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Agenda item

Rotherham Local Children's Safeguarding Board


Christine Cassell, Independent Chair of the Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board, together with Phil Morris, Business Manager, presented the Board's annual report 2017-18.


Attention was drawn to:-


-          There had been a number of inspections by external regulators.  They reflected the very significant improvement in Rotherham, particularly in Children’s Services, over a very short period of time


-          Those improvements in the Council and indeed the wider partnerships were to be celebrated, however, there were still further improvements to be made in safeguarding both in individual agencies and the partnership response


-          The very speed of the improvements brought some risks.  Health and Protection were good but further work was required both within Children’s Social Care and partners to ensure that the good practice was consolidated and embedded


-          There was a problem nationally with the demand on Safeguarding Services, particularly Social Care, whilst budgets were reducing


-          Rotherham’s situation was further exacerbated by the effective multi-agency work on complex abuse and the impact of Operation Stovewood.  The effective management of demand would continue to be monitored by the Board and Partnership whilst supporting and challenging further improvements in safeguarding


-          Future areas of focus

·      New arrangements for LSCB

·      Neglect

·      Monitoring of effective Early Help Service

·      CSE and the wider issue of exploitation

·      Voice of children and families

·      Continue to develop the existing work across the various boards with responsibilities in relation to safeguarding e.g. Adults Board

·      To increase collective understanding of communities in Rotherham, target services and support in order to ensure that the support was going to the right place and continue to develop the resilience of particular communities within the Borough


-          The Children and Social Work Act 2014, removed the requirement for LSCBs in their current form but there was a requirement still to have a partnership of local agencies working together to ensure safeguarding.  The key difference in the new arrangements as defined in the revised guidance – Working Together 2018 – was that it now became a shared accountability between the local authority, Chief Operating Officer of the RCCG and Chief Officer of the Police


-          A working group had been established to consider the arrangements with development of proposals in due course.  They must be published in June 2019 and in place by September 2019.  There was a strong commitment across partners to build on the existing good work of the partnership and to strengthen that further


Discussion ensued on the presentation with the following issues raised/clarified:-


·           The working group of Chief Officers working on the new Board arrangements had indicated that they would wish to continue with an Independent Chair


·           Whilst not able to answer directly with regard to placements for children with disabilities due to being an operational question, the Board would continue to question whether there were sufficient placements for children with SEND


·           No specific audits/activities had been undertaken by the Board with regard to ensuring the safety of the particular placements.  The Board received SEND updates to ensure the new combined plans were in place.  The multi-agency plans were one way of ensuring the safeguarding aspects of placements including arrangements for children who were placed outside the Borough


·           The Local Authority had robust arrangements in place to ensure it was placing children and young people in settings that were of good quality, Ofsted registered and were achieving good or better through the inspection process with mitigations in place when the placement did not meet the required standard


·           Work was taking place on the development of placement sufficiency.  Ideally all Rotherham children and young people should be placed within the Borough so they were closer to the family home/network


·           The Board had received reports from the Council’s Commissioning Team regarding the processes they adopted when commissioning placements and that they undertook a full safeguarding assessment of the placement to ensure it was safe


·           As part of the routine work of the Board, all organisations were asked to undertake a self-assessment (Section 11 assessments) which included reference to any inspections, as appropriate, and actions arising.  There was a periodic multi-agency challenge process on the audits


·           The number of Child Protection visits had fallen.  When questioned, Team Managers were able to articulate the reasons for the decline and assure that there was oversight and supervision.  Assurance was sought about the length of delay and had it made any difference to the outcome for the child.  The answer provided had always reflected that there was good oversight of the cases


·           There was a correlation between the fall in Child Protection visits and the teams with higher caseloads.  A full response would be provided after the meeting


·           The voice of the child in relation to domestic abuse had not been looked at specifically by the Board 


·           The Safeguarding Children Procedure were multi-agency and, therefore, whether a health professional, school teacher, Social Worker, one needed to be able to understand what that procedure was telling you about understanding the child you were working with and what steps you may need to take.  Often the Procedure was updated because the practice was changing and improving in a positive way


·           The Board received reports on Prevent but it was not its primary responsibility; it came under the remit of the Safer Rotherham Partnership.  An update was due to the March 2019 meeting


·           A number of people had had a hypothesis for some time with regard to the impact austerity must be having in terms of stress and strains on families.  The recent Association of Director of Social Services report was very important in highlighting some of the issues that needed to be addressed.  The NSPCC had carried out work and identified an increase in physical abuse rather than generalised neglect which they were attributing to austerity


·           One of the big issues from Safeguarding Board perspective was the engagement of all agencies and all professionals in undertaking Early Help assessments and getting involved in Early Help.  Regular reports were submitted to the Board and encouragement was given on the benefits of partnership working in that way.  However, the Board had noticed better information coming forward to evidence that there had been changes in key areas that Early Help staff working in


·           There have been significant improvements over recent years in the way in which Early Help was co-ordinated and the way in which partners were working together.  There was some evidence of the impact on families and the Board would be seeking further evidence of the impact and improvement of families


·           To make the improvement that has been made in Rotherham over the period of time was really remarkable in terms of comparison with other areas.  Once areas reached the point where they were “good”, it could be quite a fragile time in terms of ensuring that improvement was sustained and in fact continued 


·           The Board continued to raise the issue of dental assessments and Initial Health Assessments for Looked After Children and asked partners to find solutions to ensure that they received the medical and dental support that they had to have.  It was an issue that needed to improve and the Board would continue to argue the need for


·           The evidence the Board had received was that thresholds were applied appropriately with regard to the progress from Early Help to Social Care


·           The new arrangements for the former LSCB will have a slightly different configuration of the groupings.  There now needed to be some Chief Officer/Senior Officer oversight from the 3 agencies.  There would be an Executive Group, which would drive the work of the Board and would be smaller than the full Board arrangements, and then look at the wider partnership to engage the current Board members, discuss with them the frequency and nature of the meetings, to ensure attendance and that it was seen as a meaningful process.  It was the aim to ensure real engagement with the wider partnership which would then address attendance issues


·           The new guidance did not make reference to the Lead Member, however, the Lead Member continued to have statutory responsibilities.   As part of the new arrangements discussions were taking place as to the appropriate involvement of the Lead Member and Director of Children’s Services.  Working Together 2015 had stipulated who had to be on the Board and respective responsibilities in considerable detail; the new arrangements were much more permissive which had advantages and disadvantages.  The 3 accountable partners had the opportunity to say who they would like the wider partners to be and how they would like them to be involved


·           Much of the representations nationally on the consultation document had been with regard to the involvement of Education.  The Board was very clear there needed to be strong links with Education.  The current Board had a very strong group of Education partners and would want the new arrangements to build on and strengthen that


·           Clarification was sought to establish if there were any barriers from issues being stepped up from Early Help to Social Care or whether the threshold for meeting Social Care was appropriate in the opinion of the Independent Chair


·           The thresholds were a document essentially which described the continuum of support from Early Help through Children in Need to eventually children being taken into care; it establishes the range of support available.  It was owned and established by the Partnership.  The Board had a document which sets out examples to help people understand what was appropriate to meet the needs of the family.  The issue should always be what was the appropriate and effective level of support for that child and family and the thresholds were there to guide people making the right decisions.  Evidence from a range of sources currently showed that thresholds were being applied appropriately and nothing to suggest that there were problems


·           Rotherham was close to the national average with regard to re-referral rates 


Resolved:-  (1)  That the Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board 2017-18 Annual Report be noted.


(2)  That anonymised audit from the Domestic Abuse Partnership Review be circulated for information.


(3)  That the LSCB Chair be invited to the July meeting to update the Committee on the  new Safeguarding Multi-Agency Partnership arrangements.


Supporting documents: