Responding to Children in Need of Help, Support and Protection
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 21st July, 2021 2.00 pm (Item 31.)
Presentation of the Deputy Director of Children’s Services
To receive a presentation on how Children’s Services and partners are responding to children in need of help, support and protection.
The Committee received a presentation of the Deputy Director of Children’s Services which outlined how Children’s Services and partners were responding to children in need of help, support and protection.
The main points and themes within the presentation included:
- The inspection framework and approach;
- Social work practice;
- The front door;
- Early Help;
- Action to protect children;
- Child protection and assessments;
- Children Missing from Education; and
- Edge of Care services.
Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- Referrals relating to domestic abuse;
- The 11% of assessments which had not yet been completed; and
- The number of Children Missing from Education.
The Deputy Director of Children’s Services advised that domestic abuse was a significant issue and that it often presented alongside other complicating factors. He drew Members’ attention to the Council’s new Domestic Violence Strategy and he outlined some of the work taking place to address the issue including protection plans and other work to support victims and more challenge for perpetrators, including work with the Probation Service. He advised that the figure on the completion of assessments related to those completed within 45 days, that Manchester compared well against Greater Manchester and nationally on this and that processes were in place to ensure the completion of assessments which had gone beyond that timescale. In response to Member’s question about the Greater Manchester Contextual Safeguarding Pilot, he stated that this work was at a very early stage and suggested that officers could provide further information on this in a future report to the Committee. In response to another question, he confirmed that any parent could use the parenting helpline.
The Director of Education explained that Children Missing from Education (CME) included different categories of children. She advised that this included children who had recently arrived in the city and were in the process of being allocated a school place. She reported that another category within CME was children who had been taken off the school roll. She advised that, where a child had been removed from the school roll because they had stopped attending but the school had not been able to identify where that child had gone, the Council’s CME Team had processes in place for trying to locate them. She stated that she could provide figures for CME cases whose whereabouts was unknown but that the numbers fluctuated from week to week. She advised that approximately 85% of these cases were quickly resolved, for example where it was established that the family had relocated to a different area but not told the school. She informed Members that CME figures were currently higher because a significant number of children were in countries on the government’s red travel list which created challenges in returning to the UK. She reported that schools had been advised to keep these children on roll if they knew where they were and the family was keeping in contact but that, where there was no contact, children were being removed from the school roll and referred to the CME team. In response to a Member’s question about Alternative Provision, she advised that the Council was reducing the number of Alternative Provision places as there was a high level of capacity in the city and mainstream schools were increasingly putting in place facilities to keep these children in their own school and reduce the use of Alternative Provision. She reported that quality assurance of independent Alternative Provision was carried out by the Secondary Pupil Referral Unit, as well as using independent quality assurance professionals; however, she reported that current arrangements were being reviewed and that further information on this would be included in a report at a future meeting.
The Strategic Director for Children and Education Services reported that continual improvement had been made since 2014, when Ofsted had judged the service as inadequate. He advised that the service had moved beyond compliance to being focussed on relationships, the quality of intervention and the difference being made to children’s lives. He highlighted the increased demand on the service, with more children requiring help and support due to the pandemic, but advised that the service was now in a better position to make the decisions which would help it to respond to this level of demand.
The Chair welcomed the significant progress that had been made since 2014, including the valuable role of Early Help and Alonzi House, and she highlighted the important contribution of the late Councillor Sheila Newman to this work.
To note the presentation.