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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 1 December, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Corporate Safeguarding

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         (i)  To update Cabinet members on the work that has been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and adults who require specific Council services; and the effectiveness of such arrangements;  and (ii) to obtain approval to implement essential changes to the Safer Recruitment Policy and procedure.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet notes the work that has been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and adults who by accessing certain services may be defined as vulnerable.

2.         That Cabinet approves essential changes to the Safer Recruitment policy as set out in Appendix A.

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

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

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure that Cabinet is aware of recent developments in corporate arrangements for safeguarding.

2.         To ensure that the Council and its schools adopt good practice in their arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and adults, including maintaining policies and procedures for carrying out safeguarding checks on workers, volunteers, agency staff and contractors with unsupervised access to children and vulnerable people in accordance with Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) and legal obligations.

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

4.         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 are robust.

4.         The group produced an action plan to improve safeguarding across the council and Cabinet agreed a Safer Recruitment Policy for the Council and Schools (January 2013).  The Policy was implemented in April 2013 and has been adopted by all Vale schools and throughout the council.  However, since implementation, there have been a number of changes in DBS eligibility and administrative arrangements that require changes to the existing policy. 

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         The Corporate Safeguarding Group continues to monitor the safeguarding arrangements within the local authority, including recruitment within the council and schools.  Monitoring 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.         Monitoring safeguards in respect of volunteers and contractors, to ensure compliance with the policy, is undertaken by Internal Audit as part of the scheduled audit programme of schools.   Internal Audit will continue to report their findings to the Director of Learning & Skills, who will provide future updates to members.

Outcome of the recent Safer Recruitment Policy Audit

7.         As requested by members, Human Resources conducted a further audit of new appointments to the council and schools during the period between March and June 2014.  As before, the focus of the audit was to identify any areas of non-compliance with the Safer Recruitment policy and to implement any measures to improve consistent application.

8.         Set out below is a summary overview of posts filled during the period 1st March to 30th June 2014.  It shows that a total of 140 employees started in posts within the remit of the Safer Recruitment policy provisions.

 


New employees starting employment with the Council and schools* during March to June  2014 inclusive

 

 

 

Posts subject to Safer Recruitment Policy.

 

 

 

 

Number of employees with documentation outstanding

Month

Total number of new starters

 

Total number of posts

Schools

Corporate

Total number of posts

March

52

 

39

1

4

5

April

47

 

36

4

2

6

May

45

 

32

6

0

6

June

44

 

33

9

0

9

Total

188

 

140

20 (18)

6 (1)

26 (19)

 

 

 

74.5%

 

 

18.6%

 

NOTES:

1 - The above figures reflect only those posts administered by TransAct on behalf of

      schools.

2 - The figures in brackets show the total numbers from the previous audit report of

     September to November 2013 for comparison purposes.

3 - It is worth noting that the previous audit report covered a three month period and that

     this and future reports, will cover a four month period.

 

9.         The audit shows an overall 18.6% of those posts subject to the Safer Recruitment policy had started work where documentation remained outstanding. This represents an average of 6.5 employees per month, compared to 6.3 per month as reported in the last audit report.  Over half of these posts had a signed risk assessment form in place prior to the employee starting employment as required under the policy, all outstanding documents have now been received.

10.      The audit also shows an average of 5 new starters per month in schools with documentation still outstanding on commencement of employment over the four month period. This is an improvement on the previous audit report, where an average of 6 employees per month had started work with documentation outstanding over the three month period.

11.      Appendix B identifies the positions and the outstanding documentation as at 1st July 2014 over the preceding four month audit period and the actions/changes that have taken place during and since the audit was conducted.

12.      It is very encouraging that Social Services appointments have been administered in full compliance with the policy requirements, as was the case in the majority of schools.  However, improvements are needed within some schools and also within the Catering service to support the application of the policy in particular, to ensure that Risk Assessments are completed and measures in place before an employee starts work.

13.      The Catering manager has confirmed that the team has implemented measures to achieve full compliance with the policy requirements.

14.      With regard to schools, Head teachers have received a presentation on the policy by HR.  They were reminded, both in writing and verbally at the last Head teacher conference, 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 where all checks need to be in place prior to commencement).

15.      In response to a request from the Head Teacher steering group a simple but comprehensive check list has also been produced to assist Head Teachers/recruiting managers in schools to maintain compliance with the policy.  Furthermore, a guidance document has been drafted by HR which will be issued to all new employees' within schools to remind them of their obligations and the actions they need to take to meet the Safer Recruitment policy requirements.

16.      In addition to the above, we have reviewed and formalised our procedures.  A new procedure has been implemented recently to ensure that TransAct advise Human Resources and the Director of Learning & Skills on a weekly basis of any non-compliance with the policy. This will promote timely intervention and provide a means to respond to any frequent inaction/omissions to the policy requirements.

17.      It is disappointing to note that a greater percentage of new starters started work without full checks in place, in comparison to the last report.  However, this can be attributed in part to the changes that have occurred to the DBS administrative procedures, and in particular, recent delays in administering  disclosure applications by the DBS - alongside the need to rely  on the employee to produce their DBS disclosure for validation by the council.

18.       The changes to the DBS arrangements have made necessary the proposed changes to the Safer Recruitment policy as set out below.

Summary of the proposed changes to the Safer Recruitment policy.

19.      In a previous Cabinet report, Members were informed that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 resulted in a number of significant changes to the Disclosure and Barring Service.   (These included on line Update Service provision, filtering of convictions and disclosure issued solely to applicants).

20.      The Corporate Safeguarding Group has considered the latest changes to the DBS arrangements in detail; these have been incorporated within the revised Safer Recruitment policy as attached at Appendix A and also within the supporting guidance.

21.      The Cabinet are asked to consider the changes to the Safer Recruitment policy as highlighted (in capitals, italics and underlined) within Appendix " A" and that the guidance be updated to reflect these changes and including the following:-

·               reference to the DBS Update Service process and procedure;

·               recent updated guidance from the Welsh Government in relation to the additional  pre-employment checks necessary to cover mid career changes and changes from permanent to temporary or supply/relief work;

·               note the withdrawal of the management advice legal matrix on DBS disclosure outcomes and actions as determined by the category of offence pending ongoing review (interim arrangements have been implemented to cover the review period);

·               a number of administrative changes, for example to reflect changes to Directorate Safeguarding representatives.

 

22.      For the information of the Cabinet, an internal consultation process in respect of revised Disclosure & Barring Service policy and supporting guidance is nearing completion.  The revised document will be referred to the Cabinet for determination.  Recent changes to the DBS arrangements have been incorporated within the revised Safer Recruitment policy which is appended to this report.

Learning and skills

23.      The Estyn report on the quality of local authority education services for children and young people in the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that "arrangements for safeguarding meet requirements and give no major cause for concern.  Arrangements in education provision have recently been reviewed and extensively revised.  Because of this revision, the reporting and monitoring arrangements for safeguarding in schools are effective.  However, not all education provision falls under the same monitoring arrangements, which makes it difficult to ensure that senior management have a clear and consistent view of how well safeguarding procedures are carried out across the Directorate".

24.      The policies which were reviewed and re-written have been adopted and implemented by all schools and governing bodies: i.e. the Safeguarding Policy, Physical Intervention Policy, Time Out Policy and Anti-Bullying Policy.

25.      The audit data reported earlier in this report shows that, although most recruitment by schools is compliant with the policy, more remains to be done. In addition to the actions that are intended to secure full compliance  (described in paragraphs 13,14 and 15), the process for escalating action when non-compliance has occurred has been reviewed and strengthened.  The strengthened process seeks to ensure that prompt remedial action is taken in relation to any transgressions as set out in the safer recruitment policy and to mitigate the risk of future non-compliance by the school concerned.  We will continue to review the effectiveness of these actions.

26.      The Safeguarding Officer is checking implementation of policies and adherence to them during visits to schools to provide assistance and advice about each school’s Safeguarding SER.  Of the 10 schools visited in 2013/14, all of them valued the challenge with regard to their SER and have sought to ensure adherence to important policies and the inclusion of all relevant information.

27.      There is a Policy Capture Monitoring Matrix that tracks the status of policy implementation and local authority officers can see at a glance schools where there is non-compliance.  All governing bodies have adopted and implemented all policies.  This has had a significant impact on the Council’s drive to adopt robust safeguarding practice in procedure and policy.

28.      A Training Monitoring Matrix has also been developed and captures training received by DSPs, Deputy DSPs, Safeguarding Governors and all school staff.  This is colour-coded (red, amber and green) to reflect the quality of the level of training and updated termly. Green, showing that all training needs are met, is the predominant colour on the current July 2014 matrix and this is a very different picture from the matrix dated September 2013.

29.      A Directorate Training Monitoring Matrix has been devised capturing safeguarding training that all Directorate staff have received.  In the last 15 months, almost all Directorate SIIS, Catering, Finance, ICT, Admissions, Transport and Youth Service staff have been trained by the Safeguarding Officer.  Many Library staff, Adult Community Learning staff, Admin and Out of School Tuition (OOST) staff received training in May and July 2014.  Safeguarding is now an item on every team meeting agenda, reinforcing the importance of our statutory responsibility and reminding staff to always act on concerns.  A training schedule has been established to ensure that all remaining/new staff receive appropriate training.

30.      The matrices are used by the Directorate Management team to monitor and review implementation of policies and take up of training on a regular basis.  This enables senior managers to identify areas for further development.

31.      Safeguarding training for all Safeguarding governors has been provided by the Safeguarding Officer. They evaluated the training as excellent.    Many were shocked by the scale of their individual responsibilities for this area of work, but all said that they were ready to embrace the challenges.  Some have now insisted that Safeguarding is an item on every governing body meeting, which will strengthen the council's ability to monitor the adoption and implementation of policies.

32.      The appointment of a safeguarding officer (SO) within Learning and Skills has raised awareness of the Council’s statutory responsibility to safeguard and promote children’s welfare. Implementation of policies and schools’ compliance with recording and reporting procedures is more robustly monitored and challenged since the appointment.  It has increased the capacity to support, advise and challenge schools.  This needs to be embedded further, but feedback from the Safeguarding Task and Finish Group and others is positive.

33.      The SO has delivered training to a large number of people.  This includes to DSPs, Deputy DSPs, Governors, whole schools (and some C and D schools), Directorate staff, the Youth Service, Library staff, Adult Community Learning staff and OOST tutors.  This has ensured that training is consistent. Schools with less than expected levels of training have been targeted and this has ensured that most DSPs/Deputy DSPs who had not attended single-agency child protection training did so in January 2014. Additional training has been provided as a direct response to concerns from schools about how to handle issues such as Sexually Harmful Behaviours.  Many schools present bought the training manual to help assess harmful/concerning /normal behaviours and they are using it to improve understanding.  Other training covered the impact of Domestic Abuse and e-safety.  The SO also promotes courses made available through the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and targets those who have not attended mandatory LSCB ‘Working Together’ multi-agency training.

34.      The safeguarding officer post has allowed the local authority to be better represented on LSCB sub-groups, thereby strengthening multi-agency working relationships.  As a result of her participation in a LSCB audit of children who have been on the Child Protection Register (CPR) for more than 18 months, the SO organised in June, 2014, a training programme to improve the quality of record-keeping and report-writing. The  Council's  Safeguarding/Child Protection Policy has now been amended to incorporate the new procedures and a Chronology Log has been devised on SIMS to assist schools create ‘the bigger picture’ when considering concerns about children.

35.      The improved flow of information to and from the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) has enabled schools to focus on children’s wellbeing when they need greater support.  Returns for MARAC from Learning and Skills are prompt, with the quality of relevant detail much improved.  305 children have been discussed in this academic year; 85 of them are pre-school.  All comprehensives, all special schools and 31 primary schools have provided reports about attendance, academic progress, changes in behaviour, areas of concern and  perception of risk to assist the information-sharing process.   In all post-MARC discussion between the SO and the DSP, there is a focus on what additional support schools can offer.  All schools are being encouraged to participate in training provided by Atal-y-Fro in October, 2014 on the impact of Domestic Abuse. Category C and D schools are targeted for additional training, particularly where there is a high incidence of Domestic Abuse cases.

36.      Guidance and advice are given to schools when dealing with allegations of abuse against members of staff.  A new database has been devised to monitor progress of professional abuse cases which met the threshold for consideration, with live cases listed first.  The Director of Learning and Skills and the two Heads of Service receive fortnightly updates so that they are fully aware of current cases.

37.      Team Teach Physical Intervention Training has been effective in improving the ability of school staff to use de-escalation techniques.  However, there has, been a change in the training following a concern about the number of restraints being recorded.  The focus is now more on de-escalation techniques rather than restraint handling.  The outcome is a reduction in the number of Incidents and Physical Intervention forms received by the SO.

Investigations under Part 4 of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures (2008)

38.      Part IV 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 and September 2014 there were 14 referrals which met the threshold for consideration under section 4.3 (which concerns allegations of abuse of children by professionals/employees).  In the context, the allegations of abuse may involve 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 their private life or working capacity.

39.      The Council takes very seriously its responsibility for complying with Part IV of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures and it is able to demonstrate that allegations involving professionals are pursued rigorously. 

40.      The source of the 14 referrals is detailed in the table below.

Foster

carers

Child of foster carers

Education

 

(school

age

Children)

Nursery

Private 'play' company

Voluntary Youth Services

Residential worker

 

5

 

 

(4 in-house and 1 IFA)

 

1

 

3

 

 

2

Teachers

 

 

1

Breakfast club supervisor

 

1

 

2

 

1

 

1

 

41.      Eleven have been concluded and three are ongoing.   The outcome of the eleven that are concluded is detailed in the table below. Some cases have more than one outcome e.g. HR processes with employer and referred to professional/regulatory body.

 

 

 

 

Dismissal, de-

registration, loss of licence (notified to DBS and /or professional/

regulatory body)

Retracted - no further action

Referred back to fostering panel

HR processes with employer

 

3

 

1

 

4

 

5

 

42.      Any allegation of potential abuse brought to the attention of Human Resources is immediately referred to the Safeguarding Unit in I, Social Services and advice obtained.  If allegations are made against education and school staff, discussions always take place between the designated safeguarding officer within the safeguarding unit in Social Services and the designated safeguarding officer in the Learning and Skills Directorate. 

43.      Where these allegations are against employees of the Council, serious matters that may constitute gross misconduct are supported by suspension of the employee(s).  In all instances, such decisions are determined by a Head of Service or above.  Thorough multi-agency investigations take place to inform any actions taken against the employee.  When taking forward action that potentially involves suspending, dismissing or terminating the contract of a Vale employee, the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council (because of his Corporate Resources Portfolio) are advised at the point of application or shortly afterwards if they are unavailable. 

44.      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.

45.      Police representatives attend all strategy meetings and in every case, the meeting always considers whether a criminal investigation is appropriate.  Social Services and the Police will investigate jointly where appropriate. Review strategy meetings are convened as appropriate to review progress and manage risk until matters have been properly concluded.  The strategy group evaluates the information and determines, on the balance of probability, whether there is substance to the allegation.  The group will also decide if any further action is required and will give advice to the employer where there are actions specific to their remit.  All strategy meetings are minuted and distributed to attendees. 

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

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

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

48.      Additional demands are also placed on head teachers as a result of improvements in safeguarding, dealing with new DBS arrangements and the Safer Recruitment Policy. Training needs place additional time constraints on the Safeguarding Officer. LSCB commitments, , are also time-consuming, particularly conducting Audits within Education, assisting in Child Practice Reviews and delivering training for 'Working Together'.

49.      There are continued 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 contributed to delay in concluding the recruitment process.  

50.      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

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

52.      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.

53.      The Welsh Government Guidance, Safeguarding Children; Working together under the Children Act 2004 has been issued in accordance with the Children Act 2004 and under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 provides the working basis for the All Wales Child Protection Procedures.  The All Wales Child Protection Procedures reflect the values and principles enshrined in the UN Convention on the rights of the child.  The Welsh Government developed these values and principles in Children and Young People: Rights to Action 2004, and adopted core aims and outcomes through which it is committed to work with all children and young people.  The key outcome for improving the well-being of children includes the requirement that children live in a safe environment and be protected from harm.  The All Wales Child Protection Procedures take account of various legislation, guidance, research and reports.

54.      In relation to DBS arrangements, key elements of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 have been implemented all of which will be taken account of within the revised DBS policy and guidance under a separate report to the Cabinet.

Crime and Disorder Implications

55.      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)

56.      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

57.      The work of the Corporate Safeguarding Group assists the council in meeting the following corporate objectives:

·               "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."

·               "To promote health and wellbeing and ensure the safety of our learners particularly those with Additional Learning Needs and our most vulnerable learners".

Policy Framework and Budget

58.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

59.      The Corporate Safeguarding group and the recognised trade unions have been consulted on the revised draft Safer Recruitment policy and associated guidance.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

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

Background Papers

The All Wales Child Protection Procedures

Cabinet Report - 7.04.14 - Corporate Safeguarding

 

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Corporate Safeguarding Group

 

Responsible Officer

Phil Evans, Director of Social Services

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