Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 18 July 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Andrea Clarke 01452 324203 

Items
No. Item

32.

Declarations of interest

Please see note (a) at the end of agenda.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

33.

Minutes of the previous meetings pdf icon PDF 86 KB

The committee to receive the minutes of the meetings on Thursday 23 May 2019 and Friday 7 June 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting on Thursday 23 May 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman subject to the following amendment: -

Minute 21.17 remove the second ‘not’ in the first sentence such that it reads: Members did not feel that the process for identifying a MAT for the school to join was sufficiently transparent, and took too long, causing delays and concerns for parents and pupils.

 

34.

Safeguarding Children Annual Report 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 53 KB

The committee to receive the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report 2018/19.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

34.1     Serious Case Review ‘James’           

34.1.1  Serious Case Review (SCR) 0116 ‘James’ had been published the previous day and it was agreed that Kevin Crompton, Interim Chair of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB), would present the findings of this SCR to the committee. Mr Crompton informed the committee that the convention with SCRs was to anonymise the individual to protect the remaining relatives; the BBC and other local media had chosen not to do so.

 

34.1.2  Mr Crompton informed members that ‘James’ died in awful circumstances. The SCR process was not about apportioning blame but to identify learning opportunities. The events that led to ‘James’ death took place three years ago; quite a lot of the practice at that time related to how partners were managing ‘James’ sibling. ‘James’ mother was in denial about the domestic abuse that she was experiencing, and lied about her drug use. All safeguarding partners needed to learn from this case.

 

34.1.3  The committee was informed that the report identified that there had been a lack of professional curiosity and challenge; questions had not been asked when the opportunity to do so had arisen. It was questioned whether this death could have been prevented. Mr Crompton stated that in his view the professionals involved could have called a strategy meeting to share information which would have meant they would have been better prepared/informed. He was, however, of the view that the mother would not have cooperated, and doubted whether the threshold would have been met for a care order. He reflected that the professionals involved should have been more aware of the risks. Whilst the professionals involved could have managed the case better and to some extent some aspects could have been predictable, he did not think that this death was preventable.

 

34.1.4  There was a shared view that yet again information sharing had proved a barrier, and members were frustrated that this continued to be a cause for concern. Some members were of the view that the concerns should have been spotted. The committee was clear that we must get this right. Mr Crompton accepted members’ points. He stated that information sharing had improved so it was disappointing that this had been such a significant factor in this case.

 

34.1.5  Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services, informed the meeting that he did not disagree with Mr Crompton’s statements. He also informed members that when he had joined the council this report had been in draft form. The report had been redrafted as a result of intervention from himself and Mr Crompton as they had been of the view that it was not sufficiently independent. This had contributed to the delay in publication. He also stated that we were already in the position where we had addressed the shortcomings identified in the report.

 

34.1.6  A committee member commented that everyone used different systems which made it hard to share data. They also questioned how often a strategy meeting was called by someone  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.

35.

Safeguarding Children - Working Together 2018 New Arrangements pdf icon PDF 72 KB

The committee to be updated on the new governance arrangements that came into effect on 15 July 2019 to meet the requirements of Working Together to Safeguard Children (HMG July 2018).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

35.1     The Director of Children’s Services presented the detail of the new Children’s Safeguarding working arrangements. He thanked Andy Dempsey, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, for his work on this issue. He confirmed that the committee would continue to receive reports on children’s safeguarding. He felt that under the previous system there had been insufficient focus on delivery.

 

35.2     The committee welcomed the changes commenting that these appeared to address concerns raised by the committee in previous years.

 

35.3     It was commented that this all looked good but it was about what happened ‘on the ground’. Mr Dempsey agreed and explained that this was a statement of intent. Following on from questions asked in relation to schools he also informed the committee that there had been a safeguarding event with schools on 17 July 2019 discussing thresholds in education settings; there would be another event in the Autumn. Mr Dempsey acknowledged that it was important to be clear with schools what the offer to them was. Members were also informed that a conference on the early help strategy was scheduled for the Autumn. This work was acknowledged by committee members but they were clear that the main factor was whether this was working ‘on the ground’.

 

35.4     Charlotte Blanch, Clifton Diocese representative and Headteacher at The Catholic School of St Gregory the Great in Cheltenham, informed the meeting that Primary Headteachers in Cheltenham were trying to develop a Cheltenham Offer but were struggling to get the secondary schools on board.

 

36.

Children and Young People and the Criminal Justice System pdf icon PDF 592 KB

The committee to receive a presentation on the work/impact of the Children First initiative;

and verbal feedback from the visit to Gloucestershire by HMIP as part of their thematic inspection on youth resettlement.

 

Minutes:

36.1     Kate Langley, Head of Youth Offending Service (YOS), gave a detailed presentation on the aims, objectives and outcomes (so far) of the Children First scheme. (For information the presentation slides were uploaded to the council’s website and included in the minute book.)

 

36.2     The committee also received a detailed presentation of the Youth Justice Plan by the Director Partnerships and Strategy. This plan also outlined the findings of the visit to Gloucestershire by HMIP (Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons) as part of their thematic inspection on youth resettlement. In response to a question the committee was assured that the ACEs checklist was built into the system, but it was acknowledged that this aspect and mental health support could be more explicit within the Action Plan.

 

36.3     Committee members were impressed with the outcomes achieved by the Children First scheme, and expressed their support of this work. Members were particularly impressed with the positive impact on the number of first time entrants and reoffending rates; and the focus being to see the child first and the offender second. The committee acknowledged that given the perception from the general public that all crimes should be prosecuted it had been a significant move to take this restorative approach forward. The impact of this scheme on a young person’s life chances should not be underestimated.

 

36.4     A member stated that the committee should be outraged that young people have to go to the Parc Youth Offending Institute (YOI) in Bridgend, Wales; this was a two and a half hour journey. He also drew attention to the observations/criticisms from the thematic inspection. He also reiterated his concerns regarding the use of cells overnight for young people and welcomed Ms Langley’s assurance that a transfer protocol was now in place with the Police on this matter and that the numbers had reduced.

 

36.5     Ms Langley acknowledged the concerns regarding Parc YOI and did not disagree with them. She informed the committee that the YOS did often transport families to Parc YOI to visit a family member. She also explained that the number of YOI establishments had been reduced and that Parc was the facility identified for young offenders from Gloucestershire.

 

36.6     The member also raised concerns with regard to the awareness of Children First across all Police Officers. His experience was that some Police Officers claimed that they were not aware of this initiative. As a solicitor this presented difficulties for him as it impacted on the advice he was able to give to his client. Members were disappointed that there remained officers who were not aware of this office. Ms Langley informed the committee that there had initially been some resourcing challenges but a full time coordinator was now in place, and there was now a presence in Police Stations seven days a week and it was hoped that this would help with these situations. She also explained that Children First was included in the induction training for new recruits  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.

37.

Youth Justice Plan pdf icon PDF 66 KB

The committee to receive and comment on the plan.

The plan will be received by Cabinet on 24 July 2019 ahead of its adoption by Council on 18 September 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee discussed this item alongside the Children First item. Please see minute 36.

38.

Work Programme 2019 pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Minutes:

The committee agreed to add bullying in schools to the workplan. Members also wanted to understand what progress there had been against the recommendations made by the Permanent Exclusions Task Group, particularly given that the Overview and Scrutiny Management had been de-commissioned following the review of scrutiny.