The purpose of this report is to present the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) Annual Report 2018-19 to the Committee. The MSCB Independent Chair publishes an annual report describing how agencies in Medway have worked together through the year and how effective the arrangements are in Medway to keep children and young people safe from harm, abuse or neglect. The report summarises the work undertaken in 2018-19 and the replacement of the MSCB with the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) which transitioned from September 2019.
The Director of People – Children and Adults introduced the report and explained that both the Independent Chair and the Vice-Chair of the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) were both unavailable to attend the meeting. The report was the last annual report from the Board, which had been replaced by the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) in September 2019 and would continue to report to this Committee.
Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:
· Improving approach to keep children safe – reference was made to section 1.6 of the annual report which related to the outcome of audits showing that there needed to be a better approach to keep children safe. The Director explained that training was being provided on this issue, which was a priority for the MSCP going forward.
· Engaging with the community and voluntary sector – officers confirmed that Medway Voluntary Action had been part of the Board and were engaged with the MSCP going forward and work would be ongoing with them to reach a wider range of community and voluntary sector organisations.
· Increase in children subject to a child protection plan – questions were raised about the rise in children subject to a child protection plan (CPP). Officers explained that this could relate to a better identification of risk by social work staff although it was also not unusual to see a rise where a local authority has received an inadequate Ofsted judgement. It was also confirmed that the numbers in Medway were on par with national averages and when compared with statistical neighbours.
· Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) – concern was raised that lessons had not been learned from the serious case review into incidents at the STC, which had recently been judged to be inadequate. Officers confirmed that the judgement related to fundamental issues within the STC, which partner agencies had difficulty in influencing but confirmed that this was a priority that the authority was working in strong partnership on, particularly taking forward when the STC closes to reopen as a secure school.
· Identification of Private Fostering Arrangements – the concern at 3.34 of the report relating to reduction in notifications of new private fostering arrangements was referred to and officers assured Members this was an area of focus for the MSCP to raise awareness around private fostering.
· Increase in children subject to a child protection plan – questions were raised about the rise in children subject to a child protection plan (CPP). Officers explained that this could relate to a better identification of risk by social work staff although it was also not unusual to see a rise where a local authority has received an inadequate Ofsted judgement. It was also confirmed that the numbers in Medway were slightly higher than national averages and when compared with statistical neighbours.
· The Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)’s awareness of the performance of children’s social care – in response to questions about whether the Board anticipated the recent Ofsted judgement, officers explained that the Board should have known. however since the ‘Wood Review’ of LSCBs, arrangements had now been strengthened and now firmly put the responsibility upon the three lead agencies (local authority, the Police and the Clinical Commissioning Group).
· Attendance of secondary schools – in response to a query about the attendance of Medway secondary schools at Board meetings, which had been poor, officers explained that there had been a named representative under the Board arrangements and due to work pressures, attendance had been difficult. The MSCP was therefore working with the primary and secondary headteacher forums to develop a network of participants, rather than relying on one individual. It was added that attendance at the Improvement Board by school representatives had been good.
The Committee noted the report and thanked the Independent Chair for his work on the Board.