Agenda item

Children's Safeguarding Partnership Annual Report


The report set out the work of the Safeguarding Adults Board and the Children’s Safeguarding Partnership for the year 2022/23. It provided an overview of how the partnership had strived to continuously improve safeguarding practices and how they had worked across the multi-agency network to keep children and adults safe.


The vision of the partnership was that every child and young people is safe; that they feel safe; that they enjoy good physical, emotional and mental health; that they can take pride in their unique identities; and that they can feel that they belong and have opportunities to thrive.


The Safeguarding Partnership was made up of the three statutory partners: the police; the Local Authority; and the Integrated Care Board. They each had an equal responsibility for safeguarding within the Borough and made up the Executive Leadership Group. The Children’s Safeguarding Partnership and the Safeguarding Adults Board reported to the same Executive Leadership Group.


On an annual basis, the Executive Leadership Group commissioned independent scrutiny where an external expert provided an independent review around the work being done. On the work on contextual safeguarding – risks that young people face in the community – no areas of poor practise in service provision for adolescents at risk of harm were found. Strong leadership was identified from the leadership group.


One of the areas of focus in the past year was ensuring that the voice of the child and the voice of the adult was effectively sought.


The partnership had its very first children’s annual report. This was the culmination of a several months-long piece of work that included a co-produced quality assurance that sought to understand the experience of children and adults who received a safeguarding service in Hillingdon.


On the children’s report, children were asked questions such as: ‘how do you feel?’; ‘do you feel listened to?’; ‘what is going well?’; ‘what can we do to make things better?’; ‘what worries you or makes you feel unsafe?’; and ‘what can we do to change it?’. Children reported that they could tell when professionals were going above and beyond. Children also commented on the impact of awareness raising work such as Child Exploitation Awareness Day. Children identified that all childcare professionals should have mandatory training to understand what it is like to be a young person. Walking in Our Shoes training was noted. Meaningful engagement and early intervention were important. Children would like to see more life skills in schools and wanted improved youth provision. Peer mentors was suggested as a possibility.


Each Board had a variety of priority areas of focus. The multi-agency sub-group used a simple framework of prevention, identification and response. Over the past year, the partnership had progressed work within the safeguarding sub-group, including the launch of the contextual safeguarding strategy and the education inclusion toolkit, which was designed to support education professionals to recognise where a child's behaviour might be indicative of an unmet need and to then be able to access support for that need.


The partnership was seeking to reduce the risk of school exclusion which then reduced the risk of a child experiencing actual familial harm. Within the child sexual abuse sub-group, the partnership had developed a successful partnership with the National Centre for Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse. The domestic abuse sub-group had concluded as a formal sub-group.


A ‘learning from practise’ framework had been implemented in both children’s and adult’s safeguarding. The partnership wanted adult practitioners to be thinking about child welfare, and wanted child focused practitioners to be thinking about adults with care and support needs.


Across the year, the partnership had undertaken three learning reviews. The serious youth violence learning review culminated in two well-attended safeguarding events and the launch of the contextual safeguarding strategy. The partnership also implemented a wide-ranging multi-agency quality assurance framework where partners sit down together and look at an area and may adopt a qualitative or quantitative review. In the past year, the partnership undertook the Section 11 safeguarding audit which provided assurance around safeguarding arrangements with partner agencies. There had been good take up particularly from GP practices. An area of recommendation included raising awareness of the role of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and the voice of the child.


There were findings in the education safeguarding audit – this was difficult for schools to complete, and there was a lot of discrepancy in the responses which may have been down to the tool not being as good as it could be. Officers were working with schools on this.


The partnership had undertaken audits in respect of Stronger Families and looking at MASH; looking at the quality of decision making and consistency. An area for development here was around ensuring the involvement of fathers and of male caregivers within the family.


Within the strategy discussion review, consistent decision making was highlighted, but there was some variation in recording practices.


The partnership wanted to operate from a strengths perspective as well as identifying opportunities for development.


All of the audits and learning from practise fed into the training programme. The partnership had had a successful year in terms of training. There had been a 43% increase in the number of sessions of continuous professional development. Training took a scaffolded approach including practice briefings; newsletters; webinars; learning events; or half day or full day training. Feedback on training was very good.


In terms of highlights from partners, Children and Young People’s Services had taken in education and SEND within the integrated care partnership. There had been lots of work on annual health checks for people with learning disabilities starting at the age of 14. CNWL had celebrated the year of the child in the last year. Hillingdon Hospital had been working with a focus on how to support 16- and 17-year-olds who may be having their clinical needs met within an adult ward and how staff were being supported to understand that they were still children. Harlington Hospice Children's Bereavement Service had been working to develop the response to childhood bereavement for children who are neurodiverse and they had developed a practice approach that had won an award nationally.


Priorities moving forward were around child sexual abuse in all forms; around contextual safeguarding; education safeguarding (there was a dedicated sub-group in respect of education); and around stronger families and early help.


The Chairman noted that they were pleased see that the children and young people had produced their own annual report, and the easy read version was also helpful.


The Chairman asked about the independent scrutiny and whether this was unique to Hillingdon. Officers noted that this was a requirement and was undertaken by every safeguarding partnership. It was noted that what may be unique to Hillingdon was that the scrutineer considered safeguarding adult’s arrangements in addition to children’s.


The Chairman also asked about safeguarding priorities. The report noted that there had been some challenges in securing the engagement of education representatives. The Chairman asked for a further explanation of this. Officers noted that it was very difficult for one headteacher to be able to speak for other schools and for this reason, officers had implemented the education safeguarding sub-group. There was a focus on how to engage with partners in education and there was representation from early years, primary, secondary, further education and special schools within that group.


Members referenced children wanting more life skills and asked about the areas that this would involve. Offices advised that this included how to manage money; how to travel; and other practical life skills. This applied especially to Looked After Children, who may live in residential provision.


Members noted the two rapid reviews and asked how this compared to previous years. Officers noted that these reviews included significant work done across the partnership, not just the Local Authority or just the police or just health, it was everyone working together. It also included the findings of independent scrutiny. It was noted that in a report such as this, it was not just about how many referrals or how many child protection plans there were. It was about everything that had happened across the partnership including hospitals/ policy/ ICB/ CNWL. As part of the Child Safeguarding Board, officers did monitor the performance of the partners. This was also reported to the Executive Leadership Group. On the rapid reviews, one of the strengths of the learning from practice approach was that there was learning from where there was a statutory need to do so, but also where the criteria were not met for a rapid review, there could still be learning opportunities. It was a smaller number of rapid reviews that the previous year, but this was not to say that there was not the same level of scrutiny. A rapid review was undertaken when a child had suffered serious harm due to abuse or neglect. This was a different threshold from significant harm.


Members noted that the report, under Corporate Finance comments, stated ‘none at this stage’, and asked whether there was an issue of funding of the service. Officers noted that the funding of the partnership was currently being provided by the all the safeguarding partners via various contributions. There was an annual contribution from police, from health colleagues and from the Council as well. It was noted that the working together framework was currently being consulted nationally, and a new version would be coming out soon. Part of the consultation included a demand to the DfE about including a funding strategy/ model. Contribution models across the country currently varied. It was noted that one Local Authority equalled one safeguarding partnership, whereas, for example, the Met Police may cover three Boroughs and the ICBs may cover seven/ eight/ nine Boroughs.


Members noted that education safeguarding had become a national issue and asked what was being done to ensure that no young people were slipping through the net. Officers noted that the work around children missing education was led by the Local Authority but there was a partnership element. When a child was missing from education there were various checks that the Local Authority completed in conjunction with the school and then there were also checks that were undertaken with other partner agencies such as Border Force. By reducing the risk of a child being suspended or permanently excluded, the likelihood of them being able to engage in education was increased. It was noted that there was a distinction between children missing education and children who were missing. It was further noted that children who were excluded were not necessarily missing education, they may be receiving education in a different way. A review was currently being finalised on alternative provision within the Borough. This was looking at alternative provision not being an end destination, but a different step in the child returning to mainstream school. The children missing education numbers had decreased substantially.


Members referenced the numbers of suicides and near suicides stated within the report and asked how many of these were young people, and what was being done to support mental health/ disseminate information/ support families. Officers noted that the numbers were referring to adults. Within London there was the Thrive suspected suicide surveillance system which allowed identification where it was believed that there had been a death related to suicide. Contact would be made by specialists with those who were bereaved. In relation to adults, there was a learning from suspected suicide panel which considered the circumstances of the deceased person to identify areas of learning and to act on them. In relation to young people, it was necessary to be sensitive around using the word suicide, particularly pending the outcome of a coroner’s report. On raising awareness, World Suicide Prevention Day was widely promoted, which included sharing resources and free-to-access training modules. Officers were working with colleagues in stronger communities who were leading work around International Men’s Day and the theme for this was working towards zero male suicides, so the gendered aspect was considered. There was training for professionals to deliver suicides awareness training in conjunction with Rethink. This was also in conjunction with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and mental health services. Members noted that it was important to apply a robust critical friend challenge to partners.


Members noted recent documented grooming cases whereby there were elements of lifestyle choices, cultural sensitivity and child protection. Members asked how lessons from this had been applied in practise. Officers noted that across the partnership there was a child-focused approach to safeguarding. The onus was on professionals to recognise that a child who may be being exploited was a child first and foremost. There was a very clear message to challenge this wherever necessary. Officers talked a lot about language and were talking about ‘children’ rather than ‘youths’ or ‘young males’ or ‘young females’. The Local Authority’s AXIS service routinely collated hard and soft intelligence around exploitation such as criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation and serious youth violence, and undertook a routine mapping exercise. The partnership was also monitoring to identify any early indicators. Officers had reviewed and re-implemented the escalation policy to ensure the right escalations were in place if necessary. The majority of escalations were resolved at stage one or two without needing to go all the way to the Chair of the Board. There was also a robust system of peer challenge. Reviews and guidance looked at learning on a national level, not just in Hillingdon. It was noted that this was not specific to one group of professionals or one agency. This was across all partners. Members were encouraged to look at the safeguarding partnership website as all resources were available there. 


Members asked if there were any recent quality assurance findings or recommendations that were receiving attention currently. Offices noted that when an audit or review was conducted, recommendations were all monitored and an action plan would be developed and followed up. Monitoring was done through the Board and through the Executive Leadership Group. There was nothing that needed more attention that it was being given.


Members asked how the young peoples’ idea of peer mentors was being taken forward, and also asked who appointed the independent scrutineer. Officers noted that work on the peer mentors was ongoing. There was an event with children and young people at the end of October. There was not a solid time frame yet. The independent scrutineer was appointed by the Executive Leadership Group which was made up of the Local Authority Chief Executive, the Met Police Borough Commander and the Chief Nurse from the Integrated Care Partnership.


Members noted that the best way to look at safeguarding was that ‘it could happen here’. Members asked if there were any weaknesses in safeguarding practices that could be improved upon. Officers noted there were some areas that could be described as perennial challenges, and these were challenges nationally. Things such as information sharing and information seeking; the need for professional curiosity all of the time; respectful uncertainty, which had been described by a young person as listening with your eyes as well as your ears. To mitigate this, officers revisited these areas within newsletters, practise briefings and sub-groups. These areas were often reflected in the partnership’s priorities. The sub-groups were often chaired by various people across the partnership.


Members asked for clarity of whether domestic violences cases were increasing or decreasing. Officers clarified that the number of adult safeguarding inquiries undertaken due to domestic violence was what was decreasing.


Members asked how many safeguarding champions there were currently. Members also asked whether there were any specific areas within the Borough where there was more of an intake of safeguarding concern. Officers would update Members on the number of safeguarding champions outside of the meeting. In terms of areas within the Borough, officers noted that they did map the data and were aware of where the demand was; what the resources were; and where more focus was needed. Officers were working on a strategy that could ‘lift and shift’ to other areas. Overall, performance monitoring was reviewing the areas and issues and type of demand.


Members asked if there had been any challenges in engaging with schools or other stakeholders; what the challenges were; and how they could be overcome. Officers noted that there was a complex network of professional agencies all with different priorities at different times. Therefore, it was inevitable that at times these would not marry up. Where this occurred there would be some negotiation to identify ways to get things done. Where this was not possible, it may be discussed at Board level or via the Executive Leadership Group. Most of the time, partners did engage, and whether they could not, they would explain why.


Members noted the aim for a local Child Sexual Abuse Hub and asked whether a suitable location had been identified. Officers noted that work on this was being led by the Integrated Care Board rather than the Safeguarding Partnership, but it was thought that a location had not yet been identified.


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


1.    Is reassured that the partnership continues to provide leadership and scrutiny of the safeguarding arrangements for Hillingdon residents;


2.    Is updated regarding the way in which the partnership has responded to the challenges posed by changing local, national and international contexts; and


3.    Is informed of the strategic priorities for safeguarding for 2022-23

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