The Independent Chair of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership, Jenny Myers, attended the meeting to present the second Annual Report of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership (RSCP).
The Independent Chair was accompanied by the District Commander for Rotherham, Chief Superintendent Steve Chapman and Sue Cassin, Chief Nurse at NHS Rotherham CCG. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, the Strategic Director - Children and Young People’s Services, the Assistant Director Education, the Acting Assistant Director – Children’s Social Care and the Assistant Director: Early Help and Family Engagement were also in attendance at the meeting.
The report stated that it was a statutory requirement under the Children’s Act 2004 for an annual report to be produced that detailed the activities that had been carried out by local safeguarding partners in the previous twelve months that also detailed the effectiveness of the activities in the safeguarding and the promotion of welfare of children in the local area. It was noted that as part of the governance arrangements of the RSCP that it was a requirement that the RSCP Annual Report was presented through Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s own scrutiny arrangements as well as the other safeguarding partners own governance arrangements.
The Independent Chair advised that the RSCP Annual Report detailed the activities that had been undertaken in relation to its core business and priorities for the year 2020/21 and considered how well it had worked towards the achievement of the priorities and objectives as detailed in its Strategic Business Plan 2020-2021 that were:
· Safe at Home
· Safe in the Community
· Safe Safeguarding Systems
The Annual Report detailed the key areas of progress that had been achieved against each of the objectives and areas of priority. The Independent Chair noted how well the different members of the partnership had worked together and advised that the frequent meetings that had been held between partners had enabled effective oversight to be carried out and actions to be taken to deliver on the key priorities of the partnership. The Independent Chair also provided details of how she had challenged performance and sought assurance regarding safeguarding performance as part of her role in delivering independent scrutiny of activity across the partnership.
In addition to detailing what had gone well the Annual Report set out that the areas of activity that could be done differently or better and detailed the challenges faced in achieving the priorities over the year. The areas identified for development that were highlighted in the report included:
· Ensuring that vulnerable babies and very young children are kept safe.
· Further scrutiny of the Early Help Strategy and Front Door.
· New developments, including contextual safeguarding in the identification, assessment and response to criminal exploitation and adolescent neglect.
· Review of the Multi-agency Safeguarding Arrangements and safeguarding business plan
· Ensuring the voices and lived experiences of children and young people, families and workforce are represented across the activities undertaken by the RSCP.
The District Commander for Rotherham, Chief Superintendent Steve Chapman highlighted the activity that had been carried out by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) with regard to supporting the objectives of the RSCP and noted how well the organisations across the partnership had worked together. The District Commander advised that as a result of increasing awareness across SYP regarding the issue of child neglect that the number of reported incidents and recorded crimes had increased over the past year. The District Commander also noted the benefits that weekly children in need meetings had had in driving and focussing performance on children’s safeguarding across SYP.
The Chief Nurse at NHS Rotherham CCG, Sue Cassin summarised the activity that had taken place with regards to the role of health care provision in delivering the objectives of the partnership over the previous year. The Chief Nurse noted that a good example of innovative partnership work had been the creation of a regular “baby clinic” where practitioners in health could bring concerns about unborn babies to children’s social care services for discussion and planning. The Chief Nurse advised that the “baby clinic” had resulted in an improvement in timeliness of notifications of pregnancies that had then led to an improvement in the timeliness of referrals. The Chief Nurse also noted the success of the Safeguarding Awareness Week that had taken place and that had combined virtual and in-person events.
The full Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership was attached as an appendix to the officer’s report.
Members asked for further information regarding how school closures during the pandemic had impacted on the ability of partners to maintain lines of sight regarding the welfare of children, and in particular Looked After Children. Members also asked that when schools had reopened whether there had there been a rise in previously unidentified concerns being reported regarding children and families. The Strategic Director - Children and Young People’s Services assured members that strong lines of sight had been maintained across the partnership during periods of school closures that had ensured that safeguarding issues were identified in timely manner. The Strategic Director noted that when schools had been closed that they had still been open to vulnerable children to attend and advised that a process of risk assessing families had taken place that had ensured that good lines of sight had been maintained on children who could potentially have been at risk. The Acting Assistant Director – Children’s Social Care provided further information on the robust processes and effective cross partnership working that had ensured that when schools had been closed safeguarding issues had been able to be picked up and addressed in a timely and appropriate manner. The Acting Assistant Director emphasised the cross partnership Vulnerable Children’s Group had been an essential part of the partnership’s response in ensuring that children had remained safe during the challenges that had been created by the pandemic. The Assistant Director – Education provided further information on how schools had worked with other partners to ensure that vulnerable children had remained safe during the pandemic and noted how schools had been able to escalate any concerns that they had had directly to the Vulnerable Children’s Group. The Assistant Director also noted how Ofsted had supported the response provided by schools with regard to safeguarding and how they had provided assurance that the response that had been provided by schools had been robust. The Assistant Director advised that whilst attendance at school by vulnerable children had generally been good during periods of school closures that some families had struggled to send their children to school. The Assistant Director advised that in response schools had supported families to send their children to school by providing wraparound support through the attendance pathway.
Members asked whether the partnership’s response to the challenges presented by the pandemic had identified any children and families who had previously not been know to services. The Strategic Director advised that the support provided by schools to families during the pandemic, that had gone over and above the support that they would normally have provided, had identified some families who had not previously been known to services and who did require additional support. The Assistant Director – Early Help and Family Engagement noted how the Humanitarian Hub had worked during the pandemic to identify families who were not previously known to services and detailed how the Early Help service had worked with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub to support these families.
Members noted the implementation of Operation Makesafe by South Yorkshire Police that aimed to educate hoteliers to the warning signs of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and asked what further work was being carried out in its implementation. The District Commander advised that the delivery of the scheme has been in in two parts, firstly the education of hoteliers regarding the warning signs of potential CSE, and secondly the carrying out of assurance visits to ensure that hoteliers were picking up the warning signs of potential CSE activity. The District Commander advised that further work was being carried out with the hoteliers who had not picked up on the warning signs of CSE and who had not provided an appropriate response when they had been subject to an assurance visit.
The Vice-Chair noted that there had been several serious notifications/incidents involving injuries to babies in the last two years in Rotherham who had been born into vulnerable families and sought assurance that processes across the RSCP were robust enough to ensure that these types of incidents we minimised. The Independent Chair assured members that she was confident that processes in this area were robust enough and advised that this area of concern had been subject to significant scrutiny by herself and the RSCP Executive Group. The Vice-Chair asked that as some injuries to babies had occurred in families where similar incidents had happened previously whether in such circumstances it had always been appropriate to give these families a second chance. The Independent Chair noted that an audit had been completed of eight families where such incidents had occurred. The Independent Chair advised that the action plan that had been created as a result of the audit had worked to further strengthen the partnership’s activities when dealing with risk and responding to issues in this area. The Independent Chair noted how the RSCP’s Rapid Response Review to a very serious incident involving an injury to a baby had been praised by the national panel who had been looking at such incidents as an example of best practice. The Strategic Director advised that families where injuries to babies and children had occurred in the past would always receive extensive support and assured members that processes were in place to ensure that further intervention would always take place if needed. The Vice-Chair asked for further information on the actions that remained to be completed on the action plan that had been completed in response to the audit that had taken place. The Independent Chair advised that she would submit this information to members in writing.
Members asked for further information on the activities that were being carried out in the Borough regarding Female Genital Mutilation. The Chief Nurse provided information on the work that had been completed with GP’s regarding the risk factors and warning signs regarding FGM. The Acting Assistant Director assured members that the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub had strong procedures in place regarding FGM and advised that health professionals across the partnership had a good understanding of the issues surrounding FGM.
Members asked what plans the RSCP had in relation to children who may be at risk of not having enough to eat due to the cost of living crisis. The Independent Chair advised that the partnership through the Vulnerable Children’s Group would be looking at how poverty could pose a risk of neglect that was not the fault of a family in order to establish an appropriate response. The Independent Chair advised that the RSCP’s response would involve work with the voluntary sector across Rotherham. The Assistant Director noted the additional support that had been provided to families in receipt of free school meals during the pandemic and advised that the role of schools in providing support in this area would continue to be developed. Members noted that for many children in receipt of free school meals that the provision of a good meal at lunchtime was essential for their health and wellbeing and noted with concern that the quality and quantity of meals in schools across the Borough varied widely. The Strategic Director acknowledged members concerns and advised that they would be looked into further.
Members noted with approval the actions that the RSCP had taken when there had appeared to be an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies during the pandemic and noted their assurance that the subsequent investigation that had been carried out had shown that there was no cause for any additional concern regarding this issue. Members asked for further information on the data that had raised these concerns. Members also asked whether young people accessing sexual health service were monitored to ensure that they were in age appropriate relationships. The Acting Assistant Director advised that it was a statutory legal requirement that when a young person accessed sexual health services that appropriate questions would be asked to ascertain the nature of their relationship. The Strategic Director noted that the apparent increase in teenage pregnancies had been identified and addressed swiftly and advised members that the data that prompted these concerns would be shared members outside of the meeting.
Members sought assurance around the capacity of the RSCP Business Unit to respond to demand following the previous year’s reduction in staffing. The Independent Chair assured members that whilst she had expressed concerns in this area, she was now confident that the issues related to business support staffing had now been addressed and were not negatively impacting on the ability of the RSCP to carry out its work.
The Vice-Chair noted that there appeared to be a high number of child neglect cases reported in South Yorkshire and asked whether in these circumstances the neglect training that had delivered by South Yorkshire Police to all of its staff should be followed up. The District Commander advised that the training that had been delivered around neglect had heighted awareness of the issue and had ensured that incidents and crimes related to neglect were now being recorded as such, which had not always been the case in the past. The District Commander advised that further training on other important issues including violence against women and girls and on CSE would be delivered to all staff in the future.
Members asked for further information on how the RSCP ensured that Rotherham’s Looked After Children who were placed outside the Borough remained safe. The Acting Assistant Director noted that when placing any child in or outside of the Borough that the question that was always asked would be “would this be good enough for our child”. The Acting Assistant Director advised that clear procedures were in place that ensured that all Rotherham Looked After Children were placed in a high quality and suitable placement. The Acting Assistant Director detailed the high levels of assurance that were sought both in advance of a placement being made and during a placement and assured members that managers closely monitored the welfare of all children in placements. The Strategic Director advised that there was a robust national system regarding Looked After Children who were placed out of area that ensured that she would be notified immediately if concerns about a Looked After Child placed outside of Rotherham were raised that would then initiate an appropriate response. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services noted the role of the Council’s Corporate Parenting Panel and how it was focused on delivering the best possible outcomes for all of Rotherham’s Looked After Children.
Members sought further information regarding the issue of children missing from education. The Independent Chair noted that the RSCP had recently received an assurance report on this issue. The Strategic Director noted that the potential risks regarding children missing from education were distinct from the issues relating to children in receipt of Elective Home Education (EHE) and that as such there were very distinct ways of working with each group. The Assistant Director – Education provided assurance regarding the processes that were in place for monitoring children who moved in and out of the area, and in some cases abroad in order to ensure their welfare. The Assistant Director – Education noted the commitment across partnership to monitoring children in receipt of EHE and advised that EHE would remain an issue of high priority across the partnership.
The Vice Chair asked for further information regarding the RSCP Child Sexual Exploitation review and how it was addressing the concerns that had been raised in the Conservative briefing report to Council and the subsequent motion that had been passed at the November 2021 meeting of Council. The Independent Chair advised that work had commenced and assured members that the first report was on track to be completed on schedule.
The Vice Chair thanked the Independent Chair of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership, Jenny Myers, the District Commander for Rotherham, Chief Superintendent Steve Chapman and Sue Cassin, Chief Nurse at NHS Rotherham CCG for attending the meeting to present the report and for answering member questions. The Vice Chair also thanked the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, the Strategic Director - Children and Young People’s Services, the Assistant Director Education, the Acting Assistant Director – Children’s Social Care and the Assistant Director: Early Help and Family Engagement for attending the meeting and answering member’s questions.
1) That the report be noted.
2) That a progress report on the activity of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children’s Partnership during 2021/22 be presented at the September 2022 meeting of the Improving Lives Select Commission.