Agenda item

Local Safeguarding Children's Board Annual Report

Section 13 of the Children Act 2004requires each local authority to establish a Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for their area and specifies the organisations and individuals (other than the local authority) that should be represented on LSCBs. The Brent LSCB annual report summarises the work of Brent LSCB during 2016/17.

 

(report to follow)

Minutes:

Mike Howard (the Chair of Brent’s Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB)) presented the report which outlined the activities of Brent LSCB’s in the period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.

 

The Committee heard that the Ofsted Review of the effectiveness of Brent LSCB, which had been conducted in autumn 2015, and the subsequent action plan required the Board to address fundamental areas such as audit and performance management. Mr Howard spoke about two areas of work which the Board had been pursuing – the quantity and the quality of safeguarding. In relation to the first, Mr Howard paid attention to performance data received from various partners all of which contributed to safeguarding in Brent and he said that he was pleased that it had been possible to employ a Data Analyst until the end of the next financial year. As far as the quality of safeguarding was concerned, Mr Howard highlighted that the way the Section 11 Audit was carried out had changed – employees of organisations which sat on the Board were required to complete a questionnaire which measured their level of knowledge of safeguarding and allowed their managers to identify areas of concern where action had to be taken. Approximately 4,000 responses had been received, more than half of which came from the educational sector.

 

Mr Howard stressed the importance of reminding partner organisations that safeguarding children was everyone’s responsibility. He said that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) review of the Metropolitan Police force had been critical of the way the Police dealt with safeguarding but praised police in Brent for their approach to keeping children safe and their collaboration with Brent LSCB. In relation to health providers, Mr Howard said that he had written a letter to the Chief Executive of the London North West Healthcare National Health Service Trust in December 2016 and, as a result, a dedicated Head of Safeguarding Children had been appointed. However, there had been issues related to community rehabilitation as the National Probation Service had refused to attend Board meetings and Community Rehabilitation Companies had received negative inspection reports.

 

As far the Government’s review of LSCBs was concerned, Mr Howard informed the Committee that the Children and Social Work Bill had gone through parliament in April 2017 and guidance was expected to be received soon. He suggested that joined-up safeguarding boards might be considered as some of the key partners sat on more than one board, but this would depend on the recommendations issued.  For instance, Brent LSCB and Harrow LSCB shared partners who represented the Northwick Park Hospital, the Police and probation services and there were common interests such as training and potential combining of resources for Child Death Overview Panels (CDOPs). However, Mr Howard emphasised that not all boroughs were the same so defining the level of integration would be a strategic decision. In relation to working with the local community, Mr Howard said that the recruitment of lay members to sit on the Board had commenced and seven applicants would be interviewed during the week commencing 25 September 2017. Moreover, the LSCB worked together with The Lullaby Trust to promote safer sleeping and provide training to nurses, General Practitioners and practice managers. An upcoming project supported by the Board was a workshop involving young people to mark White Ribbon Day and would raise awareness of domestic abuse.

 

The Chair thanked Mr Howard for his presentation and noted that the report was very easy to read. A Member of the Committee enquired about the level of confidence that children at risk were protected. Mr Howard said that he was confident about safeguarding based on the work carried out by the Brent Family Front Door (BFFD) which processed all referrals and had good relationships with key partners such as the Police, Housing and health providers. The BFFD consisted of staff from the Children and Young People Department and Adult Social Care as well as police officers who met every morning to discuss cases and devise strategies for action.  This ensured that a genuine multi agency approach could be taken as safeguarding was too broad to be a responsibility of a single body. For example, there might be more than one person at risk as children were often a part of a family so other members could have been affected (children could be secondary victims of domestic abuse) and they attended school so an issue at home could have an impact on their classmates. Furthermore, the LSCB had a number of panels which dealt with issues such as serious case reviews (SCR), child sexual exploitation (CSE) and child deaths. The success of these panels depended on partner organisations attending and sharing information with each other. In relation to a question about actions taken to strengthen partnerships, Mr Howard said that he had frequent meetings with representatives of partner organisations, the Chief Executive of Brent Council, the Strategic Director for Children and Young People, the Leader of the Council, headteachers, Brent Clinical Commissioning Group, etc. The Committee heard that Mr Howard was a member of the Children’s Trust and the Safer Brent Partnership. As far as engagement was concerned, significant progress had been made with primary schools and a special meeting dedicated to safeguarding had taken place at Stonebridge Primary School.  

 

Members questioned the results of the Section 11 Audit and enquired how the problems that had been identified would be addressed. Mr Howard acknowledged that audit results had been disappointing and said that he would use a mixture of persuasion, revealing the names of those organisations which had not met the required standards and trying to convince key partners that it was in their interest to take safeguarding seriously.

 

The Committee discussed CSE and the way it was addressed by the Board. Mr Howard explained that there was a CSE Sub-Group which was chaired by Brian Grady (the Council’s Operational Director for Safeguarding, Partnerships and Strategy) and consisted of members representing various partners. The Sub-Group examined trends in CSE and discussed action that could be taken to address these in the long term. Mr Howard highlighted that children who were excluded from mainstream education or attended a Pupil Referral Unit were at greater risk of CSE and certain locations where children congregated had been identified as high-risk areas so the Sub-Group had looked into actions taken to mitigate this risk. In addition, a Vulnerable Adolescents Panel chaired by Nigel Chapman (the Council’s Operational Director for Integration and Improved Outcomes) had been established to look at missing children who could be at risk of CSE.

 

Commenting on the Board’s resources, Mr Howard said that budget had remained the same, but there had been improvements in terms of new partnership arrangements. Nevertheless, the chairs of LSCBs in London had approached the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor on funding available to Boards across the capital.  He noted that the LSCB had been able to make significant achievements given the resources it had.

 

In light of the recent terrorist attack at Parsons’ Green Station, Members asked whether the LSCB had been made aware of any cases of radicalisation. Mr Howard said that the Board had not received such referrals. However, Gail Tolley (the Council’s Strategic Director for Children and Young People) said that a review of Brent’s training programme for foster carers would be carried out, placing particular emphasis on foster carers supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). She added that UASC at semi-independent settings were at particular risk and it would be confirmed what training was provided in those placements.  Ms Tolley noted that challenges for UASC had been met well in Brent, but issues such as immigration procedures and the length of time it took to confirm a child’s status remained a concern so Directors of Children’s Services in London would make a representation to the Home Office that would focus on streamlining the process. In addition, she said that West London Alliance (WLA) contracting procedures had been used to ensure that appropriate training was available to staff working in semi-independent settings.

 

In the context of austerity, a Member of the Committee asked Mr Howard how he would remain confident that children were kept safe. He responded that there was a clear commitment of LSCB members to safeguarding. He gave an example with the Police who despite the difficult choices they faced, had decided to invest additional resources in safeguarding. Mr Howard noted that other organisations had also recognised that investment in safeguarding was necessary despite budget constraints.

 

The Chair enquired if the Committee could provide assistance in the form of recommendations. Mr Howard said that there were two areas where the LSCB could benefit from support –a consistent approach towards finance; and in addressing the lack of engagement of Community Rehabilitation Companies. Nevertheless, Mr Howard assured Members that LSCB’s progress had been good.        

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(i)                 The contents of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board Annual Report, be noted; and

 

(ii)       The approach towards financing LSCBs be reconsidered by all partners to reflect the local context;

 

(iii)      The Committee support efforts being made to encourage the Community Rehabilitation Company to engage in the work of Brent LSCB.

Supporting documents: