Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined in “Working Together to Safeguard Children” (2015)1 as:
Not all safeguarding risks arise from direct or intentional harm. Social and economic circumstances play a critical role in shaping the life chances of children. Every child and young person in Reading should be allowed to grow up safe from abuse, exploitation, neglect and crime.
Implementation of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – This is the first point of contact for safeguarding concerns and significantly improves the sharing of information between agencies to help protect children from harm, neglect and abuse. MASH is a quicker and more informed decision-making/ action process.
Reading’s Local Safeguarding Children Board makes sure that key agencies work together to keep local children and young people safe. The Board’s role is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each agency that works with children.
Section 13 of the Children Act 2004 requires each local authority to establish a LSCB for their area and specified the organisations and individuals (other than the local authority) that should be represented on LSCB’s2.
Reading LSCB review performance data and audit evidence to decide and agree priorities locally. In October 2014, the agreed current priorities are:
Further details regarding LSCB function and protocols can be found on the LSCB website: www.westberkslscb.org.uk/.
Reading has 35,900 children aged 0-17 (at mid-year 2014 (Projection) based on 2011 census).
2014/15 data tells us that 4929 contacts are made to MASH. 1673 of these contacts lead to referrals – this is 34%.
The top 3 reasons for referral are:
Following referral, there were1197 completed assessments. 301 initial Child protection conferences (2014/15) – increase from 229 (2013/14). 121 children referred to Early Help (2014/15).
Assessment factors (2014/15) – the top 3 factors in assessment outcomes are:
Parental factors such as domestic abuse, substance misuse, parental learning difficulties, and mental health issues can impact on the safety and health of children.
Children who have been abused or neglected may experience physical or emotional harm. The effects can be short term but sometimes they last into adulthood. Long term effects of abuse and neglect include:
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that requires effective multi-agency partnership working to safeguard those who are being abused and those at risk of being exploited. CSE cannot be dealt with solely by individual local authorities, police divisions or public health authorities each operating in their own silos. Offenders and victims cross administrative boundaries and so should the collective response of the LSCB to safeguard the children of Reading.
Reading LSCB has written ‘A Strategy to Safeguard Children and Young People at Risk of or Experiencing Sexual Exploitation in Reading 2014 – 2017’5. This 3-year strategy builds on the progress that has already been made in Reading to ensure that we are effective in Preventing CSE from happening, Protecting those who may be at risk, to Pursue and Disrupt those who may be posing a risk to children and to ensure victims of CSE are supported in their Recovery.
Whilst we recognise there is still more to do to ensure we are effective in tackling all aspects of CSE across the Reading LSCB partnership, progress has been made in a number of areas that gives a strong foundation for moving forward:
All MASH contacts are reviewed, screened and triaged and if it meets threshold, cases are immediately sent to Access and Assessment (A&A) for a S47 risk assessment, S17 Child and Family Assessment or for short term duty work.
Cases that clearly meets threshold for Children’s Social Care involvement are sent to A&A immediately without any further MASH action in order to prevent delay in assessment and intervention. In these circumstances, MASH involvement stops at the point of contact and the allocated/duty worker is responsible for further information gathering, assessment and action.
Contacts that do not meet threshold for a referral to A&A, is sent for Early Help Intervention. This is delivered by the Children’s Action Teams (CAT) or community resources and the MASH Early Help Co-ordinator facilitates the processing of these referrals for early intervention.
Contacts that do not have appropriate consent, insufficient details or that are best dealt with by other resources are referred back to the contact-source with appropriate signposting and guidance, as/when appropriate.
Cases that have been closed by Children’s Social Care within the past three months are referred back directly to the relevant team who is responsible for all decision-making and action with no role for MASH.
When it is not possible to make an informed decision about which of the above actions to take due to lack of information or clarity, a case is put through the Confidential MASH Process. This means that proportionate and relevant information about the concerns are shared with our partner agencies in accordance with an information sharing agreement and the information is held within the secure hub of intelligence in MASH. The Police and Health are co-located with MASH and we contact satellite partner agencies by email and telephone.
The cases in Confidential MASH process are RAG-rated (Red, Amber, Green) according to priority and urgency. This means that Red cases must be processed in 4 hours, Amber cases in 8 hours and Green cases in 72 hours. Partner Agencies then have the responsibility to consult their records and to make a professional judgement and share any proportionate and relevant information that would highlight/substantiate the safeguarding concern within the RAG rated timescales. This information is then processed and qualified social workers complete a risk assessment, analysis and then recommend one of the actions as listed above.
Performance data for 2014/15 indicates 4929 children were referred to Reading’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). This is a decrease compared to 2013/14 data which shows 5402 contacts. The total number of referrals for 2014/15 was 1673.
The graph below shows the comparison of contacts to MASH team and those that are referred on for further assessment.
Figure 1: Total MASH contacts & Total referrals 2014/15 – Purple Book 2014
11% of the children referred to MASH in 2014/15 met threshold for further assessment.
Table 1 below shows the number of contacts to MASH broken down by outcome – this is showing a comparison to last year data 2013/14. There is a huge decrease in contacts closed and logged as MASH and closed and logged as MASH after analysis – this means that assessing the needs of children is more thorough and that more cases are being referred to other services for interventions/ prevention services rather than being inappropriately assessed by children’s social care.
The % of contacts sent to A and A team during 13/14 was 26% whereas the % of contacts sent on in 14/15 was only 10%. Therefore better screening and early analysis is having a significant impact on the number of families receiving social work involvement. However, there has also been a significant downturn in the number of contacts taken by mash in 14/15 which suggest a better understanding of thresholds for intervention across the partnership.
|Number of Contacts- Breakdown by MASH Outcomes||2013-14||2014-15|
|Contacts Taken by MASH Team||5402||4929|
|Contacts Closed & Logged as MASH-(No Form 5)||2864||1560|
|Contacts Closed & Logged as Mash – After Analysis (Form 5)||946||251|
|Contacts sent from MASH Team to A&A||1436||519|
Table 1: Number of contacts broken down by MASH outcomes 2013/14 and 2014/15
Figure 2 below shows the comparison of the total MASH contacts and the contacts that were referred on to the A&A team by month.
Figure 2: No of contacts taken by MASH team and the number of contacts that were referred to the AA team 2014/15 – Purple Book 2014
|Number of MASH Contacts||Apr-14||May-14||Jun-14||Jul-14||Aug-14||Sep-14||Oct-14||Nov-14||Dec-14||Jan-15||Feb-15||Mar-15|
|Contacts Taken by MASH Team||404||412||387||598||314||492||410||336||454||421||342||359|
|Contacts sent from MASH Team to A&A||49||46||43||49||27||29||46||54||58||38||33||47|
|% of Contacts sent to AA Team||12%||11%||11%||8%||9%||6%||11%||16%||13%||9%||10%||13%|
Table 2: Number of MASH contacts per month 2014/15
The table above shows the number of MASH contacts per month against the number of those contacts sent to Access and Assessment (A&A team) for further assessment. The total number of referrals to the A&A Team in 2014/15 was 519. This amounts to 31% of all referrals.
Data was collected from November 2014 onwards regarding MASH contacts broken down by source/ agency. From the reported 1912 referrals to MASH, the top 5 referral contacts are highlighted in the graph below:
Figure 3: MASH contacts broken down by source/agency Nov 2014 – Mar 2015 – Purple Book 2014
This tells us that 52% (987 of the 1912 contacts) of MASH contacts come from the police, followed by 10% from both schools and other primary health care services and 4% from both individuals (family member/ relative/carer) and other-including Children’s Centre, independent agencies, voluntary organisations. The Police refer the majority of contacts by a significant amount. The Police are the first point of call in a crisis; they are the agency which is called out to disputes and witness children without adequate care in their own homes (unscheduled).
Figure 4: Age of child at enquiry and referral April 2014 – March 15 – Purple Book 2014
Figure 4 shows that the age bracket 10-15 years have the highest number of referrals to MASH (469 individuals) followed closely by age bracket 5-9 years (436 individuals).
The age range 10-15 is more likely to go missing after a dispute at home. They are also more verbal and able to communicate that things are not going well at home for them. Early adolescence is also a time where some parents find some teenage behaviours particularly challenging.
Figure 5: Referral Reason to A& A Jul 14 – Mar 15 – Purple book Mar 14
Figure 5 shows us that the highest numbers of referral to Access & Assessment are recorded as being related to domestic violence at 13.3% followed by Physical abuse at 7.4%. Again, this reflects LSCB’s number one priority to tackle domestic violence/ abuse.
Figure 6 below shows the categories of abuse for those on child protection plans. The main category of abuse is neglect.
Figure 6: Child Protection Plans by Abuse Category Apr 14 – Mar 15 – Purple Book 2014
The child protection plan numbers reflected in figure 6 record the category Neglect at 1192 compared to Emotional abuse 495, Physical abuse 252 and Sexual abuse 232. This means that 55% of children on child protection plans (2014/15) were subject to plans under the category of neglect.
Neglect category remains high; this category is classified in a way which describes the impact on the child the most. The LCSB have produced a Neglect strategy to work towards reducing this category.
Figure 7 – Number of children who were subject to section 471 enquiries and initial child protection conferences, Year ending 31 March 2015 – CIN CENSUS
There were a total of 579 children who were subject to Section 47 enquiries which started 2014/15. Of these, 301 children were the subject of a child protection conference.
Figure 8 – Duration between start of section 47 enquiries and initial child protection conference (working days) – CIN CENSUS
Of the 301 children subject to a child protection conference, 191 were started within 11-15 days. A longer duration of 16-20 days and 21+ days is due to family and social worker availability for conferences.
Figure 9 – Number of children who became the subject of a child protection plan during the year ending 31 March 2015, by initial category of abuse – CIN CENSUS
252 children became the subject of a child protection plan, of these 122 children were recorded as being neglected – this is 48% of cases. Of the 252 children who were subject to a child protection plan, 60 of these (23.8%) became the subject of a plan for a second or subsequent time (CIN CENSUS). This indicates that support may have been withdrawn too early. Some parents also disguise compliance and are not ready to have the support withdrawn.
Figure 10 – Number of children who were the subject of a child protection plan at 31 March 2015, by length of time as the subject of a plan – CIN CENSUS
The majority of children/young people who are deplaned at the 3 month point have become Looked After; therefore it is appropriate that they are no longer subject of a Child Protection Plan.
98.5% of cases who were the subject of a plan at 31 March 2015 and who had been the subject of a plan for 3 or more months were reviewed within the required timescales.
Figure 11 – Number of children who ceased to be the subject of a child protection plan1 during the year ending 31 March 2015, by length of time as the subject of a plan – CIN CENSUS
202 Children ceased to be the subject of a child protection plan during the year ending 31 March 2015, of these 81 children were more than 6 months but less than a year.
A child in need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development, or whose health and development is likely to be significantly or further impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled.1
Figure 12 – Numbers of Children in Need – 2014/15 – CIN CENSUS
This data tells us that we are good at getting interventions to children and families to prevent them from going into mainstream child protection services. We are putting in place targeted support for a short period of time i.e. open and close cases within a year.
Figure 13: Number of children in need by disability at 31.03.15 – CIN CENSUS
A further breakdown of disability as recorded at 31.03.15 is available. 11.3% of children in need had a recorded disability.
Figure 14: Number of children in need by disability at 31.03.15 – CIN CENSUS
Figure 14 shows a higher proportion of children in need with a disability of autism/ Asperger followed by a learning difficulty.
When a child is referred to children’s social care with a request for services to be provided, an assessment is carried out. If it is deemed the child needs services, then the main reason why the child started to receive services is recorded as their primary need.
Figure 15 – Children in Need by Primary Need at Assessment at 31.03.15 -CIN CENSUS
Figure 15 highlights that 48% of the primary needs at assessment are for abuse or neglect. 21% of primary needs at assessment are not stated and this is due to poor recording.
Figure 16 – No. of children in need ceasing to be in need at 31.3.15 by duration of need – CIN CENSUS
The Duration of episode of need calculated using the difference between the referral date and the CIN closure date. 61% of cases are no longer children in need within 3 months or less which is positive in Reading. This means that Social Workers are assessing children within a short timeframe and ensuring adequate and appropriate resources are in place for the child. 10% of long term open cases are still children in need after 2 years as they are mostly CIN disabled and they need support for their life time. On average 23% of referrals we receive either monthly or yearly are repeat referrals.
Figure 17 – No. of Children ceasing to be in Need at 31.03.15 by reason for case closure – CIN CENSUS. (*Missing/ Unknown includes data from case closed after assessment and unreliability in coding)
97% of cases ceasing to be categorised as a child in need are due to ‘other including no longer child in need’. The child’s needs are no longer meeting the thresholds as appropriate support services have been put in place.
Figure 18 – Number of assessments completed by Children’s Social Services in year ending 31 March 2015, by duration of assessment – CIN CENSUS
If a child has more than one assessment in the year then each instance is recorded.
Statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ was revised in 2015 giving local authorities more flexibility when assessing children. Previously, local authorities carried out an initial assessment within 10 working days and (where needed) a more in-depth core assessment within 35 working days. Local authorities now have the flexibility to carry out a single continuous assessment within 45 working days. No distinction between the types of assessment carried out was recorded in the data collected in 2014-15.In Reading; the majority of cases are assessed within 11-20 days (21%) and 1-10 days (20%). Still there are 17% of cases which are 45+ days to complete. This is due to staff’s high caseloads and a high level of sickness.
Figure 19 – Factors identified at the end of assessment for episodes in the year ending 31 March 2015 – CIN CENSUS
Figure 19 above shows the factors identified at the end of an assessment. There could be more than one factor recorded for an assessment. 46% of recorded factors relate to domestic violence and 42% of recorded factors are for ‘other factors’, again this category is indicating poor recording.
Below shows the number of new LAC entrants per month from April 2014 – Mar 2015. There was a total of 94 new LAC entrants for this period and a further breakdown of numbers are as follows for each age bracket:
There is a slight downward trend for each age category. Under 1’s are higher as this age range is removed from the home whilst the social worker is carrying out the assessment as they are too vulnerable. It is positive to see that early identification and analysis of risk has led to protective measures being taken for the most vulnerable group; that of babies.
Greater awareness of ‘The Southwark Judgement’ is likely to underpin the comparatively large number of 16+ young people entering care.
Figure 20: Number of children looked after by behaviour need – Jul 2014 – Mar 2015 – Purple Book 2014
Figure 20 shows a high number of looked after children with BESD (Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties) compared to the other behavioural need definitions. There is consequently a range of complex and chronic difficulties experienced by many children and young people with BESD and as such require support not just for the child but for the family also.
Figure 21: LAC ethnicity Apr 14 – Mar 15 – Purple Book 2014
|2014||% White British||% BME|
|* some unknown/ restricted data|
Table 3: Ethnicity data for England and Reading 2014/15 – Purple Book 2014
The majority of LAC are white British. Reading serves a diverse community so demographically these figures could be under representative. This data is not reflective of whether we are meeting the BME group needs when it comes to safeguarding children. BME communities don’t always present to children’s services so we must question this data and ask ourselves whether we are able to challenge behaviours when there is a cultural difference.
The Early Help service is working to identify needs and provide support to children, young people and their families at the earliest possible stage, improving outcomes and reducing costs. Supporting families who are experiencing domestic abuse with an objective of reducing repeat incidents is a key part of this strategy.4
Reading’s Early Help is a developing service with a positive trajectory in relation to increased referrals from a range of services and a reduced level of repeat referrals.
There are regular ‘Team around the child’ meetings that take place and performance data indicates that the service is making a positive impact for children and families.
Referrals for the Early Help service come through the MASH as well as through other professionals. This shows the positive impact of the work in Early Help to simplify processes for referral and will be further built on by the work currently ongoing in respect of the Early Help pathways.2
Data for 2014/15 shows 55% of children on child protection plans were subject to plans under the category of neglect (Priority identified by the LSCB). There are many forms and reasons for neglect and the children’s workforce must be able to recognise the early signs to ensure support services are provided as soon as possible and action is taken to safeguard children.
LSCB are working to raise the profile of neglect as an issue and have drawn up a Neglect Protocol6 for all partners which highlight the effects of neglect, short and long term.
The number of LAC children and young people can vary from month to month as children and young people move in and out of the system. Younger children are more likely to become LAC as they are very vulnerable and need to be removed while the assessment process is undertaken (they can be placed with other family members). This enables more time for the social worker to work and assess the family and their circumstance as a whole.
In March 2015, only 27% of LAC were in Reading Borough Council placements, excluding Family and Friends. The use of Fostering Agencies over the same period was 37%.
As at the 31st March 2015, comparing the rate of LAC per 10,000 of the population Reading was at the same rate as its statistical Neighbours and the England average – 60, however this is higher than the South East Benchmarking which sat at 48.2.
Reading’s strategic priorities facilitate a multi-agency approach that emphasises the need to:
Reading and partners must:
Prevent: Child Sexual Exploitation takes place within our community. We must raise awareness and understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation in order to prevent children from becoming victims.
Protect: work together to identify children at risk of, or subject to sexual exploitation, so that we can safeguard and support them and prevent further harm. It is important that professionals, public, families and children understand the many forms of CSE so that they are better able to protect children and not miss signs.
Pursue and Disrupt: work together to assist in bringing offenders to justice and disrupt behaviour, whilst ensuring that children and young people are not subject to further risk and harm
Recovery: ensure that victims of CSE are provided with the necessary support to aid their recovery. This support needs to be delivered in such a way that we do the right thing, in the right way and at the right time to aid their recovery. Recovery should also include the provision of services to enable them to reach their potential and reduce the likelihood of needing support services in the future.5
A single pathway is in place to improve referral processing and this needs to be reviewed. This will means the right support is offered to children and families at the right time.
The Looked After Children Sufficiency Statement Strategy 2015-2017 demonstrates how RBC plans to take steps that secure, as far as reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation within the local authority area which meets the needs of children that the local authority is looking after. The lack of local placements in the Reading Borough Council area is demonstrated by the fact 33% of Looked After Children are placed more than 20 miles away from their home address. Whilst this may be a positive reason (such as children in adoptive placements or in specialist residential settings) this overall percentage figure is too high and must be reduced. It is important that children and young people live locally so that they can remain in contact with their family and community and retain stability in education provision and receive local health services.2
The unpredictability of future demand despite best efforts to base projections on past trends and wider demographics remains a challenge when recruiting sufficient placements for looked after children. As does, recruiting sufficient numbers of RBC carers to match the needs of the children requiring placements in a competitive local environment.
Reading has a high prevalence of Domestic Abuse and this is one of the two key areas resulting in children being subject to a Child Protection Plan. A revised strategy is required to effectively join up the approach to this issue across children and adult’s services, and across both the children’s and adults safeguarding board partners and the Community Safety Partnership.
The new Domestic Abuse Strategy 2015-18 has been produced during 2014/15 with input from both LSCB partners. There are 2 priorities relating to children and young people:
In order to deliver the best possible response to the challenge of domestic abuse in Reading, we recognise that we need to know as much as possible about what domestic abuse looks like in the context of our diverse local community.4
Neglect is identified as a key issue for Reading. There is a need to develop a clear strategy and multi-agency approach to its reduction. The LSCB and evidence shown recommends that:
Reading Borough Council need to ensure that CAT and CSC staff, as well as other agencies working with children and families are upskilled to be ‘experts’ in assessing the impact of neglect. Staff should be trained in the use of the’ graded care profile’ assessment tool. Children’s Services to consistently use chronologies in assessment, analysis and decision making6
Continue working towards developing a clearer picture of the extent to which CSE affects children locally. Implementation of the Strategy to Safeguard Children and Young People at Risk of or Experiencing Sexual Exploitation in Reading 2014 – 2017 will facilitate improved recording, monitoring and reviewing to provide a sense of prevalence in the Reading area. Nationally we know that the issue has not always been recognised and that the extent of the problem has been underestimated.
Working Together to safeguard children 2015 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-safeguard-children
Reading Local Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report 2014-2015
Domestic Abuse Strategy for Reading 2015-2018 http://www.reading.gov.uk/media/4335/Domestic-Abuse-Strategy-Nov-2015/pdf/DA_Strategy_final.pdf
A Strategy to Safeguard Children and Young People at Risk of or Experiencing Sexual Exploitation in Reading 2014 – 2017 http://beta.reading.gov.uk/media/2554/item10appx/pdf/item10appx.pdf
Reading LSCB Neglect Protocol 2015 http://www.readinglscb.org.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAzADQAOQAwAHwAfABGAGEAbABzAGUAfAB8ADMANgB8AA2
Reading Threshold Guidance http://www.readinglscb.org.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAzADQAOAA4AHwAfABGAGEAbABzAGUAfAB8ADMANgB8AA2