Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Office, Waterdale, Doncaster DN1 3BU. View directions
Contact: Christine Rothwell Senior Governance Officer
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Susan Durant, John Hoare (Diocese of Sheffield Church of England) and Bernadette Nesbit (Diocese of Hallam Roman Catholic Church)
To consider the extent, if any, to which the public and press are to be excluded from the meeting.
Declarations of Interest, if any.
There were no declarations of interest made.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 29th September 2020 and the 11th November 2020 were agreed as a correct record.
(A period not exceeding 20 minutes for statements from up to 5 members of the public on matters within the Panel’s remit, proposing action(s) which may be considered or contribute towards the future development of the Panel’s work programme).
Members gave consideration to a report that provided an overview of two key issues. These included how the partnership convened to safeguard children and manage demand throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and secondly the approach to recovery and resilience through the new Partnership Recovery and Resilience Board and Plan.
The following areas were raised as part of the discussion;
Family Poverty – A Member raised concern that one of the main problems had been poverty experienced by families and young people. It was felt that poverty had increased during the pandemic and therefore resulted in worry about the impact of increasing unemployment.
Members were informed that further to an impact assessment being completed at the beginning of the pandemic, poverty and deprivation had been identified as one of the top three issues. Reference was made to the pressures that had been identified within Children’s Services and the significant investment that had been made within Early Help.
Officers recognised the uncertainty for the future, for example, when furlough ends, and assured Members that they would continue to work closely with safeguarding services to ensure a timely response to any area of need or risk that arises.
Concern was raised around the long-term impact of mental health and social isolation particular with very young children.
The Panel was assured that there was a great deal of activity in place and intensive support offered for mental health and resources around Early Years.
Members expressed their hope that Family Hubs would be opened as soon as possible, in addition to other sessions, groups and forums. It was explained that there was a Health Visiting Service (for under 5 year olds) that linked with the midwifery service and would work alongside Family Hubs. It was noted that issues considered have included support for parents, the attachment of very young children and also understanding the challenges faced during the pandemic and as we progress through recovery. It was felt essential to move forward and build a more resilient generation.
Home Education – It was reported that despite a surge in referrals, the number of children that were home educated were now lower than what it had been previously. Clarification was provided that the Local Authority’s role was to ensure that the young person received a suitable education. It was explained that following an expression of interest, work had been undertaken with those families and schools in order for the Council to be involved in that a decision, support the right decision and make sure that the family was aware of their responsibilities. It was outlined that over the last 6-8 months, many of those families that had expressed their interest in home education had decided against pursuing it due to what was actually involved.
There was a brief discussion around the policies and process in place to ensure that the Council was intervening in those circumstances where there was a concern.
Early Help - A response was provided on behalf of the Locality Service Manager for Learning ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Panel considered the 2019/20 Annual Report of the Doncaster Safeguarding Children’s Partnership and the approach set out for 2020/2021. It was explained that it was the first full year covered by the new legislative requirements outlined in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. Members heard how the new arrangements had been initiated from 1 April 2019 and it was explained that the next annual report to cover April 2020 to March 2021, would be published in July 2021.
In terms of areas for improvement, it was explained that the partnership was an ongoing process with agencies developing reports and forming a better understanding with each other. It was considered that the partnership was developing an improved strategic overview in relationship to working together and that the new Chair was bringing to it a certain level of experience. It was commented that people continued to work together effectively although there were areas for improvement such as strengthening the voice of the child.
Youth Offending and Prevention – Concern was raised about those children and young people who had entered the criminal system and what was in place to prevent them from reoffending. Members were informed that there was an Exploitation Sub-Group with a combined multi-agency approach that would consider such issues.
It was reported that there had been a significant reduction in youth related crime over the past few years (in particular with first time entrants) into the youth offending service. It was recognised that although there was strength in some of the partnership response, further work could be done and opportunities better utilised.
In addition, in terms of employment, reference was made to further work being undertaken with the Doncaster Chamber, opportunity areas, apprenticeship work, careers and advice, and access to employment and training. In addition, it was noted how there would be further targeted youth work following the easing of restrictions.
It was continued that it was important to recognise the value of aspirations in the community, developing the emotional intelligence of children and young people and building upon that resilience early on by investing in their future.
There was a brief conversation around the potential of restorative justice practices with young people and it was believed that the Youth Offending Service undertakes this. The Assistant Director of Early Intervention and Localities offered to find out more information on this practice to be provided to the Panel.
Members were reminded of the Youth Offending Plan that would be considered by scrutiny.
The Panel resolved to note;
i. the Annual Report (19/20) in Appendix 1; and
ii. the format and approach for the next Annual Report (20/21)
The Senior Governance Officer presented the 2020/21 Scrutiny Work
Plan for consideration and reminded Members of the current Forward
Plan of key decisions.
There was a brief discussion around future items for the Overview and
Scrutiny future workplan following the meeting’s discussions.
RESOLVED the Overview and Scrutiny Work Plan 2020/21 and Forward Plan of key decisions be noted.