The Independent Chair of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) to present the Annual Report.
9.1 The committee welcomed Mr David McCallum, Independent Chair of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) to discuss and debate his report. In response to a question it was clarified that this was Mr McCallum’s report as Independent Chair and its purpose was to reflect the work of the GSCB over the previous 12 months and also challenge the wider GSCB partnership. It does not get signed off by the wider GSCB membership.
9.2 Mr McCallum informed members that a particular learning point from the Ofsted inspection process related to quality audits, in that the GSCB had not been undertaking audits that took in the whole journey of the child. He felt that this would have given the GSCB a better view of all the things (eg. poor practice) that could disadvantage children and young people. Going forward this would be rectified. Mr McCallum was also unsure as to whether all organisations had been undertaking a sufficient level of internal quality audit, and he intended to be much more searching in this regard going forward.
9.3 In response to a question Mr McCallum informed the committee that one of the biggest challenges related to the skill levels and capacity of front line officers and partners to be able to meet the needs of children and young people with complex needs. It was a struggle to recruit people with the right skill mix. Mr McCallum also felt that it was important that social workers were given the support that they needed to do what was a difficult job.
9.4 Given the pressures at the front door members questioned whether there was the resource/capacity across all partner organisations to be able to respond to the findings of the Ofsted Inspection report. Mr McCallum assured members that there was an absolute determination from all organisations to improve.
9.5 As in previous years the committee was disappointed with the level of attendance by some organisations at GSCB meetings and asked whether this was of concern. Mr McCallum informed members that attendance always drew comment; given the capacity and resource pressures across organisations attendance would be a challenge. He felt that it was more important that there was the right representation and attendance at the subgroup level. He also stated that he did have a line of communication with all organisations and that they would attend if needed. Members did feel that the level of attendance should be challenged. It was noted that there has been no attendance from Cotswold District Council (CDC) in the previous twelve months, and Cllr Joe Harris informed Mr McCallum that if he wished he would raise this at CDC.
9.6 Members felt that the unwieldy structure of the GSCB did not, in reality, facilitate the GSCB’s work. Mr McCallum acknowledged this and explained that in the long term recent legislation (Children and Social Work Act 2017) would enable the GSCB to take a more permissive approach to membership and structure, and in the shorter term the GSCB was reviewing its structure.
9.7 It was questioned whether Mr McCallum was surprised by the outcome of the inspection. He informed members that the extent of the poor practice found was a surprise. He stated that he acknowledged the findings of the Ofsted Inspection and that this reflected a failing of the function of the GSCB and himself. He also stated that the GSCB respected what the Ofsted inspection and the HMIC Child Protection Inspection of Gloucestershire Constabulary were saying, and reiterated that there was a determination across all organisations to implement all recommendations. The committee was pleased to note that the GSCB would be represented on the Improvement Board.
9.7 Members questioned whether the voice of the child was sufficiently recognised across the GSCB. Mr McCallum stated that this had been a priority throughout his tenure but agreed that this was an area requiring improvement and whilst the GSCB did already work with the Ambassadors this was a priority going forward.
9.8 The committee was informed that the GSCB was looking to establish a practitioner reference group to ensure that the learning from their experience was taken forward and informed policy and practice.
9.9 It was noted that the membership of the GSCB represented the senior posts across partner organisations, and questioned whether this gave sufficient insight to what was happening at the frontline. Mr McCallum explained that Local Safeguarding Boards were statutory bodies and representatives must be of a senior enough position to be able to make decisions on behalf of their organisations and commit those organisations’ resources. He acknowledged members’ point that this did seem to be a disconnect and was one of the reasons why the GSCB was establishing the practitioner reference group.
9.10 Members wanted to gain a better understanding of how staff felt about their job, working for the council etc. It was agreed that the outcome of the annual staff health check would be shared with the committee. It was also questioned whether exit interviews should be mandatory, however, it was explained that this was not practical, but staff were encouraged to feed back.