Report of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
[DCI David Giles (Staffordshire Police) and Megan Richards (Stoke City Council) also in attendance for this item]
The Select Committee regularly received updates on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) since 2014. This report updated Members on:
· the Child Sexual Abuse Forum (CSAF);
· outcomes from the Staffordshire County Council Children’s Services focused visit from Ofsted in June 2018 and the subsequent action plan;
· CSE Action Plan, including the Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) audit and HSB Steering group, the work of the Joint Strategic Coordinator and changes implemented following the publication of revised Working Together guidance in July 2018;
· the CSE Outcomes framework;
· workforce and development;
· Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE);
· youth produced sexual imagery (sexting);
· learning and improvement;
· work progressed by Staffordshire Police, including Operation Safenet, the Child Protection and Exploitation Team and abduction notices;
· work progressed by Families First and Commissioned Services; and,
· CSE and licensing.
Ways of working have developed across Police and social work teams to more effectively address some complex cases involving child sexual exploitation and grooming. Details of a recent successful prosecution resulting in an eight year sentence were shared with Members. This had involved an adult grooming and abusing boys and had required cross border, cross social work team and cross agency working. The boys had been from a number of locations across Staffordshire and had no connection to each other. These types of enquiries create an onerous workload for social work teams as they can involve large numbers of child witnesses who require interviewing where social workers support those interviews. The service area are considering any long term capacity impacts of this growing area of work.
Members heard that whilst acknowledging the work of the CSE Panels, the Ofsted focused visit had suggested consideration needed to be broadened to cover all vulnerable teenagers. The challenge was how to include the wide range of service areas and partners, considering a broadened group of vulnerable young people, in a manageable way, particularly when the existing workload of the CSE Panels resulted in Panel meetings lasting a full day. However the joined up inter-agency working of the CSE Panels had been successful and the learning and development from this way of working would help in developing the wider panel groups.
A review of transition arrangements had been undertaken for children affected by CSE. A benchmarking tool, designed by the National Working Group (NWG) that looked at multi-agency approach to safeguarding 16-18 year olds and transition, had been sent to frontline professionals. Findings would be collated by the Joint Strategic Coordinator with a multi-agency working group planned to create a position statement around the current transition arrangements and proposed next steps. The benchmarking tool and audit of transition would help ensure a consistent approach across the County. The audit was across partner agencies which added to the complexity, with data currently with the Business Analyst. The intention was to develop joint protocols across adult providers and commissioners as well as children’s services.
The Care Act set out the criteria for those who should receive services post 18. Many vulnerable young people who had received services up to their 18th birthday did not fit the Care Act criteria and therefore, whilst being no less vulnerable, they would not qualify to receive services after their 18th birthday. There was a need to consider preparation for adulthood at an earlier stage and also a discussion around wider transition issues. There were also difficulties in interventions post 18 as, at this age, the individual had to give consent for receiving support and/or interventions.
The Select Committee agreed that further work on transition would be beneficial. Members were informed that Newcastle had experience of working with complex children interventions and that hearing their experiences may be useful.
The Select Committee were informed that CSE Outcome Framework was currently too big to be manageable. There was a need to rationalise the data required to ensure added value and give consideration to the frequency of reporting.
Concerns were shared over possible inconsistency in the delivery of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in schools. Efforts had been made to establish current practice and to identify any gaps in provision. The way in which PSHE was delivered was at the individual school’s discretion and there were currently a variety of approaches. In particular some partners had recognised a gap in PSHE and Sex and Relationships education, around vulnerabilities such as child sexual abuse, youth violence, prevent, fire safety, road safety, substance misuse, healthy relationships and sexual health. Work was ongoing to support a more consistent approach, with the Schools Liaison Group considering this issue. The market place for suggested PSHE approaches was flooded with schools receiving conflicting messages. A consistent and well planned approach that identified clear delivery would be welcomed. Interactive sessions where young people consider how they would act in certain situations was also suggested as a positive way forward.
Members were informed that, in an area where there had been incidents of CSE, targeted work was undertaken with schools as well as with young people close to those involved. The timeliness of this targeted approach gave a relevance to the work, with the work delivered by Catch22 and the CSE Co-ordinator. The use of other forms of social media was suggested to help key messages reach young people. This was possible but would need care in how the message was delivered and the response it could generate. An excellent example of this work was the “Like a cup of Tea” video clip that looked at issues around consent. Members were also informed that the strategy of the CSE Communications Group was to be proactive rather than reactive.
RESOLVED – That:
a) The progress detailed in the report be welcomed;
b) consideration of preparation for adulthood and “transition” from children’s to adult services be included on the work programme; and
c) the video clip “Like a cup of tea” be shared with Members.