Top

Top

Agenda Item No 9

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health):  10th March 2014

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Protection of Children: Update Report

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Scrutiny Committee about the work of the Social Services Directorate in protecting children during the period April to December 2013.

Recommendations

1.         That Members note this report.

2.         That information about the work undertaken to protect children continues to be reported to the Scrutiny Committee on a six-monthly basis.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To increase awareness of the priorities, challenges and risks involved in this crucial area of work.

2.         To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by Social Services on behalf of the Council.

Background

2.         This is the first report to Scrutiny Committee concerning the protection of children that combines information on activity within two of the three divisions within the Social Services Directorate - the Children and Young People Services Division and the Business Management and Innovation Division.  Both Divisions have in place an audit framework and monitoring arrangements, carried out at set intervals, to ensure that robust information is available about their safeguarding work and other areas of service.

3.         The report addresses the following issues:

  • the number of child protection referrals received and the number of those that progressed to investigation;
  • the number of child protection conferences held and the number of conferences held within timescale;
  • any child protection issues that have arisen through the audit process;
  • the current position on the merger of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Local Safeguarding Children Boards;
  • the number of Strategy Meetings held under part 4 of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures 2008 concerning allegations of professional abuse and a summary of the outcomes of those; and
  • consultation with children and families who have been involved in the child protection process.

4.         Information in this report about how allegations of professional abuse have been handled is used also as part of a report to Cabinet about corporate safeguarding, i.e. the overall effectiveness of the Council's systems, processes and procedures for the protection of children.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         This report demonstrates that the statutory safeguarding responsibilities of the Social Services Directorate on behalf of the Council are being fulfilled to a high standard.

6.         All referrals to Children and Young People Services are received by the Intake and Family Support Team.  A decision on their appropriateness, priority and subsequent management should be made within 24 hours.  The latest (3rd quarter) performance in respect of this screening process was above target at 96.32%.

7.         Between April and December 2013, 805 referrals were received by the Division.  Of these, 443 progressed to a strategy meeting and/or an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.  The number of cases which resulted in a referral being made for a child protection conference where the referral reason was 'possible child abuse' was 42, and a core assessment was undertaken in all these cases.

8.         The overall number of child protection conferences held between April and December 2013 was 201.  199 of these were held within the statutory timescale.  For initial conferences, this is within fifteen days of the last strategy discussion or meeting, and, for review conferences, within three months of the initial conference and thereafter at no more than six monthly intervals. 

9.         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 2013 and December 31st 2013, there were a total of 24 referrals which met the threshold for consideration under section 4.3 which concerns allegations of the abuse of children by professionals/staff members.


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

Foster

carers

Supported

Housing

Workers (young

people

16-17

years

Education

 

(school

age

Children)

Registered

Childminder

Taxi

Driver

Health

Worker

Youth Services

Police

 

7

 

4 in-house

 

3

Independent

Fostering

Agency

 

3

 

7

 

3

Teachers

 

2 LSA

 

1

Cleaner

 

1

 

1

 

1

 

2

 

2

 

11.      Twenty have been concluded, three are awaiting the outcome of police investigations and one the outcome of disciplinary procedures.  The outcome of these twenty 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

 

12.      The Vale of Glamorgan procedural audit process for Social Services is well established and includes auditing child protection processes.  The issues identified during the most recent audit include the need to revise the format for recording the initial and on-going core group meetings that follow child protection registration, and ensuring that statutory visits to children on the child protection register and the associated records of the visit are recorded on the electronic case management system (ICS) in a timely way after the visit has taken place.  These matters are being addressed. 

13.      The Local Safeguarding Children's Board also has a programme of audit which examines the effectiveness of all agencies working together under the All Wales Child Protection Procedures.  The Audit Sub-Group of the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan LSCB is currently auditing the cases of children whose names have remained on the child protection register for longer than 18 months.  The group are due to report back in March/April 2014.

14.      The programme for the merger of the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan LSCBs is now concluded.  The constitution and governance arrangements were approved by both Councils in September 2013.  The Board is currently chaired by the Director of Social Services from the Vale of Glamorgan.  The make-up of the standing sub-groups of the joint Board has been agreed in line with Welsh Government guidance, and the terms of reference for each sub-group have been harmonised between the two preceding Boards and approved by the Joint Executive Board.  Agreement has now been reached on membership and representation at each level of the Board structure.  A facilitated workshop in October 2013 assisted the joint Board in identifying the priority areas for consideration in the first year of operation.  These are children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation and children living with parenting capacity issues (e.g. DV, MH, Substance Misuse), with an initial emphasis on Mental Health.

15.      A process of consultation with children and families involved in the child protection process is underway.  This is a very sensitive area of work and, despite efforts to engage with young people and families, there have been only two respondents to date.  The consultation will continue and action taken to tackle the low take-up.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.      There are no financial implications arising directly from this report.  Social Services have absorbed within existing budgets the increased workload brought about by increased child protection activity arising from high demand.

17.      The LSCB depends heavily on the Council, especially the Social Services Directorate, for the resources and capacity required to operate effectively.  The formula adopted for the merged LSCB helped to make the contribution more equitable across the statutory agencies involved but there remains a considerable deficit.  The Welsh Government has promised to look at this issue as part of the transition process for implementing the Social Services and Well-Being Bill currently passing through the Assembly.  Adverts are currently out for appointing to the key LSCB manager and administrator posts for the joint Board, for which funding has been agreed between the statutory partners.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.      There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising directly from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.      The law regulating the protection of children derives from the Children Acts 1989 and 2004, and the Working Together: Safeguarding Children under the Children Act and All Wales Child Protection Procedures to which all partner agencies are required to adhere.  The procedures and guidance reflect the values and principles expressed in the UN Convention on the rights of the child.  The All Wales approach requires a consistent approach to child protection in Wales. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.      Child Protection arrangements include a responsibility for safeguarding children from abuse, which may require investigation as criminal offences.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.      All people in the Vale of Glamorgan have the right to live their lives free from violence and abuse.  This right is underpinned by the duty on public agencies under the Human Rights Acts (1988) to intervene proportionately to protect the rights of citizens.  Any child at risk of abuse or neglect should be able to access public organisations for appropriate interventions which enable them to live a life free from violence and abuse.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      In fulfilling responsibilities for protecting vulnerable children, Social Services help to meet the following corporate outcomes:

"Citizens of the Vale of Glamorgan are healthy and have equality of outcomes and, through appropriate support and safeguards, the most vulnerable members of our community maximise their life opportunities."

Policy Framework and Budget

23.      The report is in accordance with the Council's policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.      There are no matters in this report which relate to an individual Ward.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Social Care and Health

Background Papers

All Wales Child Protection Procedures

 

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook