This report provides an overview of the effectiveness of child safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the borough in 2016/17. It includes a self-assessment of the performance and effectiveness of many of the local and regional agencies represented on the LSCB and identifies a number of areas where improvements are required.
Jenny Pearce, Chair of the LSCB and Emma Biskupski, LSCB Multi-Agency Training Officer, presented the report. Emma informed the Committee that the LSCB comprised a range of agencies including the local authority, probation services, local prisons, health services, schools, and the police. The whole group meets quarterly and there were also a range of sub-groups that met on an ad hoc basis. These sub-groups include child death overview that examined every child death in the boroughs, expected and unexpected.
Councillor Elaine Chumnery, noting the priorities for 2016-17, asked what the priorities were for 2017-18. Jenny Pearce said they would be domestic violence and peer on peer violence - but that didn’t mean they would lose sight of previous areas (e.g. online safety). Councillor Chumnery asked if the Board had met its priorities for 2016-17. Jenny Pearce said there was still some work to do – she was keen the Board didn’t silo the issues facing children. Going forward they would take a more holistic approach as so many issues were cross-cutting. She added that in future the Board would have more engagement with young people when setting priorities.
The Chair noted that the Deputy Youth Mayor had recently released a video speaking about LGBTQ+ issues, including homophobic bullying. She suggested it could be used to inform some of their anti-bullying work.
Councillor Alan De’Ath noted that at a recent scrutiny committee he Chaired they looked at hate crime – and the largest proportion of that was homophobic attacks. He suggested it should be more of a focus for the Board. Emma Biskupski said they would look into that area in more detail.
Anna Carpenter, Safeguarding Review & Quality Assurance Manager, said this area was a focus for the Council’s Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) lead. Providing a supportive platform that allowed young people to come forward was key. Young gay men particularly found it difficult to be open and honest about what had happened to them.
Nadia Taylor, in reference to the table on page 21 of the agenda, asked how the Council could plan for reductions to child protection plans – did that not entirely depend on external factors? Bev Sharpe responded that historically, the Council had far too many young people remaining on plans when they should have been stepped-down to other support services.
Nadia Taylor asked if the Board could provide the number of children missing in H&F. Bev Sharpe said the number would be relatively low. Missing children were tracked week to week – on average there would be around 10-12 a week. When they were found a ‘return home’ interview was carried out by social workers to understand why they were missing and the Police were required to do ‘safe and welfare’ checks. Nadia asked how many remained missing. Bev said no children had been permanently missing in recent years.
Nadia Taylor asked for more information on the Alan Wood review. Emma Biskupski said the review was commissioned to look at the functions of the LSCB. One of the key proposals was to have a national panel to look at cases with national impact.
Councillor Elaine Chumnery commented there was still confusion over the single point of access (SPA) and information about it needed to be shared more widely (with all social landlords for example). Emma Biskupski said she would take that away and challenge how it was being promoted.
Councillor Alan De’Ath felt there needed to be a strategy for retaining social workers and improve the continuity of workers on cases. Bev Sharpe said this was a key area for Children’s Services. The department worked hard to recruit good people and retain them and had set up a new work-stream on this (including housing costs). There was already a TeachFirst-like programme to bring people into the profession and the department had a competitive progression system. They had also invested in practice assistants – officers that would do admin tasks for social workers to allow them to focus more direct time on working with families.
Vic Daniels, in reference to page 67 of the agenda, asked why the 2016-17 underspend for Hammersmith & Fulham appeared to be so high. Emma Biskupski said she would look into this and provide more information outside the meeting.
The Chair asked what work had been done to tackle forced marriage. Emma Biskupski said the Board had done a lot of awareness-raising around harmful cultural practices including forced marriage and female genital mutilation. She noted that the number of referrals on these issues in the borough remained low. Anna Carpenter added that Children’s Services had a child protection advisor who led on cultural issues - offering specific advice and signposting to resources. Though there were low numbers of these issues reported in the borough it was likely that more remained hidden.
Councillor Elaine Chumnery asked how the Council could make social landlords aware of the issues discussed above. Emma Biskupski said they did a lot of training with housing staff and there were housing representatives on partnership groups. Councillor Chumnery said the Board needed to get this information out to all social landlords – not just the larger, more engaged providers.
Jenny Pearce said she had been impressed by the commitment and engagement from a range of partners in the borough. Though she did have some concerns that child protection was seen as the job of the LSCB alone. More work needed to be done to break down that attitude and engage with the private sector (hotels, taxis, bouncers etc.).
Vic Daniels asked how many of the LSCB members were there as parent representatives. Emma Biskupski said there were lay members (or community members) but none were specifically representing parents. The Chair suggested having an experienced foster parent on the Board – they would be familiar with many of the issues facing young people and could provide real value and insight. Jenny Pearce said the Board was undertaking a review of lay-member recruitment and they would consider that proposal.
1. The Committee recommend that the LSCB retained lay members and consider appointing an experienced foster carer to represent parents.
2. The Committee also recommended that the LSCB explored ways to widen its recruitment of lay members through improved community engagement.