Agenda and minutes

Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 16th February 2023 10:00am

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Helen Phillips  Email:


No. Item


Declarations of Interest

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There were none at this meeting.


Minutes of the meeting held on 5 January 2023 pdf icon PDF 316 KB

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Resolved: That the minutes of the Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 5 January 2023 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Executive Response to the Report of the Spot Light Review on Sexual Harassment in Schools January 2022 pdf icon PDF 255 KB

Response of the Cabinet Members for Children and Young People and for Education (& SEND)

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[Reverend Prebendary Michael Metcalf in attendance for this item.]


The final report and recommendations of the joint Spotlight Review on Sexual Harassment in Schools was endorsed by the Health and Care, Prosperous, and Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committees and forwarded, with their comments, to the Cabinet Members for Children and Young People and for Education (and SEND) for their Executive Response. The three Committees agreed to delegate monitoring of the response and implementation of the recommendations to the Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Members now received the Executive response, setting out actions and timeframes for accepted recommendations.


The Cabinet Member for Education (and SEND) emphasised the importance of safeguarding within education in Staffordshire and informed the Committee that Schools were seen as key partners in the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board. The appendix to the report gave detail of actions already taken to implement the Spotlight Review’s recommendations. The Cabinet Member noted particularly that the latest Section 175/157 safeguarding audit that education providers are required to complete annually, now included a separate section on peer-on-peer abuse. This helped identify areas for further assistance and possible training needs.


Recommendation 1 was yet to be addressed. This recommendation proposed a joint letter from the relevant scrutiny committees and Cabinet Members to Central Government in respect of the Online Safety Bill, asking them what further action they would take to protect children from online peer-on-peer sexual harassment and abuse. It was agreed that the Chairman, Committee Member Cllr Johnny McMahon and the Cabinet Members would work together to address this.


Members were particularly concerned to ensure the voices of children and young people were heard to help inform safeguarding and raise awareness of the emerging online issues early enough for these to be tackled effectively. One aspect of the PSHE Co-ordinator’s role and the broader PSHE curriculum included discussing with, and listening to, children and young people. Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services (SCVYS) also worked to give children and young people an opportunity for their voices to be heard. SCVYS linked back to the Local Authority (LA) enabling any concerns to be shared. Members asked for further work to be undertaken to enable the Committee to understand better this work and how affective it was in helping to identify areas of safeguarding concern early. It was proposed that further consideration be given to a mechanism to enable a process for this to be agreed.


The Committee asked how well attended the District Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) meetings were and whether attendance at these meetings could be made mandatory. These meetings were well attended and took learning from both good and less effective practice. It was not possible for the LA to make attendance mandatory as approximately 75% of children in Staffordshire attended academies for which the LA had no direct responsibility. However, the Safeguarding Audit schools completed annually would highlight good practice and effective training. Members noted that it would be possible for Governing Bodies to insist on District meeting attendance by their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.


Children's Transformation Project - progress briefing

Presentation on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People by the Assistant Director for Children's Wellbeing and Partnership

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Following the 1 September 2022 Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny meeting it was agreed that scrutiny of the Children’s System Transformation would include four monthly feedback, with the first three of these being a brief outline of developments that highlight key progress and concerns, and the final feedback being a full report. The Committee now considered a presentation for the first of the briefings, highlighting what was working well and areas of further work.


The Programme Structure had been changed, adding a separate programme board for Children in Care and for SEND Improvement. Communications and Engagement now ran across all four programme boards rather than sitting as a standalone programme.


Members noted the additional investment approved by Cabinet to support the work force programme. This investment had been requested as a result of pressures in the system, with numbers being higher than those expected through the modelling process due to Covid.


Activity to date and “next steps” were shared with the Committee for each programme board. Three risks across the whole Transformation process were highlighted, these being:

a)   capacity of the workforce whilst still recruiting to new roles;

b)   scope and scale of cultural change underway within the Service taking time to embed and realise outcomes; and

c)   potential future inspection of service diverting resources temporarily.


The number of children currently in the care system was 1384. However this figure was nuanced, being a reduced figure of 1284 if considered without the recent increase in unaccompanied asylum seeking children.


Members queried whether there remained delays in the adoption process that may impact on the number of children within the care system. They were aware of the new regional adoption agency Together4Children which helped support a broader pool of adopter families. However, delays in adoption still existed due to a backlog within Court proceedings.


The Committee asked for clarification over the type of work undertaken to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff during these significant changes. This was undertaken in a variety of ways, including person to person and specific to the individual employee’s needs. Support training sessions around wellbeing were also available as well as opportunities to raise concerns through We Talk monthly conversations and through staff surveys. Members also queried the percentage of staff still working from home and how this was managed. Most staff now worked a hybrid system, working a minimum of two days in the office and the remainder either from home and/or external visits as appropriate. Enabling this flexible and balanced approach to working helped with the recruitment and retention of staff.


Members were aware that the Accelerated Progress Plan (APP) for SEND improvement was in place. They heard that the implementation plan for the APP was moving at pace, working to the Department for Education (DfE) timescales. Making a standalone SEND Programme Board had ensured the APP’s part in the Transformation Programme was highlighted. The DfE had been pleased with progress made and had been sharing Staffordshire’s ways of working with other LAs as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.


Possible Working Group/Inquiry Day activity pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Report of the Scrutiny & Support Officer

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Each Overview and Scrutiny Committee had the flexibility to undertake working group and/or inquiry day activity outside of their calendared committee meetings. During the year a range of queries and areas for further scrutiny had been raised by the Committee and Members now considered these alongside other areas for suggested further scrutiny work.


Members considered work around safeguarding concerns over the increased number of permanently excluded pupils in Staffordshire and Ofsted’s view on the impact of exclusions. A report on this issue was scheduled for 20 April 2023 O&S meeting and the Committee agreed any further work should be considered after this.


Members suggested further work on identifying progress with the PEEL inspection plan. The Chairman had been invited to attend a special meeting of Staffordshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel (PFCP) on Tuesday 21 February 2023 which was considering this issue. The Chairman had previously met with both the Chairman of the PFCP and the Commissioner to discuss possible ways forward and it had been agreed that the Commissioner would attend a future Safeguarding O&S Committee to discuss any continued safeguarding queries the Committee may have after the 21 February PFCP. Members suggested that a possible informal inquiry day session would be beneficial, preferably with both the Commissioner and the Chief Constable attending. This would be dependent on the outcome of the 21 February meeting.


Resolved: That possible future inquiry day/working group activity on:

a.   safeguarding implications for permanently excluded pupils; and

b.   PEEL inspection action plan progress;

await the outcome of the 20 April Safeguarding O&S Committee and the 21 February PFCP meetings respectively.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 361 KB

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Members received an update on their work programme, noting that the House Project item had been removed as this was no longer an item requiring pre-decision scrutiny. The Whole Life Disabilities item, which had been scheduled for this meeting, had been put back to the 20 April meeting at the request of the Cabinet Member for Health and Care.


Members received details on progress of the actions requested at their 5 January meeting:

a.   a letter from the Chairman to Sandwell Council (as lead commissioner) outlining the burden on the safeguarding social care system of inappropriate Section 42 referrals made by West Midlands Ambulance Service. The Chairman reported that he had raised this with the Chairman of the Heath and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Health and Care O&S Committee were already in the process of tackling this issue jointly with the other commissioning authorities. It was therefore agreed that no letter should be sent at this time;

b.   hidden abuse training, with Members agreeing that this training should be arranged for Members of this Committee only initially, with consideration of this being opened up to all Members at a later date;

c.    the Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent Adult Safeguarding Partnership Board (SSASPB) had been asked to consider more sophisticated data analysis for future annual reporting. The SSASPB have asked the Council’s performance team to support this process;

d.   the SSASPB had been asked to consider how online abuse could be more clearly identified in future annual reports. The Board has arranged a multi-agency audit of online abuse and conference as a direct consequence of the Committee’s query. The conference is to be held on 30 March 2023;

e.   the Staffordshire Children’s Safeguarding Board have asked for responses to the Committee’s queries on: attending a future O&S meeting with the Chairman of their Child Exploitation Task Group; details of work around teenage pregnancy; and support for the 5Rights campaign.


The first meeting of the new municipal year normally looks at work programme planning. However this meeting was already scheduled to receive the next Children’s Transformation System briefing.  Members were asked to consider whether they would like Cabinet Members and Lead Officers to attend as part of their work programme planning. It was agreed that the Chairman would discuss and agree a way forward for this with the Scrutiny and Support Officer.


Consideration would need to be given to the questions Members wished to raise with the PFC Commissioner and Chief Constable if the proposed informal inquiry session was to go ahead. Members agreed this should wait until after the Chairman had fed back from his attendance at the 21 February PFCP.


Members noted that items to add to the work programme from today’s meeting were:

·         consideration of mechanisms for the Committee Members to hear the voice of the child, particularly with regard to online abuse and the emerging challenges they face.


Resolved: That the amendments to the work programme be noted.