Brent Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) Annual Report 2015-16
The attached annual report details the work of Brent Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) during 2015-16 identifying what went well, what the challenges were, and key actions to progress LSCB business in 2016-17.
The Independent Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB), Mike Howard, introduced the LSCB Annual Report 2015-16 to the committee. Members heard that following his appointment in June 2015, Mike Howard had reviewed the existing structure and model of operation of the Board and, having taken advice, had implemented a number of changes. In particular, the membership of the board had been amended to reduce the number of Local Authority Officers and add new members including schools, Barnardos charity and the QPR Community Trust. Ofsted had inspected the Board and published its report in November 2015. The Ofsted report acknowledged that the Board was in a state of change and had made a number of constructive recommendations, in particular regarding Section 11 audits, performance data and increasing the involvement of the voluntary sector. Having reviewed best practice for Section 11 audits, a new approach would be employed going forward which would comprise a straight forward questionnaire to be completed by relevant agencies to assess employee understanding of safeguarding responsibilities and identify how gaps in knowledge would be addressed. In concluding his introduction, Mike Howard highlighted that following a government commissioned review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards, significant legislative changes to LSCBs over the next few years were anticipated.
Members queried the effectiveness of the relationships between different agencies across Brent, how this compared with other London boroughs and the powers of the Board to challenge organisations. Questions were raised regarding the involvement of local communities, plans for wider engagement, including with young people and perceived gaps in voluntary sector representation. The committee sought Mike Howard’s view on the safety of children in Brent who were at risk from harm, the efficacy of Brent professionals at recognising children at risk and the safeguarding performance of Brent’s schools. The committee questioned how the Board ensured that organisations had appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures. Further queries were raised regarding the quality of frontline activity and the mechanisms for assessing this. Noting that the Brent LSCB budget had been static for the past three years, a member queried whether this limited the work undertaken by the Board. Details of the board’s comparative performance against other London boroughs were sought. With reference to the recommendations made by Ofsted, a Member queried how the Board had pursued improved links with Family Justice and the Health and Wellbeing Board and what work had been undertaken on performance data. Further information was sought on the link between the Local Safeguarding Adults Board and the LSCB.
In response, Mike Howard advised that strategic level cooperation between agencies was variable; for example engagement with the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust was good. However, the London Community Rehabilitation Company had notified the Chairs of the various London Borough LSCBs in August 2016 that due to staff reductions it would no longer attend meetings of the LSCBs. The Board had no powers to compel or punish organisations for lack of engagement and could only lobby responsible parties. Mike Howard emphasised that he met regularly with the Council’s Chief Executive, Strategic Director for Children and Young People, the Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Children and Young People. Turning to queries regarding the involvement of community members, Mike Howard explained that the board had a ‘Community Reference Group’ which included three members of the local community and had held meetings at various locations around the borough. Attendance at these meetings by the public had been poor and the board was working with organisations such as Catalyst Housing and Brent Youth Parliament to improve this. Mike Howard further advised that in his capacity as Independent LSCB Chair he attended a number of other groups to maintain necessary links and would welcome suggestions regarding other organisations.
Mike Howard explained that he had confidence in the professionals who worked on the Brent Family Frontdoor Service (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)), which received and assessed approximately 350 referrals per week and felt that agencies worked together well when a child was identified as being at risk of harm. The commitment and effectiveness of Brent CCG was highlighted and particularly that of Doctor Arlene Baroda (Designated Doctor for Safeguarding Children, Brent CCG). Mike Howard further emphasised the importance of working with organisations such as the QPR Community Trust, who regularly interacted with children, to help to ensure that those organisations were able to identify those at risk of harm. It was hoped that fuller assurances regarding the efficacy of Brent’s agencies in meeting their safeguarding responsibilities could be given after Section 11 audits were completed by all agencies. With regard to Brent’s schools, the committee was informed that 96 per cent of Brent’s schools had good or outstanding Ofsted ratings, which could not have been achieved if there were any safeguarding concerns. The remaining three schools all had good safeguarding policies in place.
The committee was advised that as Chair of the LSCB, Mike Howard was able to gain insight into operational frontline activity by conducting visits, meeting regularly with senior members of the agencies and undertaking policy and case audits. It was acknowledged that Brent’s LSCB budget was one of the lowest in London and nationally and this meant that the Board was very dependent on the support and facilities of the council. It was felt that the work of the Board would benefit from having a dedicated data analyst, policy officer and training co-ordinator; this latter post could open up possibilities for income generation. The comparative performance of the board was felt to be middling, with the Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’ held by several London Borough LSCBs. Addressing members’ questions regarding the Ofsted recommendations, Gail Tolley (Strategic Director for Children and Young People) noted that the Independent LSCB Chair was a member of the Children’s Trust which was a sub-group of the Health and Wellbeing Board. Mike Howard further advised that the Family Justice Board did not welcome individual LSCB engagement but maintained a link through the London Safeguarding Children’s Board. In addition, Brent LSCB had a Magistrate member who also sat on the Family Justice Board. Criticism by Ofsted regarding performance data was considered to be fair and work was underway to develop a performance data dashboard.
The committee thanked Mike Howard for his attendance and contribution to the meeting.
i) That a letter be written on behalf of the committee to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime expressing concern regarding the level of engagement by the Metropolitan Police with the Brent Local Safeguarding Children’s Board;
ii) That a letter be written on behalf of the committee to the Members of Parliament for Brent expressing concern regarding the level of engagement by the London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC);
iii) That as part of the budget making process, the council consider how it can provide additional funding to the Brent Local Safeguarding Children’s Board in order to improve value for money;
iv) That the Chair of the Brent Local Safeguarding Children’s Board be thanked for his work on behalf of the Board.