To consider the report of the Service Manager
Children's Services and the Strategic Education Improvement
Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager, Children’s Services and the Strategic Education Improvement Manager, which was presented to provide Members with safeguarding performance information from the Council with a focus on analysis from Children’s Social Services and Education from 1st April to the 30th June, 2019.
The Service Manager, Children’s Services spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.
Impact on Budget
With reference to court applications and legal costs, the Service Manager said that the number of court applications was stable and the Safeguarding Team were now working at full capacity and both had a positive impact on the budget, although it was sometimes necessary to commission an external consultant for Court appearances. The Director of Social Services commented that market testing had been undertaken and work was ongoing to see if other local authorities could provide Blaenau Gwent with this service.
A Member requested that for future reporting graphs be located near to the relevant text for clarification. The Service Manager said that the format of the report would be looked at for clarification purposes.
A Member enquired if the police were the highest source of referrals. The Service Manager said that the Detective Sergeant (DS) role in the Information Advice and Assistance service (IAA) was making positive contributions to the safeguarding process. Referrals from police had not reduced but the quality of information received had improved which resulted in better decision making through preventative services such as the Early Action Together programme. The Member also enquired regarding Leisure Trust referrals. The Service Manager confirmed that all staff were trained in level 1 safeguarding to recognise signs of abuse and some referrals from police may have originated from Leisure Trust staff. The Head of Education Transformation commented that the Leisure Trust had lead officers for safeguarding but referrals may be low as most leisure provision was open access and assured Members that arrangements were secure.
Categories of abuse
In response to a Member’s question regarding the main category of abuse, the Service Manager said that the main category was neglect, this was the highest form due to reasons such as parenting, home or being exposed to vulnerabilities re poverty lack of finances. The second highest was emotional abuse, mental health abuse would present as emotional abuse so the secondary category would go hand in hand. Although challenging preventative measures were used through partnership working, education and informing parents of the impact of emotional abuse on the child.
A Member pointed out an error on page 37, Fig 2.4 Breakdown of children on child protection register, the information relating to Unknown should read Male.
Councillors Martin Cook and Wayne Hodgins left the meeting at this juncture.
The Safeguarding in Education Manager presented the Education information.
A Member enquired regarding the high number of restrictive physical interventions during the Autumn term. The Head of Education Transformation explained the Autumn term generally was the longest term; however, the trend was consistent with previous reporting information. The Directorate was looking at trends and would provide commentary to support the data presented within future reports.
A Member commented that Members needed to be confident that physical intervention incidents were being reduced and that it was important that performance data be submitted in a timely manner for Members consideration of up to date information.
The Safeguarding in Education Manager assured Members that they could be confident that the performance data was correct and that work was being undertaken to try to reduce restrictive physical interventions.
In relation to Elected Home Educated (EHE) pupils, the Head of Education Transformation said that lengthy Scrutiny discussions had taken place and the Council was working in line with Welsh Government requirements.
With reference to Operation Encompass a Member enquired if referrals passed onto schools was actioned. The Safeguarding in Education Manager said that Operation Encompass allowed schools to be aware that an incident had occurred and respond appropriately to that pupil’s situation. Feedback from teachers had been positive, they found the information helpful in raising their awareness and understanding of pupils circumstances.
In response to a Member’s question regarding trends for September 2018 to September 2019 for Elected Home Educated pupils (EHE), the Head of Education Transformation said that the Education Service would be aware of the reasons parents choose to home educate with many parents deciding on this approach at the start of the academic year. Six secondary age pupils had become EHE in April to July 2019, the Education Welfare Service would have reviewed the reasons why the pupils had been removed.
A Member enquired how many pupils were EHE as at December 2019. The Head of Education Transformation said that as the figure changed regularly he would forward this information onto Members directly.
A Member commented that home visits for EHE pupils were currently once a year and enquired what progress the Directorate had been made regarding this issue. The Director of Social Services said that current Welsh Government regulations stated once a year home visits. A letter had been sent to the Welsh Government with a view to strengthen safeguarding in EHE pupils from all the regional Directors of Education and Directors of Social Services and there was a consultation on a new proposal, he hoped that the number of home visits would change in future and he would take Members views forward. It was noted that Social Workers would undertake visits if there were safeguarding concerns.
The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the approach and information detailed in the report be accepted.