The purpose of this report is to present the first Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) Annual Report 2019-20 to the Committee. Whilst the predominant focus of the report is on the work of the MSCP since it was set up on 2 September 2019, the report provides a summary of activity across the whole year and includes work undertaken by the Medway Safeguarding Children Board (MSCB) in preparation for the transition to the new arrangements. The report summarises the progress that has been made in 2019-20 and the plans to develop this further in 2020-21. The report also provides an update on the MSCP Business Plan 2020-22.
The Committee considered the annual report of the Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP), which was introduced by the current Chair, Detective Superintendent Andy Pritchard.
The Committee raised a number of comments and questions, which included:
· Agency response during pandemic – the Chair of the MSCP explained that the partnership response had been co-ordinated, with a real concern around hidden harm due to the lack of natural surveillance caused by lockdown restrictions. Efforts were made to mitigate this as much as possible, with close liaison taking place with schools and social care to ensure contact was made with vulnerable children and families. The NHS Kent and Medway CCG representative also confirmed that unlike the first wave of the pandemic where some health visiting and school nursing staff were redeployed to covid-19 response related tasks, this was not the case for the second or any subsequent waves.
· Independent Scrutineer – in response to a question around the role of the independent scrutineer, the Chair of the MSCP explained that the independent role had a more productive use of time than previously, as it no longer included chairing responsibilities and it enabled effective challenge of the thinking and approach of the partnership.
· Time lag of data – comment was made that some of the data included in the report was quite out of date. The Business Manager undertook to investigate this further and confirmed that accessing more current data available was a focus of the Performance Management and Quality Assurance sub-group, although it was explained that there was some delay in regional and national comparative data.
· Relocation of the family court – officers confirmed their disappointment of the relocation of the family court out of Medway, into Kent, although it was not expected to have a significant impact on safeguarding functions and the use of virtual court arrangements was starting to reduce initial delays experienced at the start of the pandemic.
· Child poverty – in response to a question about how child poverty was defined and measured, officers explained that this was likely to be linked to measures of income deprivation affecting children index (IDACI) for Medway, but this would be confirmed to the committee outside of the meeting.
· Training opportunities – in response to a question about how training was advertised, particularly to the community and voluntary sector, officers explained they worked with Medway Voluntary Association and the NSPCC to raise awareness of training opportunities and they did work to tailor training content and availability to suit particular groups, such as schools and taxi drivers, as examples.
· Cyber bullying – this was a concern that has been raised by young people and in response to a question about how the partnership was addressing this, the Chair of the MSCP confirmed it needed to have a greater focus within the partnership. It was added that engagement with schools was a priority and two school leaders would be joining the MSCP Executive to become more connected to the partnership, its priorities and approaches.
· Vaccinations – in response to a question around immunisation rates, the representative of the NHS Kent and Medway CCG confirmed that Medway’s performance was slightly below the national average for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination take up, an issue which was often linked to deprivation but was also linked to factors such as publicity issues which were difficult to reverse in some communities. It was also reported that the flu vaccination uptake had been much higher this year than previous years. She also undertook to report back to the Committee on Medway’s performance with other immunisation take up.
· Children travelling by train – a question was asked whether there was a link between out of area children travelling to Medway schools by train and county line and gang activity. In response the MSCP Chair explained that travelling by train was one possible way gangs may operate but it was one of many. Criminal exploitation of children manifested in a number of ways and was a focus of the Joint Exploitation Group to identify children involved or at risk of exploitation and to provide a wrap around service for those children.
· Engagement children and families – in response to a question about seeking views of children and families, the Independent Scrutineer explained there were good examples of listening to their views but there were issues about doing this consistently and how it impacted on service delivery. This was recognised as a challenge for all partnerships but was a priority for the MSCP to listen to concerns and use that to inform training, priorities and focus areas.
The Committee noted the report and requested a briefing note providing information and the definition and measures of child poverty.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Johnson and Chrissy Stamp requested that their votes in favour be recorded.