The Chair of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel presented the Panel's findings, conclusions and recommendations of the scrutiny investigation on the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation.
The Board considered the following recommendations:-
a) That the MSCB and the Wellbeing, Care and Learning departments undertake a short sharp review of their operational and strategic plans against the 7 principles of the See Me Hear Me framework contained within the Office of the Children's Commissioner Document, If only someone had listened, and any other appropriate national guidance to ensure that and that officers are confident that their policies and procedures are robust. The MSCB and the Wellbeing, Care and Learning department should report back to the panel in 6 months on this matter. (paragraph 40 of the report)
b) That the Council consider adding information to the JSNA about the prevalence of CSE and determine appropriate commissioning decisions and priorities. (paragraph 45)
c) That the Council makes representation to the Government to ask them to alter the process for applications made to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) (formally Vehicle and Operator Services Agency - VOSA) for a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence to operate a public hire vehicle of 9 seats or more. The Council would suggest that the DVSA process is aligned to the Council's licence application process (for private hire licences for vehicles of less than 8 seats) which ensures that all drivers have undertaken a DBS check and that any drivers involved with the exploitation of children would have their licence suspended. (paragraph 57)
d) That the Licensing Team and the Council's safeguarding team review their lines of communication to ensure that there is a robust method of sharing information between the teams and ensure that the teams are confident that their process of information sharing is fit for purpose. In particular when details are received by the licencing team that these are shared with the VEMT, Perpetrators group (paragraph 61)
e) That a 6 monthly update is provided to the panel from the Executive Member for Children's Services and the Deputy Director - Safeguarding on how the problem is being addressed and if the objectives of the VEMT are being implemented and an update on progress against targets with regard to CSE. (paragraph 96)
f) The panel were extremely supportive of the work of the VEMT. The panel would like to see that, through the Council's representative on the VEMT group,
i. That the VEMT explore methods of improving information sharing, especially between the LSCB and the health sector. (paragraph 99)
ii. The VEMT's work to engage with local businesses to raise the awareness of CSE is given a high priority. (paragraph 100).
g) Following the mapping exercise on CSE training that the Council is undertaking the Wellbeing, Care and Learning Department should ensure (paragraph 102):
i. That all foster carers and residential care home staff have received up to date training on spotting the signs of sexual exploitation and know who to contact if they have suspicions or an incident to report.
ii. That an e-learning training course on CSE awareness should be offered to all Councillors and council staff, especially front line workers. Details should be kept of who has received the training and when any refresher training needs to be offered.
iii. That a well-publicised dedicated contact officer is named so that that people can contact should they suspect that CSE is taking place. (paragraph 44 (i)).
h) That the agencies involved in Operation Stay Safe, which had been funded by the Youth Crime Action Plan, be asked to consider if it is possible to increase the number of nights they undertake the operation which is currently 20 nights per year. (paragraph 104)
i) Whilst recognising that a number of Middlesbrough's secondary schools are now independently run academies, the panel want the Children, Families and Learning Department to consider:
i. How schools can be assisted to employ non-teaching staff who can maintain the preventative work around safeguarding and CSE and have the capacity to deal with any CSE issues where they may occur. Schools may wish to explore ways to pool budgets to ensure that they have sufficient funding for training and can share costs to maximise resources. (paragraph 137 (i))
ii. Finding a small amount of funding to provide trained counsellors for schools (again this could be completed with pooled budgets and schools sharing the resource. (paragraph 130)
iii. Helping and encouraging schools to introduce mechanism for an officially recognised system of supervision for teaching staff involved in dealing with CSE. (paragraphs 40 (vi) and 135)
iv. Entering into a dialogue with schools and other agencies which involve working with young people in order to share the best practice and experiences in Acklam School across the town. (paragraph 134)
v. Ensuring all schools are regularly reminded of the warning signs of child sexual exploitation.
The Board supported the undertaking of such an important scrutiny investigation and endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the Panel.
Members referred to paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Final Report and indicated that:-
(1) In respect of the last sentence of paragraph 56 the Licensing Department no longer informed the drivers employer if any of their driver's licences had been suspended;
(2) In respect of paragraph 57 at least two or three taxi firms insisted minibus drivers should have a DBS check.
ORDERED that the findings and recommendations of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel be endorsed and referred to the Executive subject to appropriate revision to take into account (1) and (2) above.