Agenda item

East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership (ESSCP) Annual Report


24.1     Reg Hooke (Independent Chair of the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership) introduced the report, which was the first report of a full year of the new safeguarding partnership arrangements and the Chair’s eighth and final report to the Committee before standing down. In introducing the report, the Independent Chair highlighted:


·         The report had been formatted using a new template which was being adopted nationally and focussed on the impact of partnership activity across its four priority areas (education safeguarding, child exploitation, embedding a learning culture and safeguarding under 5s); use of evidence; assurance undertaken by the partnership; and learning.


·         COVID impact – the COVID pandemic had created challenges for safeguarding children; through lockdowns and school closures reducing child visibility, a shortage of health visitors, and safeguarding visits having to be made remotely. The ESSCP was now seeing these challenges factor into cases being referred for case review.


·         Particularly positive and innovative work the ESSCP had undertaken in the past year, included:

o   establishing a pathway for information sharing between A&E and secondary schools when children attended A&E due to self-harm, so that schools were informed and could provide additional support;

o   establishing a task and finish group on Elective Home Education to ensure multi-agency processes were working as effectively as possible to identify children most at risk and potential intervention methods; and

o   undertaking work, under the partnership’s education safeguarding priority, on peer-on-peer sexual abuse.


·         The ESSCP had conducted a review of its partnership arrangements which had been largely positive in its findings, but identified some areas for development. These were to continue to develop the partnership’s relationship with adult services; to continue to expand opportunities for the partnership to hear the voice of children in all its work; and to expand representation on the partnership Board to include all relevant partners.


·         The partnership had particular concerns about the risks faced by very young children; children in families with domestic violence; and vulnerable children being drawn into criminal and sexual exploitation. These would continue to be areas of focus for the ESSCP’s future work.


24.2     The Committee welcomed the report and the new format. In discussion, the following points were raised:


·         Elective Home Education (EHE) – the Committee welcomed the partnership’s work on safeguarding of EHE children, as it had been identified as an area of concern for the Committee; and would welcome further information on this work and its impacts in the next update to the Committee.


·         Child Mental Health – the Committee noted the concerning number of children attending A&E due to self-harm and the number of referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS); and asked whether the new integrated working arrangements to share incidences of self-harm between A&E and schools was expected to reduce these figures in future years. The Independent Chair did not expect that these numbers would reduce in the very short term, as the considerable challenges facing children and young people, from COVID and other societal pressures, had to be recognised. It was therefore important for the partnership and all agencies involved to monitor these incidences closely, understand what was driving them and ensure appropriate support was in place, which the new information sharing arrangements supported.


·         Safeguarding context figures – in response to a discussion of other figures set out in the safeguarding context part of the report, the Independent Chair noted that while the partnership undertook work to scrutinise incidences of harm or exploitation of children to understand why they had happened and identify learning to prevent them happening again wherever possible; the reality was that the circumstances of some vulnerable children and complex challenges in families meant these incidences would continue. Constant work was therefore required by the ESSCP and its member agencies to ensure agencies were working well together to prevent and learn from such incidences, and respond to new challenges and risks in child safeguarding. The Independent Chair also noted that it was most useful to consider the trajectory of the figures set out in the safeguarding context of the report, to determine the impact safeguarding work was having; and the Committee requested that the partnership’s next update present these figures in the context of their trajectory over time. 


·         Prevention of child harm – the Committee asked for further information on practical steps being taken to prevent incidences of child harm, including self-harm. The Independent Chair clarified that the role of the ESSCP board was to oversee the work of safeguarding agencies and coordinate how they worked together to ensure they were doing so effectively. The partnership oversaw the referrals process to CAMHS and were concerned about the capacity of those services to meet demand and intervene earlier. The partnership had had assurance that the health service intended to increase capacity and provide support earlier but this was expected to be challenging to deliver. The Director of Children’s Services added that there was recognition of the need to increase capacity in CAMHS nationally and funding had been provided to do so. The Director also provided assurance to the Committee that work was taking place with partners to better support children and young people’s mental health and prevent escalation of problems. This included work in schools to support children at high risk; and with health, to map services seeking to support children to inform the development of a strategy to ensure this work was focussed and well-coordinated.


·         Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) – the Committee raised concerns about UASC children disappearing following their arrival in the country and asked that the Children’s Services Department and ESSCP prioritise work to safeguard children in this area. In response the Director confirmed that, as with the case of any missing child, the Department worked closely with the police to identify and trace missing UASC. It was also confirmed that the Committee had received a written briefing on the Department’s practices and protocols around identifying missing UASC. 


24.3     The Committee RESOLVED to note the report and thanked the Independent Chair for their work and updates to the Committee over the years they had been Chair of child safeguarding partnership arrangements in East Sussex.


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