The Panel was provided with a presentation relating to the impact of parental substance misuse on children and young people addressing:
· What is hidden harm;
· The size of the problem in Doncaster;
· How services respond and how local authorities can prevent harm;
· Delivery challenges; and
· Improvements that could be made.
The presentation raised a number of issues addressed by the Panel, as follows:
Families Moving On Together (FMOT) Programme – was confirmed as a relatively modest programme and funded through the Public Health and Stronger Families allocation.
Referrals - with regard to the threshold, it was acknowledged that there was a slight misconception that families should already be part of the Aspire programme or known to drug and alcohol support services, but this was not the case. Anyone could be referred, where the impact of parental substance misuse was having an impact on their children or young people and noted that this was an area of work that required further promotion with referring practitioners. It was noted that if Members wished to help a constituent find help they could approach the Aspire or Project 3 schemes.
Joint Commissioning Agenda – ensures there was a greater emphasis of provider partner organisations working together, supported by a number of strategic initiatives eg. The Place Plan. At an operational level officers hold a commissioning budget and it was highlighted that more integrated working would be welcomed. There was no set solution with regard to Joint commissioning for this issue but it could be successful due to the close working relationships between the Local Authority and Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Impact on Doncaster Families – Members learnt that following modelling of support services the impact of hidden harm on families could be larger than expected and concern was expressed that some people were not accessing or receiving required support.
It was hoped that across universal services for example, school staff, school nurses and NHS there was a confidence and skills to raise and address any concerns. It was highlighted that school staff and Governors were required to undertake safeguarding training and suggested that a session on hidden harm could be added to this.
Stronger Families Programme – Members recalled that the funding was for a limited time period and that some really good success stories had been developed as a result of this piece of work. Concern was expressed however, that if this preventative work was not undertaken then simple family tasks, for example, ensuring children were attending school and had eaten breakfast would not be a priority, when serious hidden harm issues were developing in a family unit.
Public Health Allocation Funding – was used for many public health services across the remit including the smoking cessation and adult drug treatment services. It was noted that it was becoming increasingly difficult to deliver services under a shrinking health budget allocation ultimately requiring services to be remodelled. It was confirmed that funding for treatment services was recurrent and ring-fenced but this could change in the future.
Well North Project – The Panel addressed whether hidden harm was a key part of this project and suggested that its profile be raised to assist with the issue to further support people within our communities.
Barriers to providing hidden harm support – in response to concern relating to buy-in from partner organisations, it was noted that there was good will but not necessarily the structures or teams in place to successfully support families at this time. However, Members were pleased to note that organisations were keen to support the agenda.
Neglect Toolkit – The Neglect Strategic Group had a newly appointed Chair, the Principal Social Worker, and it had been recognised that the toolkit required revising to ensure it was more widely used. Members acknowledged that it was a very time consuming and substantial document and it may be that practitioners lacked confidence to use it with families. It was also suggested that families could view it as another tool to challenge them rather than assist them.
Early Years training – Members expressed the wish for all early years practitioners and those currently in training in this field to be made aware of Doncaster’s position and the need for hidden harm training to be routinely embedded into educational courses at all levels.
1. The Executive be requested:
i. To ensure that measures be put in place to ensure all Councillors are aware and informed of the support Aspire and Project 3 can offer.
Reason: Members had found the discussions very interesting and informative and wished to offer additional support by raising awareness of the services available and to assist with signposting, if required.
ii. That early years education establishments be provided with information on Doncaster’s current position and the potential impact of hidden harm.
Reason: The Panel was keen to ensure that all teaching providers in this field were aware of Doncaster’s position with regard to Hidden Harm, providing a local perspective to academic training.
iii. To consider if the Hidden Harm profile could be raised through the Well North project.
Reason: That awareness of the Aspire and Project 3 be provided through the Well North Project to assist with work undertaken when addressing complexities across some families but also the community as a whole. This would support the work undertaken through public health.
2. Overview and Scrutiny add an update on the Stronger Families programme to its work plan.
Reason: Members were made aware of the funding contribution towards the Aspire Scheme from the Stronger Families budget. The Panel stressed it was aware of the work undertaken by the Stronger Families programme and highlighted it wished for an update to be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme.