This Safeguarding Arrangements Annual Report has been compiled by the Devon SCP Partnership Team, using evidence and information from external and independent sources including the Ofsted report on Childrens’ Services, improvement reports for Children’s Services and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), the independent feedback on safeguarding arrangements and improvement work overseen by Department for Education (DfE) appointed Commissioner.
The Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership (Devon SCP) led the multi-agency response to the pandemic, bringing together statutory and universal services, alongside voluntary and community sector organisations. This interprofessional network co-designed, with children and families, a refocus of our priorities Covid-19 and what next from July 2020 to December 2021. The aim of this is to ensure the partnership effectively work together to protect and safeguard children and support families early, to build resilience and adapt to the daily challenges of life in lockdown. Key areas of impact and development can be found in Appendix B.
In January 2020 Ofsted undertook an Inspection of Local Authority Childrens Service’s (ILACS). Following the judgement of inadequate the DfE appointed a Commissioner to review of Children’s Services capacity to improve and respond effectively to the findings of the Ofsted inspection.
The DfE Commissioner summarised the work of partners in response to the pandemic:
“The response to the challenges of Covid-19 have been a very good example of the success of the multi-agency arrangements in this respect. Many of those involved, who I have spoken to, have commented very positively on the way partners came together collaboratively and quickly to identify children and families who needed additional support, and to agree who was best placed to respond.”
“Information gathering and consultation responses from staff and young people were presented to three workshop events leading to a re-setting of the priorities and next steps for the coming months. The Devon SCP work on the ‘Re-set’ is impressive.”
In March 2020 the Executive agreed to take on the role of an Improvement Partnership in addition to oversight of the partnership Pandemic response. Terms of reference were amended and reviewed in June 2020 when the Improvement Partnership was able to stand up with an independent chair and membership including key statutory partners.
In the Commissioners report to the Minister in October 2020 it was noted:
“The IP provides the support and challenge to drive forward improvement. This will sit alongside the work of the Devon SCP and the other key forums in Devon that are already in place which have oversight and challenge responsibilities. The IP needs to ensure a relentless focus on pace and impact, and to assist the Council and its partners to make the difference that is needed.”
Leaders across the Devon SCP worked together to develop a multi-agency improvement plan, to deliver the changes together to improve outcomes for children and young people. From an early stage, partners recognised the shared accountability for addressing shortfalls in services for children and young people, the importance of being responsible corporate parents and the role that the partnership needed to play in providing the right support at the right time, and in the right place to protect children and families across Devon. Priorities were endorsed and committed to by the Executive of the Devon SCP. The Devon SCP Executive continued to meet at increased frequency to coordinate the continued multiagency pandemic response.
The DfE Commissioner stated:
“There is a strong multi-agency partnership in place which can use the learning from Covid-19 to drive forward change. The Incident Management Teams are to be retained and continue as partnership response groups to deliver on the priorities agreed by the re-set project. These should build on the past 6 months activity to provide an ongoing community response through early help, increase use and support of volunteers, working closely with statutory partners, developing creative and innovative solutions to emerging challenges.”
The Devon SCP Executive Group has seen several changes in leadership through the last year. With all the senior statutory partners leaving the partnership as they changed roles in their own organisations. Darryn Allcorn, Director of Nursing, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) become the Chair from January 2021. Nikki Leaper, Chief Superintendent, BCU Commander South Devon, Devon and Cornwall Police joined the Executive in November 2020 as the statutory lead for the Police and Melissa Caslake, took up the Director of Childrens Services for Devon County Council in February 2021.
Multi-agency Covid-19 Response – Children’s Incident Management Teams
In response to the pandemic, the Devon SCP formed multi-agency partnership governance and stood down most sub-group arrangements. The Children’s Incident Management Team’s (IMT) reported to the Partnership’s Executive. The IMT Chairs met regularly to co-ordinate our multi-agency support for the most vulnerable children.
In order to monitor the impact of the Pandemic, the Executive have received monthly reports from the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and Early Help to monitor the level of referrals and where there are safeguarding concerns. They have had monthly reports on children’s education and access to learning, and also received quarterly scorecards that provide detail on data and outcomes relating to the four priorities set as part of the Covid-19 response. These reports triggered additional areas for scrutiny and coordinated multi-agency work. All chairs of subgroups have adopted a new reporting system since January 2021, to feedback on outcomes and impact. Closing the loop between need, strategic activity and impact. This will be further developed in 2021/22 to demonstrate impact.
The Police played a key role in the IMT arrangements. In the last 12 months, the Force has invested in posts related to child-centred policing (e.g. an Inspector post dedicated to child-centred policing and in Devon increases in Youth Intervention Officer numbers and a related Sergeant post). These investments and continued dedication to the Partnership from Devon and Cornwall Police is a real strength and asset to the ability of the Devon SCP to best protect and safeguard children.
The NHS Devon CCG Primary Care Safeguarding Team has been strengthened with the appointment of two nurses and one GP during 2020. The team have developed a communication strategy to raise awareness and improve safeguarding knowledge within primary care including: quarterly virtual forums, a fortnightly safeguarding newsletter, training sessions for GP safeguarding leads. The team have also supported GPs to engage in safeguarding practice reviews and domestic homicide reviews to improve practice.
Services galvanised around a multi-agency response, which had a significant positive impact on the analysis of family’s needs, allowing for early responses and subsequent offers of support during this period to prevent the escalation of risk to children and young people. This was demonstrated through an increased use and membership of the early help triage process and the impact of the work to sustain positive outcomes evidenced through the ‘Payment by Results’ return last year, that showed an increase in sustainable change for families.
Partners also worked effectively together through the IMT system. Data and intelligence from the frontline was reported to these, often weekly or twice-weekly meetings, which informed successful bids for additional response funding. For example, data showing a 60% increase in referrals to local domestic abuse services led to additional investment being secured to increase refuge capacity and recruit ‘connector’ roles within Early Help to provide specialist advice, guidance and support to colleagues across the Partnership who were working with families experiencing domestic abuse. The impact of this was to manage the demand on specialist services and instead provide effective multi-agency and holistic wrap-around support for the children and their family.
The development of performance systems such as the vulnerability Power Bi and the Covid-19 notifications dashboard has improved oversight of concerns around children, which was supported by a revised escalation process endorsed by education to support vulnerable families during this time. The amalgamation of these developments enhanced the operational response from the multi-agency network to families during this period.
Governance and Leadership of Safeguarding Arrangements
The structure of the Devon SCP and the arrangements in place for disseminating and activating strategic aims and feeding back thought themes and concerns from services and communities is available here.
Local Authority Designated Officer Annual Report 2020-21
The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) is responsible for co-ordinating a response to concerns about adults who work with children.
Practice Evaluation and Quality Assurance
The Practice Development Group (PDG) co-ordinates the delivery of strategic safeguarding, managing multi-agency escalations as well at the co-ordination of the activity of practice lessons from reviews and audit. Providing policy and procedure updates across the multi-agency safeguarding arrangements. PDG has an operational group called the Quality Assurance Delivery Group (QADG). In addition, the Children’s Safeguarding Practice Review Group has overseen the Rapid Reviews and Local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews. An overview of this work is found below.
A decision to step down the PDG during the first period of lockdown, was based on a new route for escalations of safeguarding concern through to the Incident Management Teams, details in Appendix A, however QADG continued the workplan throughout.
The partnership continues to deliver priorities through a network of multi-agency subgroups, which are responsible for strategy and multi-agency delivery. Sub-groups are regularly reviewed, and strategic plans overseen for impact through the sub-group chairs group forum.
In March 2020, the terms of reference for the Quality Assurance Delivery Group (QADG) was temporarily revised. The primary focus for the QADG was to provide assurance to the Executive about the safeguarding of vulnerable children during Covid-19.
The QADG’s activity was to quality assure that in each agency:
- Professionals are sharing information well.
- Children’s current vulnerabilities are being identified effectively and the most vulnerable children and young people are being appropriately prioritised for support and protection.
- Risk assessments are kept up to date, are appropriate given the circumstances of the child and family, reflect the context of Covid-19 and are shared between partners.
- Safety planning for vulnerable children is in place, including clear arrangements for how and when the children will be seen and by whom.
- Within risk assessments and safety planning for vulnerable children, school attendance is prioritised wherever this is safe for the child.
- Children and families are getting the help and protection they need through this time.
- Workforce pressures are actively considered, and adjustments are made when needed to ensure continuity to critical safeguarding tasks.
Multi-agency audit dip sampling was undertaken against an agreed standard. The findings were shared and discussed at a QADG prior to agreed themes, good practice, risks, and issues being shared with the Devon SCP Executive. In 2020, the QADG began a rolling plan of challenge sessions with its multi-agency group in order to assess the impact of the group’s review activity, findings and recommendations. Challenge sessions have taken place to discover the impact of the work done on Child Sexual Abuse, Neglect and Young People and Suicide reviews.
Challenge sessions will continue to form an important part of the ambition of the partnership to close the loop on practice learning.
In addition, and in response to national and local concerns about non-accidental injuries to babies, the QADG undertook a themed review on Physical Harm to Non-Mobile Children under two years old. The report on findings and recommendations from this review was accepted by the Executives and will help guide the 2021 work of the partnership.
Rapid Reviews and Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews
Within the safeguarding arrangements annual review report period 2018-2019, independent scrutineer, Mark Gurrey, reported on three reviews that had taken place. The learning from those included issues around practitioner’s responses and practice with domestic abuse and coercive control, elective home education and children not brought to health appointments. All recommended activity was progressed in 2020, including the following:
- Ensuring coercive control is included in the partnership’s workforce development plan and to consider how best to challenge professional passivity
- Ensuring multi-agency decisions are always made on whether or not to close a case and consideration is given to possible step across to Early Help
- Ensure there is a system of alert when children are not in regular contact with universal services or in education and have become missing/hidden
The partnership is yet to fully test the implementation of the ‘was not brought’ policy and also the changes made to the Elective Home Education policy and procedures. These remain part of the plans for 2021-2022. The learning and practice changes recommended by reviews are tracked and monitored by the Practice Development Group. The Quality Assurance Delivery Group supports audit and review activity on themes of concern across the year, these include lines of enquiry designed to test out the elements mentioned above.
During 2020, four Rapid Reviews were undertaken, and one Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review (LCSPR) was commissioned (due for publication in March 2021). The learning from three of the rapid reviews and the LCSPR was related to non-accidental injury in non-mobile children and neglect, and this has informed work plans across the partnership throughout 2020, into 2021. Decisions to complete rapid reviews where there were not life limiting injuries or a death were made in light of concerns raised nationally and locally about the potential impact of Covid-19 lockdown. One other review related to a 14-year-old child who caused life limiting injuries to their mother.
In relation to actions leading from reviews, DfE Commissioners report cited:
“The findings have contributed to training sessions led by the Principal Social Worker on responding to neglect. The Acting Head of Children’s Social Care Services and Designated Doctor (Consultant Paediatrician) convened locality workshops for social workers and managers, GPs and paediatricians to strengthen communication and working together. These were very well attended (not least because of TEAMS) and very well received”.
The Devon SCP have taken the role of widening this training throughout 2020 and planned into 2021 in order to support all staff working with children and young people. A draft workforce development framework has been produced, which will be implemented through 2021. The workforce development strategy was put on hold during the Covid-19 lockdown period and attention was refocused into the Early Help system network to support professionals to respond. There was an emphasis on collaborative working early to support children to reduce families going into crisis.
DfE Commissioners Report 2020, referenced learning and development on restorative practice in children’s social care:
“Devon moved to a model of restorative practice and introduced management training for all Team Managers. However only 50% had training in restorative practice before this was paused due to Covid-19. Senior managers have identified improved coaching and training for Team Managers as a priority in addressing performance and improving decision making.”
During 2020, the Workforce Development Group focussed on maintaining training and practice development through lockdown. This resulted in all Devon SCP courses being turned into digital, on-line blended courses. This incurred increased redevelopment costs, but was counterbalanced by a reduction in venue, refreshments and trainer costs. It also resulted in the development of new video learning and e-learning modules. Attendance increased due to the simplicity of logging on and joining training via various digital platforms.
Training events were attended by a total of 5,948 people. This represents an average of around 496 per month.
|Group 3 Core Safeguarding and Child Protection
|Group 3 Keeping Children Safe in the Digital World
|Group 3 Recognising and Responding to Neglect
|Group 3 Adolescents and Risk
|Group 3/4 Assessing, analysing and managing risk and the impact of risk
|Adolescent Safety Framework (ASF)/Safer Me
|Early Help – Right for Children
|Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) – Tools to Assess Neglect
|MASH Monthly Webinars (started Sep 20)
|Multi-Agency Impact Chronologies (MAICs)
|Reducing Parental Conflict
|SaFest (over 5 days)
|SEMH/SCLN Webinar and Virtual Workshop
|E-Learning Modules and Video Learning
|Group 2 Child Protection – E-learning module
|Group 2 LADO – Managing Allegations in the Workplace e-learning
|ACEs (Introduction to Adverse Childhood Experiences)
|Autism – Top Tips on How to Support Autistic Young People
|Autism – Understanding and Awareness
|Helping Adults to Respond to Children Disclosing Abuse
|Opening Doors: Trauma Informed Practice for the Workforce
|Sowing Seeds: Trauma Informed Practice for everyone working with children
|SEND Module One – Support Children & Young People with SEND
Creating the environment for excellent practice to flourish and this in turn improving outcomes for children, is a commitment for the Devon SCP. The workforce development plan is our approach to multi-agency learning and development. Therefore, we are developing the whole workforce in three key skills:
- Developing strengths-based practice
- The roll out of training for restorative approaches including supervision
- The development of appreciative inquiry
Improvement in practice and impact is measured using the following methods
- Evaluation after training/practice development session including questions asking what the delegate’s knowledge was on a scale of 1-5 before the course and after; and questioning how this knowledge will be used in practice.
- Six months after evaluations – asking delegates how the training has impacted on their practice, how they are using the tools their new skills and knowledge, how many families they are using it with, barriers to using it, strengths, weaknesses, ideas for improvements etc.
- Nine months later – contacting managers to ask the above questions about their staff
The Annual Workforce Development Report will be available from September 2021.
Funding and Support
Over 2020, funding commitment from all partners including Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon County Council and NHS CCG to equally contribute to the business support of the partnership. Contributions were also received towards the multiagency workforce development plan from both health and Devon County Council partners. The training funding provided by the Police will taper off in 2020 and will not be available as a one-off contribution in 2021, but will be invoiced through individual training attendance.
2021-2022 Safeguarding Scrutiny Outcomes and Outputs
The Devon SCP Practice Development Group has collated the learning from reviews and has agreed a plan to focus on five outcomes for improvement this year, with outputs identified from Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews. The Practice Development Group will monitor and scrutinise progress.
We believe all Children have the right to: Achieve their potential with the opportunities to thrive.
Outcomes: Babies will have the best start to grow and develop, safeguarded, and protected from emotional and physical harm and neglect.
- Implementation of training and practice guidance to support continual improvement in the quality of multi-agency assessment and analysis including:
- Childs voice and lived experience
- Better analysis of attachment
- Increase historical context/ecological approaches to assessment and planning
- Multi-agency assessment and support pre-birth.
- Increasing curiosity and awareness of all signs of neglect and abuse to identify early and act quickly to safeguard children.
- Implementation of evidenced based interventions that provide parents and carers with the tools that they need to support attachment, provide for babies care needs and development, including support to manage crying babies.
Be Healthy and Well
We believe all Children have the right to: Have the best start in life, stay well and thrive. With good information and specialist help when they need it.
Outcomes: Children and young people will be supported early with their emotional wellbeing to prevent self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide
- Strengthening information sharing so this is no longer a barrier in supporting and safeguarding children.
- Ensure that all practitioners have the child continually in focus, that the child’s voice is heard, and their wishes and needs remain at the fore.
- Review and implement Devon escalation/resolution procedures across the partnership.
- Implement improved cross-Local Authority sharing of information and working together where there are concerns about children’s health, safety, and wellbeing.
- Develop and implement shared knowledge of indicators for practitioners to consider when assessing a young person.
- Implement the protocol, strengthening information sharing and for practitioners, when a young person is expressing suicidal ideation, to safety plan.
We believe all Children have the right to: Be protected from neglect and supported when vulnerable
Outcome 1: Families receive the right help at the right time to support their children’s wellbeing and safety and prevent problems from escalating.
- Strengthening information sharing so this is no longer a barrier in supporting and safeguarding children.
- Ensure that all practitioners have the child continually in focus, that the child’s voice is heard, and their wishes and needs remain at the fore.
- Through workforce development:
- Increase curiosity and awareness of all signs of neglect and abuse to identify early and act quickly to safeguard children.
- Increase understanding and support to manage risks of the impact of poverty, inequality, racism, hate crime, domestic abuse (including coercive control) and exploitation on children and young people.
- Working across adult and children’s services deliver protection and support from domestic violence and abuse.
- Increase completion of the ‘Safer Me Assessments’ and contextual safeguarding plans across Early Help.
- Develop a community partnership response to safeguarding children.
Outcome 2: Children at risk of neglect are identified and assessed early and families engaged with evidenced based approaches to safeguard children.
- Increase familiarity, training and implementation of the neglect strategy and practice tools across the partnership and throughout early help. Develop a shared commitment to understanding, acting early, and reducing neglect.
- Analyse why the prevalence of chronic neglect appears to be higher in Devon and across the Peninsula than the national average.
Be Protected from Harm
We believe all Children have the right to: Be protected from harm, abuse and exploitation.
Outcomes: Where there is concern that a child is at risk of harm/abuse practitioners will continue to provide support and seek extra as required, until they are satisfied that the child is safe.
- Ensure there is access to supervision, guidance, and consultation available to staff, when concerns for children arise and practitioners are unsure what to do.
- Increase and strengthen supervision/management overview of casework to safeguard children.
- Implement a set standard of shared responsibility for safeguarding children, with means to escalation and challenge where concerns remain. Everyone is responsible and should remain vigilant until satisfied that a child is safe.
- Strengthen the MASH system and multi-agency commitment/responsibility to act early, support and safeguard children.
- Review current procedures to ensure there are clear processes that support all in the implementation of escalation where appropriate and understanding thresholds for more support, to provide consistent and robust decision making.
Appendix A – reports referenced
In order to produce this review, the following reports have been referenced:
- ADCS Devon Self-assessment 2020
- Inspection of Devon children’s social care services January 2020. Inspection report published by Ofsted in March 2020.
- Improvement Plan Summary and Updates, published online in 2020 by the Devon SCP.
- Annual report on safeguarding arrangements, published online by the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership in December 2019.
- Devon SCP’s Children and Young People’s Plan 2019-23
- Devon’s SEND Written Statement of Action
- Devon’s SEND Strategy 2021-2024
- The Adolescent Safety Framework (Safer Me)
- SaFest 2020 Survey Summary
- GCP2 Practitioner Survey 2020
- Devon SCP Scorecard – November 2020 update
- DfE Commissioners Report
- Ofsted assurance visit report – Atkinson secure children’s home
Appendix B – key areas of impact and development
Early Help and MASH response
Devon has an Early Help model, that connects services together to provide early help, through a Team Around the Family (TAF) arrangement. This ensures that existing relationships with the family are maintained to build on their assessment with children and families and develop a support plan that is connected and embedded within the child’s network and community.
In response to increased demand during the pandemic, the Devon Partnership Trust (DPT), who provide adult mental health services, have become members of the Early Help partnership boards. DPT are also a part of the Triage process in response to an increase in concern about parental mental ill health.
From March 2020, Triage meetings moved from weekly to daily, including weekends to provide immediate response to emerging needs. Triage has remained flexible by adapting its response to changing local needs and demands throughout the different phases of lockdown restrictions.
Early Help saw an average monthly increase during 2020/21 of 73.7% in the numbers of families discussed at Triage. During the year, 79.5% of families reported back that they could describe the positive difference that Early help had made in their lives.
“Early Help is great family support. I would highly recommend it to others. It’s making a difference to us.”
“I was very much part of the plan. My views are always heard. The different agencies listened to me and my children are still at school and doing really well.”
Following a drop during the first lockdown, monthly referral rates to the MASH increased steadily to a high of 382 per 10,000 in November 2020, and then decreased down to 260 per 10,000 in Feb 21.
Despite the rise in contacts and referrals with both Early help and MASH following the first national lockdown lifting in June 2020, this had not led to a significant rise in the number of referrals subsequently meeting threshold for children’s social care.
The rate of children in need open to children’s social care and S47 Child Protection enquiries have both remained relatively steady during 2020-21.
The Police worked with partners to conduct a review of all child VISTs (Vulnerability Screening Tools) in CARA (Child At Risk Alert) reports, which were sent every day to all local authorities.
The SEND Transformation programme, which reports to the SEND Improvement Board of the Devon SCP, has taken a lead in working together to improve the local SEND system by establishing and embedding
a clear and well-understood SEND Strategy, published in 2021, and integrating multi-agency SEND services. They have identified outcomes in partnership with children and families and have set a ‘road map’ of their progress and future goals. Wider publication of these plans through the Devon SCP and through schools and health networks are established.
A multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) for disabled children and another for vulnerable children have ensured that children receive a response to their needs collectively and individually. These teams have stepped up at times of lock down to ensure there is a multi-agency response to needs and a clear line of accountability and escalation to address gaps in support for individual children and groups of children.
A significant concern for the Devon SCP has been the ongoing challenge to improve wait-times for assessments for Speech and Language and autism diagnosis assessments. For autism diagnosis assessments, wait-times have increased by 30% between February 2020 and February 2021, with the median wait-time now reaching 82 weeks. While for children with speech and language needs, 2,631 were on the Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) wait-list as of February 2021 – representing a 40% increase since February 2020. More than half of these children are waiting for longer than the 18-week threshold, and 15% are waiting for over a year. The service provider, together with commissioners, is implementing service re-design, efficiency savings, and additional investment to address rising wait-times in the short-term and ensure there is a sustainable solution which provides lasting improvements for children and families.
The Devon SCP has established an exploitation strategy focusing upon four pillars of activity:
- Early Identification of Hidden Harm and Exploitation
- Prevention and Early Intervention
- Engagement and Communication
- Reflective Practice and Learning the Lessons
Whilst this is a partnership subgroup piece of work, it has been led by the police and links into their force wide business plans.
The Critical Moments Review, commissioned from the Devon SCP exploitation group, draws upon the recommendations from the child safeguarding practice review panel report (‘It was hard to escape report’ 2020). This piece of work is focusing upon three critical moments in a child’s journey (exclusion from education, entry into the Criminal Justice arena and admission to Emergency Department with a physical injury). The review findings are being presented back to the group in May 2021 and will lead to us commissioning further critical moment reviews on a number of other areas the report identifies as opportunities to intervene and divert young people away from exploitation risks.
A Police Force led Child Sexual Exploitation/Abuse (CSE/A) communications campaign was launched at the end of April 2021 and whilst this will have force wide coverage it forms a central part of our partnership communications strategy. Using animations which will target children and young people using social media platforms with the aim to raise awareness about exploitation and how to report concerns.
Strategic Threat Assessments are being developed as a partnership version of the CSE/A and County Lines strategic threat assessments and these are informing the delivery of the partnership activity around these areas.
A Complex Strategy Framework led by the Police responds to an action within the Devon SCP exploitation delivery plan on a more consistent and joined up policy for our response to CSE/A organised abuse within the partnership. This has focused upon ensuring partnership intelligence/risks are shared into the local police tasking systems.
The Adolescent Safeguarding Framework (ASF), is a contextualised safeguarding approach to managing risk to children and young people across Devon. A review of the impact of the ASF training found that there had been the largest take up of training through schools and the police, with more to do to target the wider network of early support professional groups. A task and finish group working with the Exploitation Subgroup of the Devon SCP with the task of embedding the framework and ‘safer me’ assessments as a wider community response to contextual safeguarding. A wider review of impact will be planned for 2021.
In the last year, 300 professionals across partner agencies have received training on the ASF, now delivered virtually. As a result of the increased concerns about exploitation during Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on adolescents, a virtual safeguarding event ‘SaFest’ was hosted in October 2020 with interest from over 1250 professionals from a range of partner agencies, with 411 attending the virtual event with a range of national and international key-note speakers.
Child Sexual Abuse
The Devon SCP Child Sexual Abuse Subgroup has delivered key outcomes through the year and has reviewed progress with further work arising out of the pandemic. The group maintained a response approach, focusing on identifying and addressing emerging concerns to:
- Ensure purposeful interventions for children (who have been sexually abused or who have harmful sexual behaviours)
- Increase the knowledge, skills and confidence of professionals in identifying and responding to child sexual abuse.
- Raise public awareness and understanding to reduce risk for children.
- Understand strategic responsibilities across Devon SCP and challenge partners who are not providing a robust operational response.
Adolescent Suicidal ideation
Devon SCP progressed development work on teenage suicidal ideation. Following a focused workshop, a plan of action was led by the Head of Children’s Social Care. Actions completed included:
- Suicide Awareness training was offered for practitioners and their managers who are working with young people.
- Presentation to management teams on the outcomes of the workshop and Social Work/Personal Advisor practice actions to take forward.
- A decision agreed that CAMHS will be used in a consultative manner when it is known that a young person will struggle to engage with them.
The Police supported the work with force concern for protecting young people and developed a system ‘Suicide Text Safe’. This was developed in liaison with the Samaritans to allow the system to automatically refer a person missing, to not only get a text, but also to get a call from the Samaritans when they are missing and suicidal. This involved information sharing agreements to be signed off and working together with partner agencies to allow Devon and Cornwall Police to adopt this using their own Compact system.
In February 2020, the Devon SCP’s Quality Assurance Delivery Group (QADG) reviewed the implementation of the Neglect Strategy and Toolkit across all services. As a result, the Workforce Development Subgroup relaunched Neglect training, reaching professionals across the Partnership. Professionals trained in the Neglect tool (Graded Care Profile 2) have increased from 225 to 411. With training sessions being conducted virtually on a monthly basis and more professionals being trained as a result, we expect this figure to continue to increase over the coming months. We are already seeing the result of this in child protection practice, with between 80%-85% of Child Protection plans for neglect in Exeter and Mid & East localities informed by the Neglect Tool (data from Exeter and Mid & East Locality reports to the Improvement Partnership Board, September 2020). The Quality Assurance Delivery group will report on the progress against these targets at its challenge session for the Neglect review in July 2021.
To underpin the work on Neglect, the Devon SCP have supported the development of multi-agency impact chronologies, piloted by partners in the North locality, to capture the child’s lived experience and significant events and concerns. The implementation and sustainment of improvements will form part of the work of audit by the Quality Assurance Delivery Group into 2021.
Neglect has featured in three rapid reviews during 2020-21 and remains a significant priority in the going forward. Embedding the strategy and regular review of progress against clear targets for training and implementation of the tools, will be a key focus for the partnership.
Domestic Violence and Abuse
From the outset of national lockdown restrictions, there was significant concern about a rise in domestic abuse. Work was undertaken to monitor levels of domestic abuse and support victims. Regular reports from local domestic abuse services evidencing levels of demand and intelligence of presentations to services were provided to incident management teams.
As a result of rising demand on local domestic abuse services being reported, an additional £400,000 investment was secured to provide additional capacity for early help ‘Connectors’ to track the impact and effectiveness of the early help offer for domestic violence and abuse. Also ‘clinics’ with specialist Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVA) for fellow ‘non DVA specialist’ professionals to explore and problem solve current cases, and support for external funding bids to meet the funding gap in running the refuge through lost revenue streams.
The NHS Devon CCG’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (DASV) Lead, appointed during 2020, has worked with health providers to improve their response to DASV through policy development, providing training, and resources. Funding was secured for IRIS project for 2021-22 which supports GP practices to recognise and respond to patients affected by DASV. Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) secured funding for a Health IDVA providing support to domestic abuse victims identified within the hospital.
As part of OpEncompass, the Police have improved the identification of DA child VISTs which has led to an increased number of calls made to schools. These continued throughout lockdown and all holidays, apart from the summer. We saw an increase in reporting, but a significant amount of the increase is due to better recording.
The Partnership have continued to work on their multi-agency strategy, covering both Adult and Children’s services. During 2021, partners will work closely together to implement the strategy and the future requirements of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Education for Children
Throughout the pandemic, school attendance in Devon has been consistently above national averages. This is as a result of targeted multi-agency support to ensure as many vulnerable groups of children were attending schools as possible.
|School attendance rates as of 25 March 2021
|Young people with an EHCP
|Young people with a social worker
|Children in care
A daily education vulnerability tracker and flowchart established a clear framework and process for reporting on, monitoring and supporting vulnerable children at school and keep them safe at home. Individual ‘RAG ratings’ (red, amber, green) determined the level and timing of contact and support from schools and children’s services, ensuring strong links between schools, social workers and Early Help to ensure children were being seen and their support needs addressed.
The impact of interventions by education staff and children’s services, working with partner agencies, has been evidenced, ensuring that as many children as possible remained in school safely where their needs are best met. Attendance in Devon schools has consistently been higher than national averages since across all groups of children and young people.
School Nurses have focused on facilitating the return to school for young people with additional needs. Education and Inclusion Service’s, provided by Babcock, have worked in partnership with Health and Education to develop emotional health and wellbeing support through all schools, now influencing a wider strategic plan for children’s emotional wellbeing led by a subgroup of the Devon SCP.
Babies born during the pandemic
Public Health Nursing and Early Help services across Devon worked together, to identify and respond to hidden harms and other household vulnerabilities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Services for under twos have been working collaboratively together to identify vulnerable pregnant families and infants. Midwifery, Early Help, Childrens Centres and Education strengthened communication sharing information where families needed extra support co-ordinating the service offer to young vulnerable babies, children and families. Escalation of risks/pressures emerging for multi-agency resolution, through the vulnerable young children’s IMT. Initially there were 72 babies identified as vulnerable under twos where there were one or more vulnerabilities (4.5%). PHN teams and children centres tracked the progress of these babies and their families and provided additional support or onward referrals where necessary.
Face to face contacts for all new births and the most vulnerable families were reinstated from June 2020. Public Health Nursing introduced sending parents information emails following the antenatal, new birth and maternal mental health review. This allows parents to have easier digital access to key topic areas that are relevant for their baby’s stage of life. Children’s Centres increased their online offer to connect with more families and offer digital parenting courses and access to a national helpline. The offer of food parcels was co-ordinated through the children’s centres who could deliver and see babies where there was considerable concern.
The Atkinson secure children’s home
At the recent Ofsted assurance visit of the Atkinson, which consisted of two days virtual inspection and one day on site. The inspectors said that “the children benefit from well-planned care provided by a staff team which shares a common drive to improve their outcomes and to keep them safe”. The report also states that “warm, trusting relationships help the children to reflect on their histories, learn new strategies and to feel they have adults around them on whom they can rely” and that “it is clear that the young people’s views are valued and promoted”.