The Local Safeguarding Children Board’s Independent Chair (LSCBIC), David Archibald, gave an overview of the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board’s (LSCB) Annual Report 2016 – 17. The Annual Report was a statutory requirement to be provided to the Local Authority which outlined the effectiveness of safeguarding in the local area.
There had been a good level of engagement from key agencies across the Borough to ensure good safeguarding arrangements. With the new act due to be implemented, Thurrock LSCB would be working with a new strategic group to build the new safeguarding framework which would be built upon the current one. Government was drafting a guidance which would become formal by May 2018 following which proposals for the new arrangements for Thurrock would be drafted. Thurrock LSCB was continuing to build upon its previous strengths to ensure safeguarding continued to work well.
Referring to the last Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, the Chair sought clarification on the removal of some agencies that Thurrock LSCB had been working with but that Thurrock LSCB would still be working with some of these. The LSCBIC answered that LSCB discussions in Thurrock had emphasised the need to create new arrangements which met government guidance, but retained the involvement and contribution of the current range of partners.
Querying on children’s mental health, Councillor Redsell noted that there was not much mentioned within the report. She asked what work and safeguarding would be undertaken for children with mental health issues. The LSCBIC stated this was an important subject and work was being done in that area. Little was mentioned within the report as the focus was on safeguarding.
Councillor Collins thanked the LSCBIC for the comprehensive report. Referring to page 29 of the report in regards to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), he asked how far down the road were the LSCB on combating this issue. The LSCBIC replied that there had been a national debate on this and that it was a priority within Thurrock. A meeting had taken place last month with the police which had recognised the importance of FGM. There had been a strong openness with a view to prosecute where necessary.
Referring to page 40 of the report, Councillor Collins asked how many children had gone missing and whether this was from home or from care. The LSCBIC stated this was a combination of both from home and from care. He had been impressed by the mechanisms of Thurrock Council to monitor missing children and the call for police to take action where necessary. He referred to a recent case in London where a good working relationship had been established between the police and the Local Authority to find a missing child. The Assistant Director for Children’s Care and Targeted Outcomes (ADCCTO), Sheila Murphy, stated that some of the children that went missing were the same ones who went missing frequently and comparatively, Thurrock was below the comparator group on missing children.
The CER queried what the greatest challenge the Thurrock LSCB faced and how this would be addressed effectively. The LSCBIC said it was the balance of resources and demand. Demands tended to rise when children were identified in cases of FGM, child sexual exploitation and missing children and further tightened resources. There had been a lot of publicity in the last few weeks about the struggles many councils had in regards to funding for children’s services. From the Ofsted report from two years ago, there had been two action points identified which the LSCB was making good progress on. One included how to measure the effectiveness of children’s safeguarding training which was being done through feedback from people who had undergone the training. The second action point was how the LSCB extracted and distilled information from case audits to feedback to practitioners to enable them to improve their performance.
Referring to page 56 of the report, the Vice-Chair voiced his concern on children searching methods of suicide at Palmer’s College. He questioned if this statistic was only within Palmer’s College and if there were statistics on this in other schools. The LSCBIC answered that part of the report had been provided by Palmer’s College so was unable to answer regarding other schools. He stated that suicide was a serious issue and would be addressed. The Vice-Chair went on to say he would like to see more information on this issue and how it was monitored by schools.
In regards to looked after children, Councillor Spillman asked why a proportion of them were placed outside the Borough. The ADCCTO said some had been placed outside for welfare reasons such as keeping them away from dangerous people or other influences. Some were due to placement choice and on availability. Councillor Spillman went on to ask for reassurance that children were not being placed outside the Borough as it was cheaper. The ADCCTO answered that it was due to placement availability and that Thurrock would contact the Local Authority that the child was to be placed in beforehand. Out of Borough placed children were still visited by a Thurrock social worker in addition to the Local Authority. Thurrock would also speak with the Local Authority to ensure the child was looked after.
1.1 That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the report and progress made on children’s safeguarding.
1.2 That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee provided comments on the report.