Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 14 March 2016
10:30 a.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor F McIntyre (Chair), Councillor L Lewis (Vice Chair), Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor B A Hubbard, Councillor P Purvis, Councillor Z Uddin
C Breheny, J Dixon and N Pocklington.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor J Hobson, Councillor M Walters
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The Minutes of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 29 February 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer introduced the report updating the Panel in relation to the multi-agency response to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Middlesbrough.


The Assistant Director of Safeguarding and Children’s Care had attended the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel on 14 September 2015 to provide update information on the actions taken in Middlesbrough relating to understanding CSE and the multi-agency response to it in Middlesbrough.


N Pocklington, Assistant Director of Safeguarding and Children’s Care had submitted a report for the Panel’s consideration and was in attendance at the meeting to provide a six-month update on the subject.


The Assistant Director advised that little had changed since his last update to the Panel in September 2015 although incremental changes had continued to take place.


The report provided details of the arrangements in place around VEMT (Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing or Trafficked) children/young people. The Tees Strategic VEMT Group was chaired by Cleveland Police and was an amalgamation of the four Tees LSCBs (Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough) who had joined forces to address the issues of VEMT children through the remit of the Group, meeting on a quarterly basis.


The MSCB Strategic VEMT Group was established to ensure a multi-agency response to sharing information, monitoring risk and analysing data for children and young people who might be VEMT. The Group reported to the Tees Strategic VEMT Group and the MSCB on a regular basis and the Chair was a member of both forums. The Group also oversaw the work of the MSCB VEMT Practitioners Group and the Middlesbrough Risk Management Group, both of which were categorised as operational groups addressing risk and providing actions to support vulnerable children and young people.


The MSCB VEMT Practitioner Group (VPG) was a multi-agency group that met every four weeks to examine support for frontline practitioners in their role of supporting children/young people by formulating an action plan which could support an existing plan for the young person whether they were subject to child in need, child protection or child looked after. The Group was based upon problem analysis to ensure positive outcomes for children and young people and discussed the following:-

  • Information and intelligence regarding CSE.
  • Known/suspected perpetrators and disruption activity.
  • Children repeatedly reported to the Police as missing from home or care.
  • Children repeatedly missing from education.
  • Individual young people who were subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation or being trafficked or who were vulnerable.

The Assistant Director informed the Panel that, since his previous appearance at Panel, the Children’s Safeguarding Service and the MSCB had been the subject of an OFSTED inspection and had received positive comments, some of which were outlined at paragraph 18 of the report.


During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-

  • It was queried whether the number of children reporting missing had increased. The Assistant Director stated that the figures for children reported missing often depended upon the groups of children accommodated in children’s homes at any given time. The Middlesbrough-run residential homes were relatively settled with no significant numbers of children reported as missing.
  • The Assistant Director was asked to provide an example of the reasons why a young person might run away. The Panel was informed that, recent experience showed that some children had been placed from outside of Middlesbrough and were not benefitting from high levels of supervision and were absencing themselves from the home and putting themselves at risk. This had resulted in them coming on to the VEMT radar where a suitable plan could be formulated for the young person.
  • It was acknowledged that it was difficult for care homes as they were unable to prevent a young person from leaving the premises, however, there were specialist secure residential placements available for the most vulnerable and at risk young people.
  • A Panel Member queried how Middlesbrough Council dealt with children and young people who might have specific behavioural or mental health problems. The Panel was advised that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) worked closely with looked after children and the Council had a dedicated LAC resource with CAMHS. 
  • In relation to children missing from education, a Member queried which age group this predominantly related to. The Assistant Director advised that the Council employed a Missing from Education Officer who analysed the make-up and profile of those missing from education. This group tended to be teenagers. Younger children, of primary school age, tended to miss school because of their parents.
  • In response to a query, the Panel was advised that there had been some changes a few years ago to the way in which the Police dealt with the issue of young people missing from care. From the perspective of the Police, their expectations would be that a carer should do everything that a parent would do in the first instance if a child/young person went missing, such as check with friends and family and places they would be likely to go. Once these factors had been taken into account, the Police would then take action, however, it was highlighted that where there was evidence of a young person being particularly vulnerable, for example, a history of absconding, self-harming, mental health issues, association with known or suspected criminals, action would be taken more quickly.
  • A Panel Member raised the issue of young carers (ie young people who cared for a parent) and the difficulties this could create for a young person, such as being tired at school and unable to cope. The Assistant Director stated that the true number of young carers was not known. In cases where schools were aware of the young persons’ situation, additional support could be put in place with ongoing monitoring.
  • In response to a question, the Assistant Director stated that Middlesbrough was in a strong position in terms of the way in which it addressed CSE and this was reflected in the comments made by OFSTED during the recent inspection and it was acknowledged that the Panel’s scrutiny into the topic had contributed to the progress made. It was important to ensure that the Council did not become complacent and there was still a lot of work to be done to ensure young people were protected. Work was ongoing to improve information sharing between Council departments as well as partner agencies.
  • Reference was made to trafficking and modern day slavery and it was queried whether there was an issue in finding out information in close knit communities and minority communities with different cultural expectations. It was acknowledged that this could be problematic, however, it was important to remember that the protection of children was paramount, regardless of cultural differences, and the service always operated within the law. Cleveland Police had devised a new reporting system for CSE and the form could be used by any professional working under the safeguarding agenda in order to inform the Police of any information regarding CSE. This was useful in building a profile on individuals and could be analysed to understand the problem in Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley to enable a co-ordinated response. The Panel considered that Councillors should be made aware of the reporting system and to be extra vigilant within the community.
  • It was clarified that the Council had responsibility for looked after children leaving care and VEMT arrangements would still be applied to a young person over the age of 18 where they were very vulnerable. It was recognised that adult exploitation was a problem.
  • The Panel made reference to the VPG witnessing higher levels of online issues, such as 'sexting' and it was confirmed that a piece of work was to be undertaken to scope the size and nature of the problem to ascertain whether it was an increasing trend. Recently published guidance for schools on such issues, supported by Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), would also be examined. This was a very concerning issue as young people were making themselves vulnerable through the use of constantly developing technology.
  • In response to a query it was confirmed that the Council continued to work with Barnardos who were involved on the front line at every level. Barnardos were part of Operation Staysafe, together with Social Workers and Police.

The Chair thanked the Assistant Director for attending and wished him well in his forthcoming retirement.


AGREED that the update information provided be noted.


The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 3 March 2016, namely:-

  • Attendance of Executive Member for Communities and Public Health.
  • Balanced Scorecards - Quarter Three - 2016/17.
  • Interim Report of South Tees Health Scrutiny Joint Committee - Temporary Changes to the Breast Radiology Department at James Cook University Hospital.
  • Better Health Programmes.
  • Final Report of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel - Reoffending and Rehabilitation.
  • Final Report of the Environment Scrutiny Panel - Bereavement Services.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

AGREED that the information contained within the submitted report be noted.

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