The purpose of this report is to present the first Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP) Annual Report 2019-20 to the Health and Wellbeing Board. 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.
This report was initially considered by the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 1 December 2020.
The Board raised several comments and questions, which included:
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on delivery – the Director of People assured the Board that the Partnership continued to work together to ensure key priorities were met throughout the duration of the pandemic. He gave an example of the Partnership’s work to ensure health visiting and school nursing staff returned to their main function as soon as possible following redeployment early during the pandemic response, reacting to national data which indicated there had been an increase in child deaths under one. The Partnership was conscious of emerging issues including domestic abuse and mental health and wellbeing.
Communication during the pandemic – The Director of People assured the Board that in moving from the arrangements under the Medway Safeguarding Children Board to the Partnership, communications had strengthened due to the establishment of the smaller executive. Recently, senior education leaders (two headteachers) had also joined the executive. Their voice was considered important, particularly in light of the pandemic. Bilateral meetings with health and police colleagues also continued, as did larger engagement events which had high representation of senior staff from several organisations including MCH, KMPT and designated safeguarding leads in schools.
Importance of the child’s voice – it was said that the voice of the child was important. Asked to what extent the Partnership was confident that children and young people knew how to access support, the Director of People acknowledged that this had been identified as an area of weakness. He explained that there was a broad awareness campaign, and he drew the Board’s attention to section 4 of the Annual Report (Appendix 1 to the report) which referenced a recent survey with young people and parents to understand their safety concerns. A key finding was that schools were a place of safety. One way children and young people were made aware of how to seek help was through personal, social, health and economic (PHSE) education. It was noted that, commonly, safeguarding referrals were received from schools and the police rather than children and young people themselves.
Learning lessons – asked how the Partnership anticipated possible future safeguarding concerns, the Director of People explained that the Partnership undertook horizon scanning. There was a national panel which examined Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) and the lessons learnt were shared and reviewed by the Partnership. Learning was also taken from any SCRs affecting Medway.
Child poverty – in response to questions concerning how child poverty was measured, it was explained that there was a national index, IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index). It was anticipated that around 1 in 5 children in Medway were living within the defined level of relative poverty. The Director of Public Health referred to the Annual Public Health Report (agenda item 10) which set out further information on the levels of child poverty within Medway.
Missing children – in response to a question concerning missing children, the Board was advised that there were roughly 200 occurrences a month of children going missing (this figure included children who may have gone missing more than once and the period they were missing could vary). The Assistant Director Children’s Social Care received daily data on the number of missing children within a 24-hour period. Assurance was given to the Board that, in collaboration with the Police, every effort was made to find these children. For each occurrence a return interview was undertaken with each child to identify the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors.
Annual Education Safeguarding Audit – the improvement in the number of schools completing the audit was welcomed and in response, the Director of People explained that strong partnership working with schools was emerging. He added that 16 new mental health practitioners would soon be working with Medway’s secondary schools though the mental health support teams, increasing the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) workforce by 40%. He also said that Kent Police were soon to appoint designated police officers to work within schools. Together with the Council’s Early Help offer, there was a multi-agency approach to prevention.
The Health and Wellbeing Board:
a) noted the comments of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee set out at section 4 of the report,
b) noted the Annual Report set out at Appendix One to the report and the Business Plan set out at Appendix Two to the report, and
c) agreed to remove the MSCP Action Plan (which is the Business Plan) from the Board’s agenda on 13 April 2021 as set out in paragraph 3.3 of the report.