29.1 Dave McCallum, Independent Chair of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) informed the committee that the role of local safeguarding children boards was to ensure that what was done locally to safeguard children was both well-coordinated and effective. He could not currently say that the safeguarding system in Gloucestershire was fully effective or that there was consistently good coordination across partner agencies. He stated that the challenges faced by the county council were also faced, in varying degrees, by partner agencies. Mr McCallum was clear that the responsibility for the drift and delay in strategy discussions was not just with the council but also other partners; and that there needed to be continued improvement into ensuring that actions were having a positive impact on the child/young person.
29.2 Mr McCallum informed the committee that during this year it had been necessary for him to be critical to most agencies as very few have an effective performance monitoring framework in place to inform them on how they were performing with regard to safeguarding our children, or an effective internal quality assurance process allowing them to intrusively monitor the quality of that work. He stated that this council was well ahead of other agencies in this regard. He assured the committee that when necessary he escalated his concerns to the senior leadership of the organisation.
29.3 The committee was aware that Gloucestershire Police had also received a challenging report on safeguarding children in 2017. The Director of Children’s Services (DCS) informed members that the latest report from HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services) was more positive, and that amongst other actions taken to redress this position the Police had appointed 5 new officers to work on safeguarding. It was also noted that a Police Officer now worked alongside the social care teams at the ‘front door’.
29.4 A committee member shared his concerns that the Police did not seem to understand the impact on a child/young person of spending a night in a cell. In following this through with the Police he had been assured that there was a policy, but on speaking to front line officers they did not seem to know the process and seemed to think that they could not ring the duty line. Mr McCallum stated that this was why he wanted every agency involved in safeguarding to consider its role, and have a monitoring process in place. He questioned whether the Police reported on how often and for how long children/young people were detained in the cells overnight.
29.5 The DCS informed the committee that he thought that the quarterly meeting with Health, the council and the Police (as discussed in the Improvement board agenda item) would enable strategic discussions regarding safeguarding and would be purposeful. He agreed that no child should spend the night in the cells and through these meetings he would be able to challenge the Assistant Chief Constable on the work of the Police in this regard. He did, however, share with the committee that there could be exceptional circumstances where other options did not exist and a cell could be the safest place.
29.6 In response to a question it was clarified that changes arising from the Wood Review (2016) into the role and functions of local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs), and the Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance (2018) replaced the existing statutory arrangements for LSCBs and introduced a new statutory framework for multi-agency arrangements for child protection. This meant that this was the last year for the GSCB under current arrangements. It was possible that the statutory agencies under the new framework (local authority, Health, Police) would decide to keep the Board in place, but as yet this was not clear.
29.7 The committee was concerned that there did not seem to be good cross agency working ‘on the ground’, and with partners all facing resource challenges questioned what could be done to address this. Mr McCallum reiterated his statement that all agencies need to recognise their responsibility for safeguarding, and act as soon as they realised that a child needed support.
29.8 Mr McCallum was asked what was his biggest concern? He shared his concern that the crisis at the child protection end of the spectrum had meant that the GSCB had had to focus on this area to the detriment of early help. There were now more than 800 children subject to a child protection plan (CPP) which represented a significant increase on the same time period last year; this meant that there was significant pressure on the early help pathway. He informed members that if he were a member of this committee he would want to know that other agencies were ‘stepping up to the plate’ and that the voice of the child was being heard.
(Post meeting note: there was disagreement at the meeting as to the current number of children subject to a Child Protection Plan. The number report to the Children Services Improvement Board on 24 July was 789.)