The report was presented by the Corporate Director and gave an overview on:
· Children Looked After (CLA) that were consistently in the region of 300 in Thurrock;
· Increased demand in the number of referrals; and
· The reduction in the number of children on child protection plans and was in line with comparator groups.
An outline was also given on Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) which had increased to 44 due to the breakup of a camp in Calais in the previous year. However, these UASC would eventually be moved around the eastern region based on agreement terms. This was the service’s biggest challenge due to the significant cost to Thurrock in holding UASC.
On UASC, Councillor Redsell commented that some were not children and asked what processes were in place to reunite them back home with their families. In reply, the Corporate Director said UASC that were found to be not children would usually end up staying. The service would work with the Home Officer on these cases and ensure these people would go into employment, education or training as long as they headed down a positive route. Councillor Redsell went on to ask if the UASC were reunited with their parents. Explaining that there was no contact information, the Corporate Director went on to say that relatives could appear to claim the child. In these circumstances, the appropriate checks would be carried out to verify the identity of the person claiming the child. This was done to prevent trafficking.
Referring to paragraph 3.11 on page 106, Councillor Anderson pointed out that the figures showed incidences of missing children but there was no context on the length of time a child was missing for. Stating that some missing incidences were short, the Corporate Director said carers were advised to report all incidences. The Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Co-ordinator would analyse the patterns and scrutinise these cases in multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings. The Corporate Director said a report on CSE and action plans on missing children would be brought to the Committee on 12 February 2019 which would give more details.
The Chair referred to page 108, paragraph 4.1 and queried the position of the action plan following on from the Ofsted inspection. Explaining that the action plan looked at quality assurances, the Corporate Director said each manager audited cases every 6 months in terms of purposefulness and cons. There were also practice workshops in place and ongoing training was provided. The service was commissioning work on advocacy and children in care but they would need to work with families as some parents may feel threatened since they were the natural advocates for their children.
Continuing on, the Corporate Director referred to workload pressures and said there had been more incoming work in the system and the service had just created an Edge of Care team that looked to reduce the number of children coming into care. There was also the SWS and if effective, there was expectation that there workload would be reduced as there would be referral pathways in place. There were also additional staff to oversee and manage casework in safeguarding children in need and care. A number of other proposals had also been put forward.
Regarding CLA, Councillor Redsell asked if a child’s opinion was considered if they wanted to go back to their parents. In response, the Corporate Director said the Chair of the review would seek the child’s view and if it was safe for the child to return, then it would be considered.
Referring to whistleblowing allegations, the Chair sought confirmation of a report on the learning outcomes and action plans to follow on. The Corporate Director confirmed a report would be brought to the Committee on 12 February 2019.
1.1 That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee commented on the areas of improvement in Children’s Social Care and work undertaken to manage demand for statutory social care services.