 22; and
· progress of the Children’s Services Improvement Plan.