Report of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
The Select Committee received the Annual Report 2017-2018 of the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board. This set out the work undertaken and the progress made by the partnership between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018. Since the last annual report the SSCB had engaged in a range of activities that targeted groups of children and young people who had been identified as being vulnerable due to sexual abuse and exploitation, or to neglect as a result of parental alcohol misuse, substance misuse, parental mental health and/or domestic abuse.
Members noted that, following the Wood Report and national consultation, the Government published a revised Working Together 2018. In July 2018 the SSCB had been successful in their bid to the DfE to become an early adopter to re-focus the work of the Board across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, and to bring together six Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), numerous acute trusts and community and mental health providers.
The Select Committee noted the SSCB budget was derived from contributions from a number of partners, including the Staffordshire County Council’s Children’s Services, Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Probation, the Prison Service, CCGs, Youth Offender Service (YOS) and District Councils. There was no funding formula as such, with levels of funding from each organisation being historic and considered appropriate at the time the Board was set up. As part of the new arrangements from April 2019 it was anticipated that a funding formula would be produced. Statutory partners under the new arrangements would be the County Council, Police and the NHS. Members noted that although the six CCGs still existed, they were now working as one combined group for commissioning arrangements.
Whilst understanding that the new arrangements were being developed, Members asked for details of what the anticipated changes would be and how this Select Committee could continue in its scrutiny of the Board’s work. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People offered to forward a paper to Members that had recently be shared with the SSCB. He also agreed to discuss the future scrutiny arrangements with the Chairman and Vice Chairman at the next Triangulation meeting.
Members welcomed the booklet produced by the Joint Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP). Feedback from this had been very positive, with favourable comments on the new layout, format and style.
Members noted the work with taxi drivers by the District Safeguarding Subgroups. The Chairman raised concerns the Select Committee continued to have around the licensing policy of Wolverhampton City Council. Previously the Select Committee had heard from Mr Robert Simpson, Customer Services Group Manager, Stafford Borough Council, and the work of the Responsible Bodies Group who had invited representatives from Wolverhampton Council to attend their meeting to discuss their licensing approach. Mr Simpson had sent an update for Members explaining that, following concerns raised by a number of councils throughout the West Midlands Region, the Chief Environmental Health Officers Board for the region had agreed to invite Wolverhampton Council to address them. This would enable the discussions to take place whilst reducing the number of meetings Wolverhampton Council representatives had to attend. Members noted that the CSE report had informed them of a national government report on taxi licensing and private hire vehicles (PHV) published in September 2018. This document made a number of recommendations for reforming taxi and PHV licensing, including an end to cross boarder hiring.
The continued lack of regulation within Elective Home Education (EHE) was raised and the issues this could create around safeguarding. Where safeguarding issues came to light they would be investigated as any other.
The high level of fixed term exclusions was raised by Members, with 5,890 exclusions reported. There was no doubt that exclusions were rising both in Staffordshire and nationally. The inspection by the CQC and Ofsted also highlighted this. Work was ongoing with schools and the District Inclusion Partnerships to help address this.
There had been a 19.83% increase in the number of children placed on a Child Protection Plan for a second or subsequent time. The most common reasons for this were due to parental mental ill health or domestic abuse. Where the second or subsequent Plan was within 12 months to 2 years there may be concerns that the issues putting the child at risk originally had not been successfully resolved. The current Child Protection Data would give a more accurate reflection of the picture at present and this could be forwarded to Members after the meeting. Members were also reassured that in most cases a child who had been subject to a child protection plan would normally have a period of time on the Child in Need register or Early Help Planning rather than all services being stopped. In general Staffordshire had been lower than their statistical neighbours in this area and was now more or less in line with the national average.
14,306 incidents on the Domestic Abuse Incident Log (DIALs) had been recorded last year. Members were informed that the level of training from a Police perspective was very thorough, with children central to that training. Considerable work was currently being undertaken around this issue with data needing to be considered from a range of partners to enable a rounded picture to be established. Work had also been undertaken to hear the voice of the survivor which helped inform services going forward.
Members were aware that post March 2019 Mr John Wood, Independent Chair of the Board, would be standing down. They congratulated him on the work he had done during his time chairing the Board and thanked him for his commitment and expertise.
a) the Independent Chairman and Members of the SSCB be congratulated on their Annual Report;
b) the paper giving proposed new arrangements from April 2019 for the SSCB be forwarded to Select Committee Members;
c) future scrutiny arrangements for the SSCB be discussed at the next Triangulation meeting; and,
d) current child protection figures with respect to the number of children placed on a Child Protection Plan for a second or subsequent time for forwarded to Select Committee Members.