The report was presented by Sheila Murphy and outlined the performance in Children’s Social Care which has been good and continued in areas such as assessments despite an increase in demand.
Regarding an article that was released in a local newspaper today, Sheila Murphy gave assurance to Members that Thurrock did not have 700 CLA and have never had 700 CLA before, there were around 290 CLA in Thurrock. Referring to paragraph 3.4 of the report, she explained that this referred to the number of incidences that CLA went missing and not the number of individual children. The number of missing incidences was 670 for 2018/19 and would often be the same children that had repeat missing incidences and each missing incident was recorded which added to the number of missing incidences. She understood the article had changed the headline from number of missing children to missing incidences which for number of incidences was correct.
Sheila Murphy went on to say that the graph showed the number of missing incidences had been decreasing throughout the year and the service had been working hard on this by looking into why CLA went missing. CLA usually went missing for an hour or an hour and a half, not days but carers were required to follow the Council’s procedures if CLA went missing e.g. if a child was not home by an agreed time and 10 minutes after this time, the carer was expected to report them as missing and to continue to update until the child was found or returned home. Once a child returned home, a return home interview would be held with the child through a commissioned service.
Continuing on, Sheila Murphy said the service received reports and updates everyday on the number of children that was missing and the number of children that had been found or returned home. The statistics of Thurrock’s missing children for that day (2 July 2019) was none missing. The average national missing incidences rate was 6.1 and Thurrock was at 6.6 which was slightly higher than the average national but even where CLA had only been missing for half an hour, the service still wished to know where their CLA had been. Carers were also reminded to be aware of a child’s surroundings and appearance when they returned home e.g. if they might have obtained new clothing or items, if they looked tired or unkempt etc.
The Chair was pleased to hear that carers were trained, particularly in areas such as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). She questioned if carers had previously informed the service of concerns of CLA. In answer, Daniel Jones said the importance of missing procedures were highlighted to carers who were expected to follow these. Carers should also be feeding back to the emergency team and raise concerns to the CLA’s social worker as well.
Councillor Akinbohun asked if there had been incidences where a child had not been found or did not return home. Sheila Murphy replied that there had been no such incidences and CLAs were usually missing for short periods of time. Following up, the Chair asked if any Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) had gone missing before and not been found. Sheila Murphy answered that in the past, this had been the case on a few occasions where all efforts to find the missing UASC had been exhausted but was still not found. Currently, there were no missing CLA UASC and any that had come into Thurrock had been moved to the eastern regions following the protocol that the service had in place.
1.1 That members commented on the areas of improvement in Children’s Social Care and work undertaken to manage demand for statutory social care services.