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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16th November, 2011

 

Report of the Leader

 

Review of safeguarding policies and procedures in response to issues arising in Pembrokeshire

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Cabinet of the Leader's response to the Welsh Government, following his review of the Council's safeguarding policies and procedures in response to issues arising in Pembrokeshire.

Recommendations

1.             That the Cabinet notes the Leader's response.

2.             That the Cabinet asks the Cabinet Member for Social and Care Services to act as its designated lead in the area of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure that Cabinet is aware of the responsibilities which fall to the Council as a whole in safeguarding children and young people from possible abuse by its staff.

2.             To ensure that Cabinet is able to exercise effective oversight of the way in which the Council delivers its safeguarding responsibilities.

Background

2.             On 11th August 2011, Estyn and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) published the report of their joint investigation into the handling and management arrangements of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council.  A copy of the report is attached at Annex 1.

3.             The report concluded that "there had been a lack of oversight by elected members and officers, at the most senior level within the local authority, of the management and handling of cases of alleged professional abuse in education services".  The report described the shortcomings as "longstanding and systemic" and included a particular concern that the voice of the child had not received proper attention. 

4.             In light of the serious concerns raised in Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Government wrote to the Leader of every local authority in Wales asking them to review their  safeguarding policies and procedures and to assure themselves that they were satisfied their authority was meeting its statutory duties.  The letter included a requirement that officers conduct a number of spot checks on staff working with children and young people to determine whether references had been sought and the correct level of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check carried out, taking appropriate action where these spot checks indicated this was necessary.  The Council were asked to submit their response to the Welsh Government by 23rd September 2011.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             The Leader of the Council replied on 22nd September 2011 confirming that the instructions had been carried out and advising of the outcome of his review. A copy of his response is attached at Annex 2.

6.             As the letter clearly demonstrates, the Council takes very seriously its responsibility for complying with Part IV of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures 2008, which deals specifically with the handling of professional abuse cases.  It is also acts robustly to ensure that appropriate checks are made in respect of staff who work with children.

7.             The Leader acknowledges in his letter that action is required in some services to ensure compliance with corporate policies in respect of disclosure checks from the CRB.  HR staff (with support from internal audit, if necessary) will carry out a substantial piece of work to ensure that the Council has appropriate and effective controls in place to ensure that service users are safeguarded and that there is compliance with both the code of practice and legislative requirements.  Additionally, because of some inconsistent practice, a review is currently under way to consider improvements to the system for obtaining and recording references.  Social Services and residential schools will pilot an e-form which ensures the engagement/approval of the recruiting manager and an audit trail of verbal and written references.  If successful, this system will be rolled out across the Council.

8.             Regarding corporate and political oversight of the way in which these systems operate, Cabinet should note that the letter sets out requirements from the Director of Social Services, the Head of Human Resources and the Director of Learning and Development to provide six-monthly reports to Corporate Management Team and to the relevant Scrutiny Committees. 

9.             It is important that Cabinet is able to exercise effectively its responsibilities for ensuring that the Council as a whole acts appropriately in safeguarding children and young people from possible abuse by its staff.  Therefore, the Cabinet Member for Social and Care Services will act as the designated Cabinet lead for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

10.        The review has identified no additional resource implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.        The Council act in accordance with their safeguarding responsibilities as laid out in statute, regulations, guidance and the All Wales Child Protection Procedures 2008.

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.        There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.        Section 149 of The Equalities Act 2010 has replaced and incorporated the Race Relations Act 1976, Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. A Public Authority must in the exercise of its functions give due regard to requirements set out in this legislation.

14.        The Council applies a rights-based approach to the safeguarding of children and ensuring that the voice of the child is heard. 

15.        When taking forward any potential suspension, dismissal or termination of an employee, the Chief Executive and the Cabinet member for HR & Equalities are advised at the point of application or shortly after if they are unavailable.  Any subsequent appeal is considered by Members on the Council’s Appeals Committee.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        The review contributes to the corporate priority of 'working with partners to meet the diverse needs of our residents in ways that will safeguard and support those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need; help people to keep fit and healthy; and increase social cohesion and equality of opportunity for all' and 'to safeguard and protect children, young people and vulnerable adults'.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        There are no matters in this report which relate to an individual ward. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Social Care and Health

Background Papers

Joint investigation into the handling and management arrangements of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire, 11th August 2011

 

Letter to Council Leaders, 23rd August 2011

 

Leader's response to Welsh Government, 22nd September 2011

Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

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