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Agenda item

Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership - Annual Report 2019/20

Report of the Executive Director, People Services



The Committee received a report of the Executive Director, People Services, attaching the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership - Annual Report 2019/20.




In attendance for this item were David Ashcroft (Independent Chair of the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership), Tina Gilbert (Manager, Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership), Carly Speechley (Director of Children and Families), Dan White (Head of Health and Targeted Services, Sheffield Futures) and Councillor Jackie Drayton (Cabinet Member for Children and Families).




David Ashcroft introduced the report, which provided an overview of safeguarding activity in Sheffield, and contained Information on the key achievements during 2019/20, the priorities for the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership (SCSP), and the joint priorities for the SCSP and the Sheffield Adults Safeguarding Partnership (SASP) for 2020/ 21.  The report also attached, as an appendix, a list of the Executive Group members of the SCSP.




Mr Ashcroft reported on the formal move from the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board to the multi-agency partnership (SCSP), and referred to a number of key achievements during 2019/20.




Mr Ashcroft indicated that he wished to formally place on record his thanks to Victoria Horsfield (former lead officer and professional advisor to the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board) for her contribution to the success of safeguarding in the city, and to Tina Gilbert and her staff in terms of sustaining a strong response to safeguarding across the City, both in 2019/20 and through the Covid-19 pandemic this year.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·            The Partnership was well aware of the problems caused by the increase in online gambling, and had undertaken work in this area.  It had been identified as an emerging issue, and the Partnership was looking at the risks and issues such activity presented for young people.




·            There was a direct correlation between the increase in the number of young people on Child Protection Plans, as a result of neglect, and the levels of deprivation and poverty faced by many families across the city.  This position made it more difficult for many families to protect their children against neglect.  The Partnership would continue to scrutinise those young people on Child Protection Plans and, whilst there had been a slight increase in the number of young people on such Plans, following Lockdown 1, such numbers had now stabilised in terms of performance and levels of concern.  The Children and Families Service had seen an increase in demand with regard to both children in need and children on Child Protection Plans over the last 12-18 months, and whilst there had been a slight dip in referrals, there had been an increase in the number of such children throughout the pandemic.  The increase in the figures was partly due to the Service having decided to keep some children on the Plans for longer than normal as it had not been deemed safe to step them down due to the lack of universal providers available during the pandemic.  The numbers now on Plans were currently in comparison with other local authorities.  In addition, the Council was currently in the process of renewing its Neglect Strategy, which would be accompanied by a series of training and awareness raising sessions.  As part of the Strategy, there was a new neglect assessment tool, which would help practitioners review cases and enable them to understand whether there were signs of neglect.




·            The Council made every effort possible to ensure that every adoption arranged was successful, and whilst it was accepted that this sometimes took a long time, it was considered more important in the long-term.  Members and officers met regularly with adopters, to listen to their views, with the aim of improving how the Council supported them.  Also, the Council had recently become part of a Regional Adoption Agency which, amongst other benefits, would result in the Council having access to a wider variety of adoptees.




·            Whilst it was important for the Partnership to continue monitoring the adverse impacts of online gambling and gaming on young people and their families, the effects should be taken into perspective on the basis that it was not a ubiquitous issue.  There was the possibility that the move to online learning, as a result of the pandemic, had resulted in some young people being distracted, and straying onto online gambling and gaming sites, and this needed to be monitored.  The Partnership was  confident that online learning was being adequately supported in Sheffield.  The Partnership would continue to support the positive aspects of online learning, as a means of mitigating the risks of young people being drawn into online gambling or gaming.  The Partnership offered training on the risks of young people using social media and other online platforms, which highlighted the risks to them and their families.




·            The former SCSP Workforce Development Manager had recently retired, and due to the pandemic, it had taken longer than normal to reappoint to the post.  The new postholder was now in the position of reviewing the multi-agency training offer to ensure that there was support for the areas identified following the workforce development questionnaire, where practitioners identified further training and/or development opportunities.




·            The Partnership was in agreement with the principle of adopting a more collective voice in connection with safeguarding issues on the basis that there were a number of common issues faced by families.  The Children’s Commissioner had been a very powerful and effective voice for children's interests over the years, particularly in terms of identifying vulnerability prior to any safeguarding intervention.  Independent Partnership Chairs in the Yorkshire and Humber area met regularly to discuss various cross-cutting issues.  There was a strong and active network which provided support for the Independent Chairs and Business Managers.




·            The Partnership was aware of the adverse effects of the pandemic on young carers, and this would be addressed in more detail in its Annual Report 2020/21.




·            Mental health had been a high priority area for the Partnership for some time.  There were issues as to whether there were sufficient mental health services in the city, as was the case nationally.  The Partnership could work with the Sheffield Youth Cabinet in connection with disseminating messages about the problems and pressures faced by young people linked to the use of social media.




·            The Partnership would welcome more involvement with this Committee, although this could be difficult due to time constraints on both the Independent Chair and the Committee.  Consideration should be given to the Partnership providing an additional update report, over and above the annual report.




·            The regular turnover of senior police officers represented an ongoing challenge for the Partnership in terms of maintaining strong and effective relationships with such officers.  Work had been undertaken to ensure that incoming officers were adequately briefed on all relevant safeguarding issues in the city.




·            The Partnership would look at the possibility of producing its Annual Report earlier, so as to ensure it could be submitted to this Committee earlier in the Municipal Year.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the contents of the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership - Annual Report 2019/20, together with the comments now made and the responses to the questions raised;




(b)      thanks David Ashcroft, Tina Gilbert and Councillor Jackie Drayton for attending the meeting and responding to the questions raised; and




(c)      requests that consideration be given for (i) the Annual Report to be produced earlier, so as to enable its submission to the Committee earlier in the Municipal Year, and (ii) David Ashcroft being invited to attend meetings of the Committee as and when appropriate, in connection with the consideration of safeguarding issues.


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