Top

Top

Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 7 April, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Corporate Safeguarding

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Cabinet members on the work that has been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and young people,    the effectiveness of the Safer Recruitment Policy and recent changes to the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS).

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet note the work that has been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and young people and changes to the administration of DBS.

2.         That Cabinet continues to receive six-monthly reports on work to improve corporate safeguarding arrangements and the effectiveness of relevant policies.

3.         That the report and supporting attachments are referred to the Corporate Resources, Lifelong Learning and the Social Care & Health Scrutiny Committees for information. 

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure that the Council and its schools adopt good practice in their arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and young people, including procedures for carrying out safeguarding checks on workers, volunteers, agency staff and contractors with unsupervised access to children and vulnerable people.

2.         To allow Cabinet to exercise effective oversight of this key area of corporate working.

3.         To respond to the request of each Scrutiny Committee to be provided with update reports.

Background

2.         In 2011, the CSSIW and Estyn published a report following their joint investigation into the handling and management of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council.  Concerns were raised about the quality of corporate working to safeguard and protect children by the local authority.

3.         Following that report, a Corporate Safeguarding Working Group was established in this authority to learn lessons from the Pembrokeshire report and to ensure that arrangements for protecting children and young people in the Vale were robust.  The group produced an action plan to improve safeguarding across the council (attached at Appendix A) and Cabinet agreed a Safer Recruitment Policy for the Council and Schools (January 2013).

Relevant Issues and Options

4.         Of the 60 actions identified in the action plan for improving corporate safeguarding, 57 (shaded in grey) have been completed (95%), with only 3 actions outstanding.

5.         The Corporate Safeguarding Group continues to monitor the safeguarding arrangements within the local authority, including recruitment within the council and schools.  Monitoring of the Safer Recruitment Policy in respect of new and existing employees is undertaken by Transact and Human Resources on a scheduled basis and by Internal Audit as part of their ongoing audit programme.

6.         The monitoring of safeguards in respect of volunteers and contractors is undertaken by Internal Audit as part of the scheduled audit programme of schools, to ensure compliance with the policy.  Internal Audit will be reporting their findings to the Chief Officer for Learning & Skills, who will provide future updates to members.

Outcome of the recent Recruitment Audit

7.         An audit has been conducted by Human Resources, in consultation with TransAct, to identify which schools have adopted the Safer Recruitment Policy and to assess whether it is applied consistently.

8.         As of the 1st March 2014, all schools within the remit of the council have adopted the Safer Recruitment Policy, with the exception of St Richard Gwyn RC Secondary School which has confirmed its intention to adopt the policy by the end of the financial year.  The Chief Officer for Learning & Skills has actively encouraged all schools to adopt the policy, with a particular emphasis on the obvious safeguarding benefits for pupils and staff and to assist the school in responding to future Estyn inspections.

9.         Set out below is a summary overview of posts filled during the period 1st September and 30th November 2013.  It shows that a total of 268 employees started in posts within the remit of the Safer Recruitment policy provisions. In 7.08% of those posts, staff had started work and documentation remained outstanding three months later, despite action by TransAct to chase up the documents with the relevant managers and third parties.

New employees started with the Vale of Glamorgan Council during September to November 2013 inclusive

Month

Total number of new starters.

Posts subject to Safer Recruitment Policy.

 

 

Total number of posts

Documentation outstanding

September

213

201

6

October

30

22

3

November

51

45

10

Total

294

268

19

 

 

91.10%

7.08%

 

NOTE - The above figures reflect only those posts administered by Transact.

10.     Appendix B identifies the outstanding documentation over the audit period and the actions/changes that have taken place during and since the audit was conducted.

11.      Improvements are needed, particularly in some schools, to achieve complete compliance with the requirements of the policy.  Managers responsible for recruitment will be reminded to complete a risk assessment where it is essential for the employee to start work but where checks remain outstanding (this excludes posts covered by Care Standards).  The council's school cleaning service and at least one secondary school have taken a decision to allow new starters to begin employment only when all references and DBS disclosure have been received and assessed.  This approach negates the need for a risk assessment and it is in line with the requirements for posts within Social Services. 

12.       The council remains committed to achieving full compliance as soon as possible.    However, given that the policy is relatively new and having regard to the significant changes to the DBS administrative arrangements (see below), the outcome of the latest audit is encouraging when compared to those in the previous financial year.

Recent changes to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) arrangements

13.      Members will recall that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 resulted in a number of significant changes to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

·               The Update Service has been implemented, which enables an individual to pay an annual subscription to the DBS so that the prospective employer can undertake an on line check to identify if there have been any changes to the person's disclosure certificate since the date of issue.  Where no changes are identified, the existing disclosure can be accepted for determination.  However, if a change is identified or where the DBS check is at a lower level than the check required in the new position, a new DBS application will need to be undertaken. 

·               From September 2013, the DBS disclosure certificate is now issued to the applicant only.

·               There is now a filtering process which excludes lesser criminal convictions from the DBS disclosure certificate.

14.      The Corporate Safeguarding Group has considered the latest changes to the DBS arrangements in detail and these have been incorporated within revised draft policy and supporting guidance.  The DBS policy and guidance will be referred to the Cabinet for approval following ongoing consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Professional Abuse/Part 4 Investigations

15.      Part 4 of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures provides the framework of actions to be taken when there are child protection concerns in specific circumstances.  Between April 1st and December 31st 2013, there were 24 referrals which met the threshold for consideration under section 4.3 which concerns allegations of abuse of children by professionals/staff members.

16.      The source of these 24 referrals is detailed in the table below.

Foster carers

Supported

housing workers (young people aged

16-17years)

 

Education

(school age children)

Registered Child minder

Taxi driver

Health worker

Youth Services

Police

7

 

4Inhouse carers;

3Independent Fostering Agency carers

 

3

7

 

3teachers;

2 LSAs;

1 cleaner;

1 transport escort

1

1

1

2

2

 

17.      Twenty of the cases have been concluded, three are awaiting the outcome of police investigations and one the outcome of disciplinary procedures. The outcome of the twenty concluded cases is detailed in the table below.

Dismissal, de-registration, loss of licence

(notified to DBS and professional/ regulatory body)

Unsubstantiated

Retracted

Additional training for staff and changes to Policy and Procedures

Disciplinary/ capability procedures initiated by employer

5

5

4

4

2

 

18.      The Council takes very seriously its responsibility for complying with Part IV and it is able to demonstrate that allegations involving professionals are pursued rigorously.  In this context, the allegations of abuse may involve all professionals, employees and volunteers working for or accredited by a public, voluntary, private agency, place of worship or faith organisation or independent contractor, whose work brings them into contact with children.  Allegations of abuse may be made against an individual employee in either their private life or their working capacity.

19.       Where these allegations involve Council staff, serious matters that may constitute gross misconduct are supported by suspension of the employee(s), subject to investigation.  In all instances, such issues are determined by a Head of Service or above.  Any allegation of potential abuse brought to the attention of Human Resources is referred immediately to the safeguarding unit in Social Services and advice obtained.  If allegations are made against education and school staff, discussions always take place between the designated officers for safeguarding in Social Services and the Learning and Skills Directorate.  When taking forward action that potentially involves suspending, dismissing or terminating the contract of a Vale employee, the Chief Executive and the Leader (because he holds the Corporate Resources portfolio) are advised at the point of application or shortly after, if they are unavailable.

20.      Appropriate attendance at strategy meetings to agree how investigating agencies will manage the allegation is determined by the designated safeguarding officer in Social Services, who chairs all strategy meetings under Part IV of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures.  Where allegations involve education staff, the Head or Deputy Head will attend the strategy meeting (unless the allegation relates to them), plus the designated safeguarding officer in the Learning and Skills Directorate.  Part IV strategy meetings held in the Vale have included safeguarding link governors, although this tends to be a matter for education staff to determine rather than by direct invitation from the Chair. 

21.       Police representatives attend all strategy meetings.  In every case of professional abuse, the meeting always considers whether a criminal investigation is appropriate.  Social Services and the Police will investigate jointly where appropriate. 

22.      Outcome review meetings are convened as appropriate to review progress and to manage risk until the matters have been properly concluded.  The group evaluates the information and determines, on the balance of probability, whether there is substance to the allegation.  It will involve also deciding if any further action is required and giving advice to the employer where steps to be taken are within their remit.  Minutes are taken of all strategy meetings and these are securely distributed to attendees for information and retention on their files. 

23.      The Head of Business Management and Innovation in the Social Services Directorate has oversight of these investigative processes: she confirms that the Council continues to comply with all procedural requirements. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

24.      Additional demands are placed on managers and head teachers as a result of the safeguarding improvements and upon TransAct in administering and chasing up risk assessments and dealing with managers' queries with regard to the various roles in safer recruitment.

25.      There have been additional demands made upon all DBS counter signatories, Human Resources and TransAct to administer the new DBS arrangements, in particular obtaining a copy of the DBS disclosure certificate from the applicant. These arrangements have increased the timescales necessary to determine the suitability of the applicant and to log the DBS response, which in turn has brought about a delay in concluding the recruitment process.  

26.      The pilot within Social Services to administer validation of employment references between TransAct and the recruiting manager continues to provide an efficient means for managers to determine the suitability of each response.  In addition, there has been additional administration involved in providing and then chasing up responses to references provided to managers, to confirm the suitability of the reference.

27.      The costs of DBS disclosure applications have not changed since last year's increase.  However, with introduction of the DBS Update Service (which depends upon the individual paying an annual subscription), the opportunity for the person's DBS disclosure to be portable could help to reduce the timescale for the council to access future DBS disclosures.  Although very few applicants have registered with the DBS Update Service so far, it is expected that these numbers will increase which  will reduce both application and administration costs of future DBS checks, to the benefit of the Council.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

28.      There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising directly from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

29.      The duties of the local authority to ensure that children are properly safeguarded and protected from harm are set out in legislation. Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 imposes a duty on a local authority to make arrangements for ensuring that their education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. In fulfilling its responsibilities, the local authority should have effective quality assurance systems in place to ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard and protect children.

30.      In relation to DBS arrangements, key elements of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 have been implemented.  Some further changes are likely to take place over the next year but these will be less significant.

Crime and Disorder Implications

31.      Any application for employment for those posts included within the definition of regulated activity by candidates who are included on the relevant barred list will be considered a criminal act and reported to the Police and relevant registration body (if appropriate).

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

32.      The Safer Recruitment policy legitimately excludes consideration for appointment of all applicants for posts within regulated activity whose criminal actions/convictions mean that they are deemed unsuitable or who are included within the barred list.

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.      The work of the Corporate Safeguarding Group assists the council in meeting the following corporate objective: "To safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people so that they have a healthy life, physically and emotionally, which is free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation and homes which support their physical and emotional wellbeing".

Policy Framework and Budget

34.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.      The recognised trade unions were consulted on the Safer Recruitment Policy and have been consulted on the revised draft Disclosure and Barring Policy and the supporting guidance.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.      Social Care and Health, Lifelong Learning and Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

The All Wales Child Protection Procedures

 

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Corporate Safeguarding Group

Responsible Officer

Phil Evans, Director of Social Services

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook