Agenda item

Safeguarding and Performance Report - To Scrutinise the performance of the service area.


Jane Rodgers presented the report and answered the members’ questions.


Please can you explain what ‘Thinky’ training is and confirm when it will begin?

It’s a database for storing safeguarding training. We do not have a date for the roll out, but the expectation is that it will be this year. 

·         With reference to Appendix 4, which reviews the previous actions outlined in the action plan, there are explanations for the delay in implementing the actions in red, however, it doesn’t say when these are expected to be completed. Do you have timeframes for these?

There were 2 red actions, the first being related to the development of the core data set, which we have moved forward into our current action plan and set a completion date for March 2023. The second red action relates to the delay in the revision of the safeguarding training strategy. This was a deliberate delay because there is a national training framework being implemented, so that needs to dovetail, the expectation being that this will be April 2023.

·         In Section 3 of the report which outlines the preventative approach, I note there are professional strategy meetings, and you refer to 63 professionals for 78 children with 33 claims being substantiated ~ this seems to be a high figure, but is this a high figure compared to previous years? I’d like to ask the same question for adult services.

It is higher than previous years. Prior to this year, for adult services, there hasn’t been a statutory duty, whereas for children’s services, there was a statutory duty in place. We are continuing to use the excellence we have developed to upskill teams across multiple agencies to understand what a professional concern looks like and the process that needs to happen. For example, we have trained managers at McDonalds who meet children through their occupation, so working with partners is very important.

·         Page 27-28 refers to the Violence Against Woman, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) training. I’d like to know if that training is being undertaken in schools as it doesn’t feature in your report.

Yes, it is undertaken in schools.

·         Would greater spending in targeted preventative services prevent children being on child protection plans for neglect. I’m not familiar with the contracts of shared preventative services, but my concern is around safe recruitment, being aware that the shared Emergency out of hours service has some staff retirement age.   Are contracts proportional to the size of the authority?

Yes, we have a set contract that is proportionate to the size and need of the county. We are aware of the retirement of some of the staff in that service and there are clear plans in place, so we shouldn’t need to rely on agency staff.

·         In terms of how we measure ourselves, in paragraph 3 of Appendix 1, there are 6 scoring levels and of the 6, 4 are described as positive. Do you think there may be a tendency towards a positive bias? Do you have any comment on that?

Yes, quite possibly. It’s a corporate scoring framework and is just one way to describe where we are, but the body of evidence is wider than that, so we wouldn’t use the score in isolation. It’s the analysis of information that assesses what the score should be and allows us to assess our priorities.

·         I’m not suggesting things are more negative, but I think we may want to consider how we measure ourselves to see if there is any relevance there. For example, if prevention is measured down from a level 5 to 4 and safe services is measured up from a level 3 to 4, does that reflect some diminishment in our previous focus, in that we are picking up post prevention, when problems emerge?

I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s very clear in the report that we gave that measurement because of the impact of the pandemic at that time. It’s a snapshot in time and where we felt we were at that point.

Cabinet Member Councillor Tudor Thomas:  I do think we have been through the most difficult period of time during the pandemic which affected the ability to undertake visits in person, so it was more difficult to identify some of the issues that you may when conducting visits in person rather than by the telephone. Also, teachers who would ordinarily be able to raise concerns weren’t seeing pupils in person, so I think the pandemic certainly impacted on the score we have given ourselves at that point, which is an honest reflection.

·         We’re looking analysis of key strengths in this report, but why are we also not looking at key weaknesses in the same way, to ensure there isn’t a positive bias?

I accept your point, we have tried to draw out areas for improvement in our action plan. We will bear this in mind for future reports. We have been very good at identifying risks and managing those, rather than outlining our weaknesses but I accept that point.

·         Has training been adapted to take into account the cost-of-living crisis, which may cause more family breakdowns and are you adapting your training to take account of this?

Yes, we have had to adapt our training over the years due to different factors and this latest context will need to be taken into account as it will undoubtedly place great pressure on families. The signs of family breakdown are likely to be the same, but the context different.

·         Being a new councillor, how does the performance compare to the previous year?  And are you confident the measures you are putting in will ensure your continued progress?

I think we have been on a real journey since 2016 and it’s hard to say whether we have improved, but we are very flexible and we have a good regional and local approach and a comprehensive safeguarding hub. We have put tremendous effort into embedding safeguarding into all services, into everything we do as a council and I believe we have a strong infrastructure, good skills, the right culture and a lot of experience to guide us, so I think we are well placed moving forward.

Cabinet Member Councillor Tudor Thomas:  In my view, it’s one of the key responsibilities of the authority to safeguard vulnerable people and as a key feature in the Corporate Plan, I can see this is embedded through everything we do.

·         In relation to previous approaches to prevent escalation, do you think the school’s councillor service is adequate and is it part of the curriculum to teach self-esteem and resilience? Do we have independent visitors to support young people in this way?

Within schools and the Looked After Population, we have undertaken training on well-being and health and young people can access advocates, however, we do not have independent visitors. I will provide the committee with a written explanation to explain the position on this (Action – Diane Corrister).

·         I have concerns that the cost of petrol is affecting the provision of some of adult services. How are we going to attract people to provide important services when the cost of petrol is inhibiting?

Cabinet Member Councillor Tudor Thomas:  This is unfortunately a national issue and as a small authority with a wide geographical span, we do inevitably have to draw on people from outside the county to provide services. There isn’t a simple solution to attracting people into care when other roles are better paid and less challenging, but I agree, we need to consider how we can encourage them.

Chairs summary:

I’d like to offer thanks to all the services for their work during extremely challenging times and to officers for the report. The committee supports the report’s recommendations.


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