Councillor Jane Gebbie - Deputy Leader of Council and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help
Claire Marchant - Corporate Director - Social Services and Wellbeing
Jacqueline Davies - Head of Adult Social Care
Laura Kinsey - Head of Children’s Social Care
Raeanna Grainger – Group Manager, IAA & Safeguarding
Terri Warrilow - Safeguarding and Secure Estate Manager
The Corporate Director presented the report, the purpose of which was to update the Committee with information regarding a number of safeguarding arrangements across Adult and Children’s Social Care and highlighted that the report included information from October 2021 to September 2022.
She also highlighted that safeguarding covers all Directorates across the Council and that safeguarding is everybody's business and the need for individuals and Members to understand their personal responsibilities.
In response to a Member query as to whether there had been an omission in the report regarding Human Trafficking and Anti-Slavery, the Corporate Director advised that they fell under the Criminal Exploitation category but acknowledged that it was an area of safeguarding where they needed to improve data collection. Working closely with the Regional Safeguarding Board and other statutory partners to understand the number of cases in existence, she hoped for an improved data capture that would be evidenced in future annual reports.
The Leader acknowledged that crimes such as human trafficking and modern-day slavery were hidden crimes that happened in communities, not just in big cities. He highlighted the work of the Community Safety Partnership which had input from the Local Authority and the Police, Fire and Probation services with a strong focus on addressing the crimes. He highlighted the importance of reporting concerns so that they could be explored in order to protect the most vulnerable people but acknowledged that people could be nervous or unsure before making a report and encouraged those people to seek advice if they had any concerns.
The Corporate Director advised that whilst an increase in referrals could be a challenge on resources, they welcomed reports of safeguarding concerns and acknowledged the need for people reporting to feel safe in making a report. She referred to the work of the Regional Safeguarding Board and the outcome of the recent Child Practice Review which had highlighted the importance of raising awareness of how to report a safeguarding concern.
In response to a Member query as to what measures were in place to safeguard the homeless, particularly during colder weather and whether there was a list of warm hubs, the Corporate Director advised that there was a telephone number and website to readily report concerns about a rough sleeper or someone who may be homeless. In addition, there were links on the Council’s website to the Warm Hubs across the County Borough and how they could be accessed. Support was also available via a range of grants, support through Early Help and preventative and statutory services to provide individuals and families with urgent access to means to keep safe and warm.
There were also a wide range of mechanisms to support people at risk of homelessness such as the Discretionary Housing Payments, the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, fuel support and various cost-of-living schemes. The Corporate Director highlighted the links with third sector partners in terms of food poverty and with Employability Bridgend coordinating work around the cost-of-living crisis.
The Leader referred to the Streetlink app and telephone service which allows people to place an alert regarding someone they are concerned about who is sleeping rough and a check is made on that person. He advised that whilst the people may not take up the offer of assistance, support was available all year-round including food, drink and comfort facilities which were delivered jointly with a number of partners including the Wallich.
In response to a Member query regarding whether temperature levels may trigger support, the Leader acknowledged that there could be variances in temperature across the Borough and advised that there were at least three weather stations which were used for deployment of gritting lorries and agreed to investigate whether the stations were also used to deploy other services.
In response to a Member query regarding the availability of funding to assist organisations with the setting up and provision of Warm Hubs, the Leader advised that the initial work needed was to identify and map the provision available. He highlighted that Warm Hubs would be supporting vulnerable people and advised that they would be looking to issue organisations running Warm Hubs with information and advice on the reporting of safeguarding concerns. In response to a request, he agreed to seek an update regarding the Welsh Government grant funding.
A Member asked whether safeguarding checks were undertaken on the organisations offering to set up Warm Hubs and the Leader advised that most of the provision seemed to be offered by existing organisations which already had safeguarding policies and checks in place. However, if there were new organisations, which did not usually interact with the public, they would need to ensure that the safeguarding implications were understood.
In relation to Member query regarding the process followed in order to establish the threshold for Adult Safeguarding procedures and what happens to those who do not meet the threshold, the Safeguarding and Secure Estate Manager advised that since the introduction of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, when a safeguarding referral is received, the Authority has 7 days in which to make relevant enquiries and checks. She advised that there were a number of possible outcomes to referrals but stressed that no referral was left without an outcome, either:
1. The referral was not quite as deemed at the outset resulting in signposting to information and advice.
2. The individual may be referred back to their Social Worker with relevant recommendations from safeguarding.
3. If criminality was identified, there would be police involvement.
4. Commencement of Adult Safeguarding Procedures.
She continued that reporting to Welsh Government was required on a regular basis and that if enquiries took longer than the statutory timescale of 7 days, they had to be justified.
In relation to a query regarding the different statutory timescales in Adult and Children safeguarding, the Group Manager for IAA & Safeguarding advised that in Children’s Social Care, a Core Group should be held within 10 working days following the Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) where it was determined to place the child’s name on the Child Protection Register (CPR) and then 4 to 6 weeks thereafter.
The Corporate Director advised that when a safeguarding referral for children was received, Social Services need to make an initial screening decision within 24 hours whereas for adults it is 7 days. In Children’s Social Care, a Strategy Meeting may determine that a Section 47 Child Protection inquiry is needed to be undertaken within 15 days. Following the inquiry, the child’s name could be placed on the CPR, following an ICPC.
In response to a Member query regarding the process following receipt of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) referrals, the Safeguarding and Secure Estate Manager advised that the Authority received around 50 to 60 referrals each month which were allocated by date order. In order to determine whether someone would meet the Deprivation of Liberty criteria, there were 6 assessments that needed to be undertaken by 2 practitioners; one a doctor trained in mental health and the other a best interest assessor and only on the conclusion of all 6 assessments could the outcome be determined.
She continued that the Authority report to Welsh Government the number of DoLS referrals received, how many were authorised and whether they were standard or urgent authorisations and how many referrals were withdrawn with reasons why. She agreed to provide this data to the Committee.
A Member noted the exponential rise in the number of children on the CPR and asked whether there was an action plan to try and reduce numbers or to ensure that those who were on the CPR were receiving the necessary support.
The Corporate Director advised that they had continued to see an increase in numbers noting that there were 299 children on the CPR at the end of November. She highlighted that there had been a rise in the number of contacts through the front door resulting in an increased number of strategy meetings and assessments. She also highlighted the significant additional protections given to a child who is on the CPR, including the number of statutory visits by a Social Worker and that a child remains on the CPR until a Multi-Agency Meeting was satisfied that the safeguarding arrangements were sufficient to determine that a child could be deregistered.
In response to a Member query as to whether the numbers were anticipated to continue to rise and about the resources necessary to mitigate against it, she advised that services were operating considerably above establishment due to the additional work. She referred to a range of actions in the Performance Evaluation Inspection Action Plan and the 3-year Strategic Improvement Plan regarding workforce including the implementation of the Social Work Support Officer role. She acknowledged the strategic challenges including financial sustainability and advised that the Institute of Public Care was undertaking work to look at whole system solutions, but they had advised that the increased contact would likely continue for at least a further two years. The Corporate Director highlighted the importance of a preventative approach to achieve the best safe outcomes where appropriate and the implementation of the model of practice, ‘Signs of Safety’. The outcome of the whole system review would need to be considered by Cabinet when concluded.
A Member queried whether the tragic child death in Bridgend had impacted on the increase in contacts and the Group Manager for IAA & Safeguarding agreed that it would likely have given the public the confidence to report a child they were concerned about. The service viewed the increase as a positive and highlighted that they wanted to continue to work with members of public and professionals around awareness of child abuse and the need to protect children.
In response to a Member query regarding the timescales for a Section 47 investigation, the Group Manager for IAA & Safeguarding advised that they are undertaken in 10 working days and a strategy meeting convened thereafter to determine the next steps. If the outcome was to proceed to an ICPC, the conference would be held within 15 working days. She highlighted that social work capacity had been strengthened in IAA and MASH and that they were now successfully meeting statutory timescales on a much more consistent basis. It was noted that the capacity was not funded through core budgets but through ear marked reserves and a sustainability plan was needed.
In relation to whether Social Services had sufficient resources to work through cases and to bring numbers down, she advised that despite excellent in-house and external resources, there were sometimes waiting lists for some services and the whole systems review needed to determine if these were focussed sufficiently on the needs of families with the most significant challenges. She acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges had been workforce but that there was work ongoing to address that but, in the meantime, they had agency staff to ensure statutory duties were being met.
The Corporate Director highlighted that in the previous financial year, the Directorate had benefitted from considerable earmarked reserves resulting in an underspend position. However, the procurement of a managed team, partly made up with agency staff, which was helping to meet the statutory timescales, was putting them in an overspend position and she advised that recruitment of permanent staff would continue to be a challenge for a number of years.
The Leader advised that there was a nationwide trend of rising numbers of children needing support. He acknowledged that whilst the tragic child death in Bridgend may have had an impact on the number of contacts coming into the service in Bridgend, he advised that there were also a number of other factors which contributed to children being at risk, including the impact of the pandemic where children remained at home, pressures of the cost-of living and housing crises and domestic abuse.
In relation to the resources and training necessary to undertake a Section 47 investigation, the Group Manager for IAA & Safeguarding advised that they are often undertaken by one Social Worker but joint visiting and co-working was encouraged. She advised that statutory timescales were now largely being met and that timescales were actively monitored on a daily basis to identify any cases that might fall outside of timescales.
She advised that the mandatory ‘Back to Basics’ training, which looked at processes, timescales and skills was being rolled out for all staff, including agency staff, and that the uptake figures were monitored at the weekly managers’ meeting.
In response to a query regarding raising awareness of the Regional Safeguarding Board (the Board), the Corporate Director provided some background to the establishment of the Board. She acknowledged that structures on a regional level could be deemed as less visible and their role less understood and agreed to share with Members a website which sets out what the Board does, its statutory partners and has links to policies and procedures. She highlighted the leadership role the Board took in the recent Child Practice Review and advised that the inclusion of the Board’s Annual Plan was for greater visibility of its role in overseeing the accountability of all partners.
In response to a Member query regarding reporting safeguarding concerns, the Corporate Director advised that referrals should be made to local services and clarified that the responsibility of the Board was to hold individual safeguarding organisation to account in terms of policies, procedures and training and the commissioning and publishing of Practice Reviews. She highlighted that the main interface with the Board from a public perspective would be in case of a safeguarding procedures complaint.
A Member noted the importance of communication between schools and safeguarding and, in relation to the establishment of the safeguarding in education working group, asked whether best practice would be shared from this.
The Group Manager for IAA & Safeguarding noted the resources and implications arising from safeguarding in schools and recognised the need for positive relationships between children’s services and schools. The working group meetings had been diarised for the New Year and would consider advice on when to make referrals, how to improve the information in referrals and the rolling out of training.
The Corporate Director advised that there was a lot of work with the Education Engagement team regarding productive and effective professional relationships to ensure that safeguarding was dealt with across all agencies in the most effective and timely way.
The Leader advised that schools had recently carried out a self-evaluation of safeguarding arrangements and was pleased that some schools had identified the need for improvement and had an enthusiasm and willingness to work together with the Authority. He highlighted that schools were at the forefront of safeguarding and wellbeing as, second only to at home, it is where children spend most of their time and he recognised the importance of the regular daily contact and relationships children have with their teachers which could assist with identifying potential problems. He acknowledged that the joint working with schools had been impacted by the pandemic but that as relationships were being rebuilt, there was the opportunity to consider how systems in place could be strengthened further.
The Chairperson advised that Members of the Committee who wanted to ask questions had all spoken, so as there were no further questions for the invitees, thanked them for their attendance and advised that they may leave the meeting.
RESOLVED: Following detailed consideration and discussions with Officers and Cabinet Members, the Committee made the following Recommendation:
1. The Committee welcomed the up-to-date information presented in the Annual Report – Safeguarding of Children and Adults and indicated their preference that future presentations of this report similarly cover the period October to September rather than April to March (financial year).
and the Committee requested:
A list of Warm Hubs where Members can refer those in
4. Whether the weather stations positioned around the County could be used to deploy other services, particularly including services to assist the homeless.
5. An update on the rollout of the Welsh Government funding to support Warm Hubs.
6. In relation to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards:
a. How many standard referrals were received and how many were authorised;
b. How many urgent referrals were received and how many were authorised:
c. How many referrals were withdrawn and the reasons why.
7. A link to the website setting out the purpose of the Regional Safeguarding Board and its policies and procedures.
8. Confirmation that a reminder of how to report safeguarding concerns has been circulated to staff and Members.