Agenda and draft minutes

HEHP Committee - this meeting is the postponed meeting from 21 October 2021, Hidden and Extreme Harms Prevention Committee - Tuesday, 2nd November, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Training Room, The Beehive Community Resource Centre, West Street, Grays, RM17 6XP

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Note: This meeting is the postponed meeting from 21 October 2021 

Items
No. Item

1.

Items of Urgent Business

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no interests declared.

3.

Essex Police: Verbal Update

Minutes:

The Committee were informed that due to the rescheduling of the meeting, Essex Police were unable to attend and present their verbal update. The Chair stated that they would be invited to the next meeting to present an update.

4.

Thurrock Council's Response to Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking

Minutes:

The Principal Social Worker and Strategic Lead Safeguarding and Adult Social Care introduced the report and stated that it provided a high-level strategic view of the Council’s position on modern day slavery (MDS) and human trafficking. She stated that under the 2015 Modern Day Slavery Act both MDS and human trafficking had been consolidated to ensure increased support and protection for victims. She explained that MDS was the illegal exploitation of people for reasons of sex, forced labour, and in some extreme cases organ harvesting. She added that MDS could happen to people of any age, gender or race, and included human trafficking, which was the coercive movement of people using threats and violence. The Principal Social Worker and Strategic Lead Safeguarding and Adult Social Care explained that Thurrock had an MDS strategy and action plan in place, and helped train people on how to spot MDS and how to respond. She added that Thurrock were also part of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which helped identify victims of MDS and human trafficking, and offer them the appropriate support. She highlighted that in 2020/21 no adults had been referred through the NRM to Thurrock. The Youth Offending Operations Manager stated that four children had been referred through the NRM scheme, but these were due to criminal exploitation rather than MDS or human trafficking. She stated that Thurrock was best placed to understand how MDS and human trafficking could affect people, for example Thurrock had coped with the incident in October 2019 when 39 people had been found dead in a lorry in Purfleet, and had helped bring about criminal convictions for human trafficking for the perpetrators.  She added that following the tragic death of those 39 people, Thurrock had become part of Operation Melrose and Operation Bluebird, which were multiagency operations including the Council, police and Port Watch. She highlighted point 2.5 of the report which outlined the improvements that had been borne from these operations.

The Principal Social Worker and Strategic Lead Safeguarding and Adult Social Care then moved on and highlighted point 2.8 of the report, which outlined Thurrock’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. She outlined appendix 4 of the report which showed Thurrock’s Council’s new MDS Statement, and whilst not compulsory, was in line with government best practice. She stated that point 3.1 of the report highlighted the Local Government Association (LGA) guidance for Councillors dealing with MDS, including how to improve understanding and supporting victims. She stated that this was broken down into sections such as: identification; support; and disruption. She summarised and stated that the next steps for the team were carrying out an audit into Council staff understanding of MDS and trialling a newsletter for partners highlighting MDS.

Councillor Anderson highlighted point 2.5 on page 133 of the agenda, where the report highlighted that increased partnership working had been achieved through partner meetings. He queried how these meetings had increased communication. The Principal Social Worker and Strategic Lead Safeguarding and Adult  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Thurrock Council's Response to Criminal Gang Activity

Minutes:

The Youth Offending Operations Manager introduced the report and stated that it provided an overview of Thurrock’s response to criminal gang activity in the borough. He stated that in this context gang meant people that saw themselves as a defined group; laid claim over specific territory, either geographically or relating to specific drugs; and were in conflict with another gang. He stated that recently, county lines operations had been receiving increased national press, and explained that this was a business model used by gangs to deal drugs, that exploited children and trafficked them to sell drugs in a certain area. He stated that most of the children that had been referred through the NRM process, had been referred due to their participation in county lines drug activity or were being exploited locally. He explained that criminal gang activity also included knife crime and serious youth violence. He explained that in 2019, the Home Office had identified and provided funding for the 18 worst affected knife crime areas, which included Essex. He added that this funding had been used to set up the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit (EVVU), whose three aims had been to: reduce hospital admissions for knife wounds for those aged under 25; reduce knife violence for those aged under 25; and reduce homicides from knives for those aged under 25. The Youth Offending Operations Manager explained that the EVVU had begun this work by trying to identify criminal gangs, and had worked in partnership with local communities and local authorities. He explained that this process had identified young people at risk from exploitation by gangs, and had helped them to leave.

The Youth Offending Operations Manager moved on and stated that Thurrock Council had written a report in 2020 on serious youth violence, which was based on a public health approach to gangs that had been used successfully to reduce knife crime in cities such as Glasgow. He stated that it used a similar long-term model as used for tackling COVID, based on surveillance; primary prevention; secondary prevention; and tertiary prevention. He moved on and explained that the EVVU had set up the Violence and Vulnerability Board (VVB), which was chaired by the Essex Fire and Crime Commissioner and had received funding for Thurrock to be able to spend locally. He stated that the VVB were focussed on safeguarding children, as well as vulnerable adults, for example by protecting them from cuckooing, which was a process whereby a drug dealer would set up shop in the house of a vulnerable adult and traffic children to that house for drug activity. He stated that the majority of children used in county lines and cuckooing were involved in the distribution of class-A drugs such as crack and heroin, and the VVB had worked with Essex Police to identify local hotspots and undertake a criminal justice approach. He commented that the team had also used in-depth data to triangulate those children most at risk from exploitation by gangs, such as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Thurrock Council's Response to Prevent Duty 2015

Minutes:

The Community Safety Partnership Manager introduced the report and stated that the Council’s Prevent duty was outlined in the 2015 Counterterrorism Act, and Members would be asked to scrutinise Thurrock’s response to Prevent and help to improve services. She stated that the national current threat level was classed as substantial, which meant that a terrorist attack was likely. She explained that the threat level had remained the same after the tragic death of Sir David Amess MP, as although it was being treated as a terrorist incident, there was no specific threat to the wider UK. She stated that the LGA self-assessment was included at appendix two of the report, and helped local authorities mitigate threats. She explained that Thurrock also had its own Channel Panel that assisted people who were vulnerable to terrorism, and appendix 3 of the report contained Thurrock’s annual self-assessment. She stated that counterterrorism had been a priority of the Community Safety Partnership in 2021, and would likely continue to be a priority in 2022, alongside the local Prevent Strategy which had been developed and consulted on with the Prevent Working Group.

The Community Safety Partnership Manager explained that the Prevent self-assessment worked using a Red, Amber, and Green rating system and had found seven green criteria and three amber criteria. She explained that one of the amber criteria related to the Prevent training programme, which had moved online since the onset of COVID. She explained that although the team had received positive feedback on the training, there was currently no needs assessment in place which would ensure the training was reaching the right people and being undertaken correctly. She added that now the training was online there was no system to be able to monitor who completed it. The Community Safety Partnership Manager added that the Home Office were currently renewing the training offer, but all Thurrock schools had somebody trained and accredited in Prevent, in line with the Section 157 safeguarding assessment. She explained that the next amber criteria related to venue hire. She commented that a policy regarding Prevent and venue hire and been adopted by Thurrock Council and sent to schools, and a policy regarding venue hire and community buildings was currently being drafted. The Community Safety Partnership Manager stated that the final amber criteria related to community engagement with Prevent, as she felt this area could always be improved upon.

The Community Safety Partnership Manager added that Thurrock was a non-funded Prevent Council, but the national Prevent scheme had now begun to provide local Prevent advisors, who would develop communications with stakeholders and would help include Prevent in the Local Plan. She summarised and stated that the Channel Panel assessment was also being updated to include new processes and ensure all vulnerable people were appropriately supported.

Councillor Anderson stated that the murderer of Sir David Amess MP had been reported to Prevent and had worked with the Channel Panel. He asked what was being done to ensure people continued to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers: Introductory Report

Minutes:

The Strategic Lead Looked After Children and Aftercare introduced the report and stated that Thurrock Council had a responsibility to UASC as part of the Looked After Children and care-leavers service. She explained that each local authority in the UK was allocated to take UASC equal to 0.07% of their total population by the government, which equated to 31 children in Thurrock. She highlighted that the actual number of children accepted into Thurrock could fluctuate above and below this number depending on a variety of factors. She stated that UASC travelled from their home countries, such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, without a responsible adult and were under the age of 18 applying for asylum. She stated that sometimes children travelled on their own, or with a sibling, and were often trafficked. She stated that the team had to assess whether a UASC had been trafficked or were refugees.

The Strategic Lead Looked After Children and Aftercare commented that there were numerous points of entry for UASC in Thurrock, although the preferred point of entry was in Dover. She stated that this meant Council’s in Kent took a disproportionately large number of UASCs, and had led to the government introducing the National Transfer Scheme, that meant UASC could be allocated to a different part of the country to their point of entry, and ensured all Councils were meeting their allocation target. She stated that accepting an UASC was not a statutory duty for a local authority, and required cooperation between different local authorities.

The Strategic Lead Looked After Children and Aftercare explained that when a child entered the UK they were required to provide their age. She stated that this could often be difficult as some children did not know their date of birth, or would lie to make themselves younger than their actual age. She stated that if there was debate surrounding their age, or they looked over 25, then an age assessment would be undertaken by an accredited person following Home Officer guidance. She stated that younger UASC were often trafficked for MDS, and Thurrock worked closely with the police to ensure best practice was being followed and all safeguarding criterion were met. She stated that Thurrock’s social work team would work quickly to build trust and rapport with a trafficked child who could be vulnerable to further trafficking issues.

Councillor Anderson questioned the current process regarding age assessments, and if this was due to be updated in the future. The Strategic Lead Looked After Children and Aftercare responded that all UASC would be treated as children unless clearly over 18. She explained that immigration workers would have a conversation with the UASC, for example would ask questions about their schooling or work history to determine their age. She stated that if a UASC was determined to be older than 18 then they would not be accommodated and would work with immigration officials. Councillor Anderson questioned if there would be future reform, for example the use of dental  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Work Programme

Minutes:

The Committee agreed that the following items be added to the Work Programme:

1. The deferred discussion regarding UASC
2. Hate crime and social media
3. Violence against men and boys