Local work of Stay Safe groups
All Stay Safe groups in Essex are now established and are developing their work plan with good attendance from partners in all areas. The newly formed group in South first met in September 2020 and identified four key areas of work: early help, child exploitation and online safety, mental health and wellbeing, and homelessness. Recent challenges were acknowledged within Mid but there is confidence that the group have a positive outlook and work plan moving forwards. The groups are guided by the ESCB Business Plan and committed to delivering good outcomes for children and young people across Essex.
Safeguarding Leads from District and Borough Councils are invited to attend Stay Safe meetings across the county. There are also links into Stay Safe through Community Safety Partnerships and community policing. Furthermore, the ESCB City, District & Borough Council Safeguarding Leads Sub-Committee has reformed and will meet in April. Going forward, the Stay Safe Chairs and ESCB Sub-Committee Chairs will be having regular joint meetings.
When homeless families are placed in Essex they can become disconnected from their support networks and they may also have vulnerabilities. The housing protocol with London will allow conversations to be had between the two authorities to ensure the best support for the families involved. Work will continue to implement the protocol and determine how to work with other neighbouring authorities who may place families within Essex.
Child exploitation during lockdown
A consultation into how service delivery for child exploitation has been impacted by Covid-19 highlighted concerns around the lack of face to face work with children and young people. Whilst the rapid move to a digital service in the first lockdown provided a sense of togetherness, more recent studies have shown a negative impact on working with children and families in this way for an extended period. Consultation will continue over the Covid recovery period to understand the experience of children and families as services begin more face to face work.
Online exploitation awareness campaign
Since the start of the pandemic there has been the misconception that children are safer at home. As we now know, that is not necessarily the case. With children spending more time online and parents trying to manage home-schooling and work, exploitation has simply become more hidden. Young people craving to connect with others, have turned to social media to replace face to face interaction, creating opportunities for exploiters to groom and exploit. The SET Online Safety Campaign has been raising awareness of these issues to professionals, parents and young people. Alongside this, a new Exploitation E-learning Package and SET Partnership Child Exploitation Pathway has been launched to support those working with, and identifying, individuals at risk of serious violence or exploitation.
Partnership working and Covid-19: Collaborative work between agencies continues in response to Covid. Statutory partner meetings also continue across Southend, Essex and Thurrock in order to monitor the effectiveness of the safeguarding system, share information and take action as required. This coordinated action and sharing of information has been helpful in formulating responses to emerging risks.
The Executive discussed the wider partnership response to Covid. Partnership arrangements are working well and there continues to be a fantastic effort by schools to adapt to an ever-changing situation. There is a focus by all agencies on supporting in particular the most vulnerable children and families and a recognition that supporting mental health and wellbeing remains a priority not only for children and families but also for the staff working in agencies in these challenging times. The considerable and ongoing contribution of the voluntary sector to supporting children, young people and families was also acknowledged.
Stay Safe Groups: The Executive received an update from two of the Stay Safe Groups in West and North. It was very helpful to see how well the groups were progressing and some of the areas of work that were being taken forward. Areas of work include around early help, building partnership working locally and embedding learning from reviews.
Learning and development – Webinars available to book: Following the cancellation of the Stay Safe conferences in March and April 2020, ESCB are now going to run a series of webinars from January through to April 2021.
ESCB have worked with Southend and Thurrock so the webinars are available across SET. The webinars are being funded through the Violence and Vulnerability Unit and are open to anyone working with people up to the age of 25.
The webinars will feature the following speakers and topics;
More information on the webinars and booking links can be found here.
The ESCB Executive want to thank all staff for their commitment and fantastic hard work over the last year, especially given the extras pressure because of Covid. This has been a challenging year but the professionalism and dedication of staff across all agencies to keeping children and young people safe has been outstanding and much appreciated.
Early Help and Effective Support: The Essex County Council Children & Families Hub identified that there were a significant number of requests for support coming into the hub that were more appropriate for level 2/early help services. If the support needs of a child and family can be met at level 2 then these services can be accessed directly by the family without the need to submit a Request for Support (RFS), with support if needed using the Directory of Services. Early Help Plans and Team Around the Family are ways of working together collaboratively to get children and families the most appropriate help at the earliest possible time.
The Executive therefore agreed recommendations to address early help support. These include ensuring internal safeguarding training includes information on early help, team around the family, ensuring staff are aware of the directory of services and the Effective Support document. Support for Stay Safe Groups to reinforce messaging and increased communications to the partnership reminding staff of early help and team around the family. If anyone would like more information on team around the family or early help including presentations to team meetings or information for training sessions then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Think Family Approach: Following the findings from recent reviews, the Essex Safeguarding Children Board will work with all partner agencies to agree the principles of a Think Family approach, with a focus on how parental mental health impacts on the child/ren. Partner agencies will then disseminate information to their staff through relevant internal channels.
Multi-Agency response to Covid-19: Each agency spoke about the challenges within their organisations and how services have had to quickly adapt in order to continue to safeguard children and young people during the pandemic. The ESCB launched a dedicated COVID-19 section on the website outlining general advice, temporary changes to services and information for families. Statutory partners across Southend, Essex and Thurrock have weekly online meetings to monitor issues around Covid-19 as they arise.
Options for Sub-Committees and Stay Safe Groups: Discussions were had about how to further improve links between these groups and the Executive Board. Proposals will be taken forward over the coming months.
Collaboration of Boards: There is agreement that there is scope to improve collaboration of different Boards across Essex and work will be progressed. This could involve an annual meeting for all the chairs of the different Boards which will aim to reduce any duplication of work.
Southend, Essex and Thurrock Exploitation and Missing Strategies: Both strategies were presented to the Board for endorsement. Completed by Safeguarding Leads for both the adults and children workforce, the strategies will be signed off by every Safeguarding Board across Southend, Essex and Thurrock.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Champion role: The current CSE Champion role began in 2017, but to improve the quality of the role, it was considered appropriate to review this. Current CSE champions across SET were consulted, and the majority felt that the role should be updated. The proposal is that the role will be widened to include other forms of exploitation. It was confirmed this will remain a non-statutory role.
Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit: The work programme of the Violence and Vulnerability Unit was discussed. This included training, the different workstreams and also conference planning. The work is in the early stages however the Government is looking to fund this work for a further three years and so it is likely this work will continue.
The implementation of the new Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASA)
A document outlining Essex’s new arrangements was published at the end of June 2019 and will be fully implemented by 29th September 2019. ESCB will be retaining its name, brand and logo, and the main changes will be in governance. Responsibility for leading the safeguarding partnership will now sit with the three key partners namely – Health (Clinical Commissioning Groups), Local Authority and Police.
Serious Case Reviews will be known as Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews. There will be updated referral forms and guidance to explain how the new arrangements will affect these reviews.
Members of the Executive Board spent the meeting discussing how elements of the multi-agency safeguarding arrangements would work, including:
Scrutiny: Working Together 2018 states that there must be some form of scrutiny in place to ensure the multi-agency partnership is working effectively - members discussed how this might be carried out.
Ensuring the voice of the child is at the heart of our MASA: The Executive considered how the work of the ESCB helps to keep children and young people safe and how they could encourage young people to positively engage with the Board.
Funding: The Executive considered if the budget is set at the right level currently and what options there might be for the future.
Essex Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements
Essex’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASA) have now been published on the ESCB website and can be accessed via the following link: http://www.escb.co.uk/media/2038/essex-masa-plan-2019-20-updated-280619-v1b.pdf
The new arrangements will be fully implemented from 29th September 2019 and responsibility will transfer to three local statutory safeguarding partners (chief officer of police, the local authority and clinical commissioning groups in Essex) for key decision making and ensuring that relevant agencies work together in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children in the area.
Violence and Vulnerability Unit
The Violence and Vulnerability Unit within Essex Police is Essex’s response to the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy released in 2018.
This has resulted in new boards being set up within Essex Police - the Southend Essex Thurrock (SET) Violence and Vulnerability Leadership Board and SET Violence and Vulnerability Operations Board.
The unit is in the process of developing its plans and a further update on progress will be discussed at future ESCB meetings.
Vulnerable families being placed in Essex
It is recognised that a number of London Boroughs are placing growing numbers of vulnerable families in Essex. It has therefore been agreed that leaders of borough and district councils within Essex (specifically Basildon, Harlow, Epping and Tendring) will meet with representatives from London Boroughs to discuss issues arising from this.
Issues considered at the ESCB include suitability of housing, provision of education and other services. Work will continue locally to understand the impact of families moving into Essex and how services can be provided.
Parents, Did You Know? Events
The 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign is running a number of events across Essex over the coming months aimed at parents and carers. The events are run by the Essex Safeguarding Children Board in partnership with Barnardo’s and The Children’s Society and will feature the topics criminal exploitation, gangs, sexual exploitation, missing children, trafficking & online exploitation. The events provide an opportunity for parents to have direct conversations with a range of services, including Essex Police, Essex Children’s Social Care, The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, and other partner organisations. So far, these events have proved to be very beneficial to those attending.
The number of attendees however, are fairly low and therefore all agencies are requested that they promote these events to the families, children and young people they work with.
Details of the events including leaflets and the locations/venues can be found at the following link: www.escb.co.uk/exploitation
S11 & Schools Safeguarding (S175) audits
Findings from the ESCB Section 11 audit (S11) and the Schools’ Safeguarding Audit (S175) for the period October 2017 – May 2018 were shared. These audits are self-assessments and currently carried out every 2 years.
Overall there are no major issues for concern, and there has been high compliance in completing both the S11 and Schools safeguarding audits across Essex where agencies are demonstrating that they take very seriously their responsibilities in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. The S11 audit also showed that partners have really used the learning from the previous audit in 2014/2015 to strengthen practice as the highest level of compliance this time around was “Safe Recruitment, Vetting & Allegations Management” (93%) which is a significant improvement since the last audit.
Implementing Essex's new Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASA)
In conducting a review of its safeguarding arrangements, the Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB) involved a wide range of partner agencies (via the ESCB Executive Board, the Assembly) and used evidence-based learning from the multi-agency safeguarding pilots across the country, as well as partners’ views across Essex of what works well. This has helped inform the draft Essex Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements Plan 2019-20 (MASA) brought to the board meeting for agreement and to ensure that we comply with legal requirement to publish the plan by 29 June 2019 and share with the Department for Education prior to our new arrangements going live from 29 September 2019
Essex’s new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements (from 29/09/19) will include:
Executive Board - Child abuse and exploitation was the overarching theme of the meeting.
Planning for new governance arrangements
The ESCB is planning for the transition to Multi Agency Safeguarding Arrangements by September 2019 . The principles of joint working across SET were discussed and will be explored further at the forthcoming SET Summit. The thee key partners i.e. Health, Police and Local Authority will also have further discussions to draft an outline proposal of what the new arrangements might look like to then present to a future meeting of the Executive.
Child Death Overview Panel
The structure of the Child Death Review service may change as we transition to new arrangements following the publication of revised CDOP guidance.
Each area currently has its own local Child Death Review panel, so it may be more effective to have one monthly SET panel. Some of those meetings could be themed, for example, looking at neonatal deaths, teenage suicides, life limiting illnesses.
The Child Death Overview Panel arrangements are SET wide, so with the changes to the safeguarding arrangements we are going to work together as much as possible with Southend and Thurrock.
Further information on these changes will be shared in due course once discussed with all partners.
Violence and vulnerability framework
Executive members agreed to accept the Violence and Vulnerability framework which is the wider Essex approach to dealing with gangs and violent exploitation. They also extended the role of CSE Project Manager to Child Exploitation Project Manager. This agreement means a greater focus on the growing issue of gangs and less overlap between the work of the Safeguarding Board and the Safer Essex and local Community Safety Partnerships as everyone will now be working to the same high level plan.
Child Sexual Exploitation
The Board agreed support for a wider remit of a Southend, Essex and Thurrock (SET) Child Exploitation Strategic Group to incorporate the work around criminal exploitation and gangs (focusing on violence and vulnerability) as well as the existing activity on CSE.
The new Working Together to Safeguarding Children was published after the Executive meeting had taken place. The commitment made at the SET Summit held in April was that we anticipated there would be some aspects of the changes that must be made under the guidance which would be SET wide, and others that are more local. The Business Managers from the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Boards are currently working on a draft plan for the new partnership arrangements required by the new legislation and guidance. It was agreed that each area would have separate partnerships broadly similar to the existing Board arrangement but that where possible joint work would be strengthened and this would be reflected in the plans for each Board. A further Summit will be held in the autumn with the three key agencies across SET i.e. police, health and local authority agreeing the final plans.
The Child Death Review process will be reviewed when new guidance for this is released.
We are required to notify a national panel when we intend to carry out a Case Review, and they will now make a decision as to whether they feel it is a case of national significance. If so, the panel will appoint a lead reviewer and also fund the review. For cases that aren’t of national significance, we have a local review process in place that will be adapted in line with the new legislative requirements.
Thematic Review of Teenage Suicides
A learning event took place in June, put together by commissioners from Essex County Council (ECC) and mental health services supported by the ESCB, to consider some of the learning from the review of suicides in Essex as well as broader themes around mental health and wellbeing. There is a coordinating group led by ECC, tasked with implementing the suicide strategy across Southend, Essex and Thurrock. Part of this work involves training, which the ESCB and ESAB Learning and Development Sub-Committee will support. Campaign work around World Suicide Prevention Day will take place in September, in conjunction with partner organisations.