This report highlights the significant responsibilities the Council has with regards to protecting children in the borough and the steps taken to ensure it meets those responsibilities.
Anna Carpenter, Safeguarding Review & Quality Assurance Manager, presented the report that highlighted the significant responsibilities which the local authority had with regards to ensuring the protection of children, and how it discharged them.
Vic Daniels asked what the Council was doing to identify, control, and eradicate gang activity in the borough. Bev Sharpe said the Council was looking at this issue more strategically. Many young offenders were known to social services and had child protection plans. This year the Youth Offending Service was being brought back in house to H&F which would allow the Council to provide more effective intervention services. The Council was also working closely with schools, the police, and other partners across London on gangs and knife crime. Councillor Elaine Chumnery felt it was important to tap into existing community networks to help tackle gangs, especially considering the Council’s limited resources. The Chair requested a report on the Council’s gangs and knife crime prevention work.
Anna Carpenter said the key to tackling gang crime over the long term was preventative work to stop young people joining gangs in the first place. She had found relationship-based outreach work to be most effective. Bev Sharpe added that a pilot ‘adolescent at risk’ approach would start up in March where one key worker would be assigned to each at-risk young person and they would be given far more personalised support.
Councillor Alan De’Ath said it was also important to address the lack of aspiration and opportunity. For some, education was not seen as a route to success. He wanted to see the best schools in the borough reserve places for young people who had to undertake ‘managed moves’. The current system meant schools with the most spare places (often the worse performing) ended up taking pupils who had been moved out of other schools for bad behaviour. This created a cycle of poor outcomes for both the pupil and the school. He also suggested some pupils in expensive alternative provision could be offered places in boarding schools to give them access to quality education in a different environment.
Bev Sharpe agreed that lack of aspiration was a major issue. Now that the education service was becoming sovereign again officers were looking at a new education offer to tackle some of these issues. Officers were also looking at replicating the ‘virtual school’ model used for looked after children – which, as the Chair noted, had been very successful in improving aspiration and outcomes – for the new adolescent service.
Councillor Elaine Chumnery asked what the general advice to parents was in terms of support and referrals. Anna Carpenter said one borough put a piece in the local free paper (e.g. ‘if you’re worried about your child get in touch’). She felt it was important to think creatively – perhaps using targeted social media, Facebook adverts etc. Councillor Chumnery said there was a lot more outreach to do – the message had to get out to Children’s Centres, parents networks, and beyond.
The Chair commented that the Council should think about the tone of its communications with parents. If a child didn’t turn up to school we should be saying, ‘you’re probably as worried as we are - we can help’ rather than laying down the law and pushing them away. Parents are worried about being blamed when we should be encouraging them to engage. Bev Sharpe said the Early Help service did offer support to parents in those circumstances.
The Chair asked if the Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation panel (MASE) would remain a shared service after Moving On. Anna Carpenter said it would as there were so many cross-border issues and strong information sharing gave the best chance to affect change. The Chair asked how many live cases there were currently. Anna responded that H&F had the most, likely due to differences in demographics between the boroughs, but there was a dedicated Child Sexual Exploitation lead to deal with these issues.
That the Committee reviewed and commented upon the report.