Agenda item

Staffordshire Safeguarding Children's Board (SSCB) Annual Report 2022-2023

Report of the SSCB


[Ian Vinall, Independent Chairman and Scrutineer of the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board]


The SSCB are required to report annually on the progress made by the 3 statutory safeguarding partners to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to enable robust Member scrutiny of its statutory functions. SSCB Annual Reports provide a transparent, public account of the work of the partnership during 2022-2023.


Since the last Annual report was considered by the Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee the SSCB had continued to make steady progress on a wide range of objectives through effective local partnership working, despite the legacy challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic climate, and agency restructures. This included engaging in activity which was targeted at groups of children and young people who had been identified as being vulnerable due to criminal exploitation, and neglect. The information provided in the annual report highlighted some of the most noticeable achievements in respect of the priority areas and work undertaken with partner agencies.


The Committee heard from the Independent Chair and Scrutineer, Mr Ian Vinall, hearing his reflections on the work of the Board. These included the new arrangements with the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub following separation of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to form two separate Hubs, as well as the learning from child safeguarding practice reviews. He commended the front-line workers he’d met for showing true passion and commitment to their role. He also felt some very strong relationships had been formed with schools, working well together during the last year with headteachers and designated safeguarding leads.


Whilst the Scrutiny Committee felt the Annual Report evidenced some real highlights, they had concerns over elements within the report, including reference to:

·         “lack of commitment and buy-in from senior managers in understanding the benefits of using Graded Care Profile”;

·         the 20% increase during this period in children discussed at the Mutli-Agency Child Exploitation Panels (MACE);

·         the 6% increase in domestic abuse crimes and incidents;

·         poor attendance at SSCB training events from partner organisations, with 7% from Staffordshire County Council, 5% NHS and 2% Staffordshire Police/Fire & Rescue attendance.


In light of these concerns the Committee asked whether Staffordshire had effective safeguarding practices. Mr Vinall felt there was still work to do but that the SSCB had brought openness and honesty into the system through this report. He gave assurances that front line staff were committed to their role and that they knew the children they worked with well. However, challenges existed within the partnership and how well it worked together. The new MASH arrangements would help with this, as would learning from Reviews. He acknowledged that finance was a challenge and he felt there was a need to agree a budget that put children and young people as the priority. He also felt the statutory leadership of the partnership needed to be focused on the Board’s priorities.


The Scrutiny Committee shared their frustrations that the report evidenced a need for better partnership working, information sharing and communication.  They were informed that the information sharing agreement between partners was being refreshed again which should help with communication moving forward. Child exploitation was a key area of focus for the Partnership and there was a need for the data provided to be multi-agency, clear and more focused on the experience of children and young people.


Some frustration was also shared at the level of delegation of those attending the Board and/or SSCB Scrutiny and Assurance Group, being at a level where strategically decisions wouldn’t be made. Members requested data on attendance at Board meetings, specifically how often the three chief executives of the statutory partner organisations attended in the last 12 months. They also requested data on whether meetings were held virtually or in person. They were informed that Chief Executives did not attend Board meetings but delegated this responsibility, with the SSCB statutory members being the Director for Children and Families for Staffordshire County Council, the Chief Nursing and Therapies Officer for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board and the Assistant Chief Constable for Staffordshire Police.



The Committee was grateful for the honesty and frankness of the report. They felt that having an independent scrutineer as chairman was hugely beneficial. Members also felt there was a need to seek the attendance of Chief Executives to this scrutiny committee, asking them to account for the issues outlined within the report, specifically the poor communication and information sharing.


Members raised concerns around on-line abuse and were informed that child exploitation was the focus for the learning hub, and on-line abuse would be included as part of this work.


The Overview and Scrutiny Committee remain concerned over elements highlighted within this report, particularly around communication, information sharing and delegation. They intend to pursue some form of engagement with Chief Officers from partner organisations to share these concerns and seek reassurance.


Resolved: That:

a)   the work of the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board be noted and that their concerns around communication, information sharing and delegation be taken back to the Board;

b)   engagement with Chief Officers takes place to highlight concerns around communication and seek assurances for work taken to ameliorate these issues.


Supporting documents: