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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 10th December 2012

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Six-monthly report in respect of safeguarding practice in schools and other services within the Learning and Skills Directorate

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To assure Scrutiny Committee that the Directorate is meeting its responsibilities for safeguarding vulnerable people.

Recommendations

That Scrutiny Committee:

 

1.             Notes the report and the work undertaken to ensure best practice.

2.             Requests the Chief Learning and Skills Officer to provide a report every six months in respect of safeguarding practice in schools and other services within the Directorate.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. & 2. To ensure that the Council has in place effective arrangements for overseeing this

           key area of work.

Background

2.             Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults is a corporate responsibility of the entire local authority.  Many of the services provided by the Council have an impact on the lives of children, families and adults, particularly those most at risk of social exclusion and in need of safeguarding. A coordinated and consistent approach is needed.

3.             In August 2011, CSSIW and Estyn published their joint investigation into the handling of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council.  The report raised a number of serious issues concerning the proper checking of staff working with children and the handling of allegations of professional abuse. The shortcomings were seen as being "longstanding and systemic".  The inspectors were critical about the way in which the voice of the child did not figure in investigations of alleged professional abuse.  Overall, in the cases examined, there was little or no evidence of a rights-based approach to safeguarding children in education.

4.             The report concluded that "there has been a lack of oversight by elected members and officers, at the most senior level within the authority, of the management and handling of cases of alleged professional abuse in education services".  While the immediate focus of concerns was in education, youth and community services, it was not limited to them.  Corporate leadership of the authority, the way in which it had delivered its human resources responsibilities and the way that those with corporate leadership and management responsibilities had ensured the protection of children were also found wanting.

5.             The report and its recommendations made explicit the expectations of the inspectorates in a number of areas.

·         The corporate management team (CMT) should share and record important safeguarding concerns and disciplinary issues in education services and schools.

·         This information should be shared with elected members, who have a personal responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

·         Meetings with the Leader should routinely include safeguarding issues, with an agenda and formal minutes.

·         Elected members should challenge officers appropriately regarding safeguarding issues.

·         Safeguarding should be an agenda item at scrutiny and cabinet meetings.

·         Elected members should receive safeguarding training.

·         There should be clear evidence about how the Chief Executive and chief officers exercise their shared corporate responsibility for ensuring children are kept safe.

6.             CMT has considered the implications for this Council.  It was agreed that:

·         the Chief Learning and Skills Officer would provide a six-monthly report to CMT and to the relevant Scrutiny Committee about safeguarding practice in schools and in the services she manages directly;

·         the Head of Human Resources would provide a six-monthly report to CMT and to the relevant Scrutiny Committee regarding the effectiveness of the Council's systems for making the recruitment and employee checks required to safeguard children;

·         the Director of Social Services would provide a six-monthly report to CMT and to the relevant Scrutiny Committee about how allegations of professional abuse have been handled.

·         the work being done to review policy and practice would be managed by a Corporate Safeguarding Group with representation from all the Directorates.  The group's terms of reference are set out in Appendix 1.  The group has been working to review policies and a Safer Recruitment Policy has been drafted to provide greater clarity in areas such as CRB checks and renewals, risk assessments and references.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             The Learning and Skills Directorate is represented on the Corporate Safeguarding Group by the Head of School Achievement and, in her absence, by the Deputy Head of Inclusion Services.  A Safeguarding Action Plan has been produced by the Directorate (see Appendix 2) and discussed within the Corporate Safeguarding Group.  It captures the key areas of work that are being undertaken and demonstrates that considerable progress has been made in delivering change.

8.             A number of documents have been reviewed.

·         Physical Intervention (Appendix 3) and Timeout Policy (Appendix 4) provide greater clarity for school staff and Governors around such issues as the use and appropriateness of physical intervention and time out, the need for parental/carer consent and recording and reporting requirements of the Council.

·         Safeguarding Policy (Appendix 5) and Anti - Bullying Policy (Appendix 6) now incorporate more recent reporting requirements.

·         The Behaviour and Discipline Policy and the Inclusion Policy are in the process of being reviewed.

9.             The Authority's monitoring role and associated functions are in the process of being reviewed and revised arrangements will be brought to this committee for further scrutiny.

10.        Headteachers have been consulted via a task and finish group and through routine Headteacher meetings.

11.        A planned programme of briefings and further training for all Council staff will take place in early January 2013.

12.        Every Directorate has appointed a Lead Officer for Safeguarding who will become members of the Steering Group.

13.        Councillor Chris Elmore has been appointed as cabinet member for Safeguarding.

14.        Governors with responsibility for safeguarding have been identified for all schools and a programme of training is in place.

15.        A new programme of training for a team of Directorate and school based staff will be implemented in January 2013. This central team will then undertake a 'training the trainers' course to cascade training to identified schools based on a 'needs led' approach.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.        To be met from within existing resources.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

17.        None

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.        The Children Act 1989 and the Children Act 2044 provide the main legislative context and place a duty on designated bodies to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children.

19.        Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 places a duty on key people and bodies to make arrangements to ensure that their functions are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children.  The Local Authority is covered by this duty.  Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 places a duty on local authorities and on governing bodies of schools and FE institutions to make arrangements for carrying out their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.  It also requires local authorities and governing bodies to have regard to any guidance issued in drawing up those arrangements.

20.        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.

Crime and Disorder Implications

21.        None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

22.        None.

Corporate/Service Objectives

23.        Safeguarding all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

24.        The recommendations in this report are within the existing policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

25.        Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

26.        Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Lynette Jones, Head of School Improvement

Officers Consulted

David Davies, Deputy Head of Inclusion Services in the Vale of Glamorgan

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer, Directorate of Learning and Skills

 

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