The purpose of the report is to update the Committee on the work of the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) during 2018-19 and to provide Members with an update on the MSCB Business Plan 2017-20.
The report has been written in accordance with the joint protocol between strategic partnerships in Medway and it follows the presentation of the MSCB Annual Report 2017-18 in October 2018. The Annual Report 2018-19 will follow later in the year.
The Independent Chair of the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) introduced the report which updated the Committee on the work of the Board during 2018-19 and on the Board’s Business Plan 2017-20. He highlighted the key areas of progress and reminded the Committee that the Board would cease to exist in September 2019, when it is replaced by the new safeguarding partnership arrangements.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:
· The role of fathers in assessments – A Member commented on the role of fathers being addressed in assessments and asked for more information. The Independent Chair explained that the important role of the father needed to be focused on more in cases where the father was playing some part in the child or young person’s life. This was therefore an area of focussed learning across children’s services and agencies.
· Domestic Abuse and seasonal increases – A Member asked if there were ways to mitigate seasonal increases in cases of domestic abuse. The Independent Chair explained that work was ongoing in improving sensitivity to indicative signs of possible domestic abuse and this was being done across partnership agencies..
· Out of area placements – A Member asked for numbers of children and young people placed out of area and how the Council could assure itself of the quality of placements. Officers undertook to provide data on out of area placements and explained that every child in care was allocated a social worker who would visit the child and assured Members that no child was placed in any provision that was not regulated. It was added that care leavers may be placed into supported accommodation which was not regulated but only provision that was on the Council’s framework was used for this purpose and the Council had in place a Quality Assurance Officer who made checks on the provision to ensure quality.
· Commercial Provider issues – A Member referred to the Serious Case Review relating to the Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) and asked if there was a tension in relation to commercial providers managing such provision. The Independent Chair explained that the previous contract held by the commercial provider at the time of the issues at Medway STC was a dated contract which focused on processes as opposed to outcomes and was a contributing factor to some of the issues. Lessons had been learned and the Government had only accepted tenders for the new contract from not-for-profit organisations and had made it clear that as long as provision was delivered within the budget stated as part of the tender, price would not feature on any evaluation of bids. In relation to the STC it was added that the Governor at the establishment had been proactive in establishing a designated social worker which mirrored statutory arrangements in place at the Young Offenders Institute, which the STC was not required to do but was very welcomed by the Council.
· Relaunch of Young Persons Domestic Abuse Campaign – A Member asked how this relaunch with schools would be managed, particularly as it was taking place during summer holidays and as school interaction had been reportedly low under the previous item on the agenda (Tackling Racism in Medway). In response the Independent Chair reported that there was a member of staff who had particular responsibility for outreach to schools and this post had recently been recruited to. Particular focus would be made to access the two main forums for primary and secondary head teachers and he added that independent schools were the most difficult to access and engage with but this was an area of focus.
· Completion of early help referrals – in response to a comment made about the difficulty sometimes experienced in completing paperwork for referrals, the Independent Chair acknowledged that some people found the early help forms difficult but explained the importance in gleaning the information collated by the forms and added that the service regularly reviewed paperwork and was always open to dialogue on how referrals and paperwork could be improved.
· Improving communication – in response to an action of the MSCB to develop professional communications to raise awareness the Medway Youth Council Chair undertook to send the MYC marketing report to the Board to share its lessons learned on this issue. He also suggested that MYC could retweet MSCB posts to help raise awareness.
The Committee noted the report and requested that the figure of children and young people placed in out of area provision be circulated to the Committee.