Brent Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements for Children
To receive a report on the current partnership oversight arrangements for safeguarding Brent’s children and young people.
The Chair invited the three Statutory Safeguarding Partners; Carolyn Downs (Chief Executive, Brent Council), Barry Loader (Det Sup, Met Police – NWL BCU), and Jennifer Roye (Director of Nursing, NWL CCG) to the meeting and asked them to introduce the report.
Carolyn Downs opened the report, detailing the membership of the Multi-agency Safeguarding Partners Executive Group for children, which included the three statutory partners, the Leader of the Council, the Lead Member for Children’s Services, the Strategic Director for Children’s Services, and Mike Howard (Independent Convenor of the Safeguarding Children Forum). She felt the new arrangements were working well, with collaboration between the police, health and local authority improving all the time. She reassured the Committee that the partners took a very proactive role to safeguarding and provided challenge where necessary. All 3 statutory partners were required to sign off rapid reviews into any incidences of child death or injury, and the partners read those reports in depth, commented on them and where not satisfied ensured actions were put in place. For example, most recently the partners had written to the Director of Public Prosecution where they felt insufficient action was taking place. Carolyn Downs finished her introduction by advising the Committee that the rapid reviews, written by Mike Howard and Wendy Proctor, were extremely helpful and informative in her role as a statutory partner.
Barry Loader agreed the partnership had a good healthy relationship which was constructive, with healthy challenge. Repeatedly, the partners saw good practice reports coming through the rapid reviews. He advised that the nature of rapid reviews was upsetting, as they arose when a child was seriously injured or had died, but from the feedback of partners locally and the National Review Panel it had been positive to show there were good systems of working and professional practice across all partners involved in children’s safeguarding in Brent. The good relationship had helped with the response to ‘everyone’s invited’ as evidenced in the report to Committee. He finished by assuring members there was a continuous cycle of training for those officers new in post, including specialist child protection training.
Jennifer Roye echoed the previous introductions and felt Brent had exceptional safeguarding processes. She had been in post for 6 months and had been welcomed at the Exec Group meetings she had attended with the statutory partners. She informed the Committee that the ethos for supporting and safeguarding children was very high on the agenda and the learning she had seen over the last 6 months in relation to training had been shared at the Health Quality Performance Committee.
In concluding the introduction to the report, Mike Howard (Independent Convenor of Brent Safeguarding Children Forum) agreed that rapid reviews offered extremely valuable learning opportunities looking at real life practice. The learning from rapid reviews was taken by health partners and developed into GP training. He pointed out that the tragic incidents that led to rapid reviews could be traumatic for the staff involved including the first responders, police, ambulance staff and case workers and it was worth considering that impact. He pointed to the report as to how the lessons from rapid reviews had led to changes of practice to improve safeguarding. Mike Howard felt that, over the period since the new arrangements had been in place, there had been a steady progression in partnership working with statutory partners and designated professionals, including a good number of school representatives who took part in the Children’s Safeguarding Forum.
The Chair thanked the partners for their introduction and invited the Committee to raise comments and questions, with the following issues raised:
The Committee asked how effective the partnership working was, given the partners may be looking at different aspects of a particular case, and queried why there was no parental input. Carolyn Downs explained that parental involvement was not included as part of the government guidance on the partnership. She agreed that all partners brought something different to the table. She pointed to the priorities outlined in 3.14 of the report; serious youth violence, suicide prevention and mental health, and domestic abuse, and highlighted that all three partners had a different perspective and input into those agendas and were fully engaged in those priorities. When the partners reviewed individual cases they looked at these from a different perspective and may make different comments. The partnership were very open with each other in terms of challenging where they felt something was not right. Barry Loader added that the partnership were also confident to challenge as a collective, such as the National Panel and Crown Prosecution Service. From a commissioner point of view, Jennifer Roye felt that the conversations between partners enabled her to think about what services might be needed going forward. The issues identified through rapid reviews could be taken back to commissioners to demonstrate the number of children who may have come to harm or potential harm, what the learning from that was, and then enabled her to commission services across the system to support Brent’s children and young people. She added that she covered 8 boroughs across NWL and felt that Brent was one of the boroughs with the strongest partnership working for safeguarding.
Continuing to respond to how effective the partnership was, Wendy Proctor, Strategic Partnership Lead Officer felt that they could demonstrate the partnership was effective through sharing good practice. Brent had shared their good practice on how it conducted business with neighbouring boroughs who were less familiar with carrying out rapid reviews, who had looked to Brent to support them in their own boroughs to carry out rapid reviews as effectively as Brent. Those who Brent had shared their practice with, such as Harrow and Barnet, had provided positive feedback. She finished by advising the Committee that, as the partnership was open and transparent to learn lessons, it may be difficult to do that with parents involved in those discussions because of the ways partners worked and the sensitive nature of some cases, therefore parental involvement was encouraged in different ways away from the statutory arrangements. Gail Tolley (Strategic Director Children and Young People, Brent Council) reassured members that, where there were individual family circumstances, parents were involved in meetings and their views were sought and fed in to the process, but the multi-agency safeguarding arrangements were for statutory partners and those who delivered services.
The Committee queried whether the police as partners viewed safeguarding children as a priority and took their role on the partnership seriously, highlighting the disparity in funding between the partners. Carolyn Downs clarified that the funding for the partnership was not determined by the local or Metropolitan police, but by MOPAC, the Police and Crime Commissioners Office. She agreed it was an issue, but felt that the input the partnership received from colleagues in the police was better than Brent had ever had. She highlighted that Barry Loader had never sent a substitute to meetings and came to all meetings as a superintendent so the partnership got involvement at a senior level. Barry Loader agreed that the funding issue was a constant frustration and he would be addressing the issue the following day with the BCU commanders and lead for the National Police Steering Group. Brent had a higher number of rapid reviews than other boroughs, which all needed funding. Mike Howard added that the issue of funding had been raised on a London wide basis through the London Safeguarding Chairs Network with Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for MOPAC, but the Mayor’s Office had been adamant that £5k per borough would remain. Brent received the same funding as boroughs such as Kingston and Bexley, and London had the lowest funded safeguarding arrangements in the country. Councillor McLennan was working on advocating for further funding through her own networks as well as the Leader. She added that the NHS and police saw themselves as one of the anchor partners wanting to do the best to safeguard children, and in a short space of time she could see that ongoing work. Barry Loader offered to provide a supplementary paper on the work that happened on a daily basis to safeguard children, including information about training and how the police brought safeguarding to the forefront of their meetings, in order to reassure members and the community that safeguarding and the statutory partnership were a priority for the police.
In relation to the uptake for multi-agency training from police officers detailed in the report, Barry Loader explained that it was difficult to get officers to attend partnership training, which he advertised every week through his weekly updates. There was an expectation for child abuse investigators to attend a certain amount of partnership training per year, reviewed in their annual appraisal, and officers were required to undertake mandatory training locally and centrally.
The Committee discussed the role of prevention for the partnership. Carolyn Downs expressed that the whole basis of the safeguarding partnership was to prevent future harm. The partnership looked at what was happening to learn from that, and used that learning to take appropriate actions to prevent harm in the future. For example, the local authority did a large amount of work on knife crime in relation to prevention and support to young people. Gail Tolley added that the partnership did commission pieces of work from operational delivery levels, and most recently had asked for a report on children missing from placement, for that emphasis on preventative work following the learning from previous cases. The partnership did not always wait for the learning from a rapid review, for example the development of Family Wellbeing Centres in Brent was a result of learning from previous cases that supporting the whole family in terms of preventative work was a step forward. In relation to prevention, an Accelerated Support Team was now in place working with vulnerable adolescents on the ground, in homes and on the street. The focus of that particular work was on young people on the edge of serious youth violence and county lines in harmful circumstances.
Mike Howard spoke about his role in relation to prevention, which was highlighted in section 3.34 and 3.35 of the report. His role was to look at practice and procedures to see how they could be improved in order to do the prevention work, and there were a lot of things that did work. Small changes also made a big difference, such as ensuring family history was recorded when making a referral. Information sharing was important also, for example, where children living in other boroughs were known or suspected gang members, looking at the wider group of children and identifying if they were at risk of harm and putting immediate measures in place to mitigate that. Those measures had come about through learning from other cases and protected children from further harm.
Schools were a protective factor in safeguarding children and young people. The Committee were reassured that, of all 152 local authorities in the country, Brent had the fifth highest attendance of children at school during the pandemic. Gail Tolley advised that Brent had been highlighted as a national exemplar for attendance of children at school and had been asked by the Children’s Commissioner to be involved in a project focusing on attendance. The Chair congratulated all schools on the achievement and asked for thanks to be passed on to school colleagues on behalf of the Committee.
The Chair asked the partners what progress and learning had been made in relation to the three priorities of the partnership. Carolyn Downs advised that in relation to the priority of serious youth violence, it was clear across London that serious youth violence remained a very difficult and prominent issue and Brent was not exempt from that, but the level of reduction of serious youth violence in Brent was the greatest in London. Two years previously, Brent would have been in the top 3 for serious youth violence, and was now around 13th, which was a good reduction. She attributed that to all partners, including voluntary and community organisations, schools, and faith organisations coming together to collaborate across the whole system to focus on that issue. That collaboration involved, on a daily basis, joint tasking meetings between the police and Council where particular resource was put into specific areas where there were serious concerns at that time about gang tensions and serious youth violence. She highlighted that she asked herself how she knew what was working to lead to that reduction, to which she reassured herself that the partners were putting the effort in, prioritising the issue, and had many different initiatives that together had resulted in a reduction.
In relation to the priority on suicide prevention and mental health, there had been some very specific rapid reviews about young people who had self-harmed and attempted suicide, looking at how partners might have intervened at an earlier stage to get involved with that young person. That had included looking at the family’s involvement in that process and there had been valuable learning from those.
Regarding the priority on domestic abuse, the Committee heard that 70% of Brent Family Front Door referrals involved domestic abuse. Many children who came into the Council’s care were children who lived in families where domestic abuse was prevalent, and the partnership were clear that children who were living in households where domestic abuse occurred suffered the negative impact on their wellbeing and development. Changes as a result of learning around domestic abuse included management support, ensuring those responsible for delivering services to those families and individuals provided that service, and considering policies and procedures.
In relation to Operation Encompass, the Committee commended the number of schools who had signed up and asked what work was being done to increase the number of sign-ups from schools even further. Gail Tolley highlighted that schools had not been surveyed since November 2021 due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant, but she was aware, through the Safeguarding Children Forum, that there was continuous encouragement for all schools to sign up. The schools representatives who attended the Forum communicated back to schools to encourage them to join along with any other learning points from the Forum meetings, and Sonya Kalyniak (Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance, Brent Council) met with the Designated Safeguarding Leads for every school in Brent where she encouraged those schools not yet involved to sign up. Brent had the highest uptake from schools in London and would always encourage more schools to sign up, but she highlighted that this was a school leadership decision.
The Committee highlighted 3.58 of the report detailing the number of staff who had taken part in multi-agency learning and development sessions, which they felt was low. Wendy Proctor advised that the training was focused on multi-agency working together, and was the level above the basic training agencies were required to provide their staff in relation to safeguarding. She felt the reason the numbers were lower than they would like was because individual agencies already had a lot of safeguarding training.
The Committee queried whether there were any plans to reduce the number of rapid reviews because they were needed less. Carolyn Downs advised there were no plans to reduce those numbers. There was now a national pilot looking at good practice rapid reviews because places like Brent, who did many, had said how useful they had been, and the work would look to see if the good practice could be introduced to all areas where there had been serious cases. She felt that rapid reviews were the right thing to do, and while the partnership had been concerned when the legislation had first came through and despite the heavy workload, they had been invaluable. Mike Howard added that the guidance laid out when a rapid review should be conducted, and before Brent did any rapid reviews there was a discussion between the Head of Safeguarding, a Detective Inspector from the Met Police, and a Designated Health Professional to consider whether a rapid review was necessary, which had been picked up as an area of good practice by NHSE.
To conclude, the Committee queried what each partner would ideally want from each other to be working even better. Carolyn Downs advised that her want would be to get some more funding from police into the partnership. Barry Loader hoped to work with the partnership on Operation Horizon, which was a multi-agency joint partnership piece of work to reduce serious violence in the NW10 postcode. Jennifer Roye hoped to work across the system on the reduction of violence and gangs.
The Chair drew the item to a close and invited the Committee to make recommendations, with the following RESOLVED:
i) To receive information on the work undertaken by the Metropolitan Police to address the key priorities of the Statutory Safeguarding Partners.
ii) To receive information on the work undertaken by the Metropolitan Police to provide children’s safeguarding training to staff and ensure take up of multi-agency training.
For the Statutory Safeguarding Partners to provide evidential data on the outcomes of its work to address its priorities in future scrutiny reports.
iii) For the Statutory Safeguarding Partners to provide information on how it assures itself that relevant agencies and other partners ensure they have captured the voices of children, young people and families in their work in future scrutiny reports.
- 6. Safeguarding oversight arrangements for Brent's children, item 6. PDF 502 KB
- 6a. Appendix 1 - Final Brent MASA Arrangements - 2021 update, item 6. PDF 942 KB
- 6b. Appendix 2 - Brent LSCP response to Ofsted review sexual abuse in schools and colleges, item 6. PDF 287 KB