Safeguarding children and young people

The safety and welfare of children - also known as safeguarding - is everyone's business. You could be a parent, relative, neighbour, friend, or childminder. Alternatively, you may work for any organisation which has contact with children and young people such as a teacher or doctor. Each and every one of us has a duty to safeguard, protect and promote the welfare of children and young people. Working together to safeguard children (HM Government, March 2015) sets out the statutory framework for this.

Safeguarding means helping children to grow up into confident, healthy and happy adults. It also means protecting children from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect. Most children generally enjoy a happy childhood experience within their own family. Unfortunately for some, this is not the case.

The maltreatment of children, physically, emotionally, sexually, or through neglect, can have major long-term effects. This can be on all aspects of a child's health, development and wellbeing. The immediate and longer term impact can include anxiety, depression, substance misuse, eating disorders and self-destructive behaviours, offending and anti-social behaviour. Maltreatment is likely to have a deep impact on a child's self-image, self-esteem and their future life. The impacts of abuse and neglect on children; and comparison of different placement options is an evidence review published by the Department for Education (March 2017).

Difficulties may extend into adulthood. The experience of long-term abuse can lead to difficulties in:

  • forming and keeping close relationships;
  • establishing oneself in work;
  • developing the attitudes and skills necessary to be an effective parent.

It is not only the stressful events of maltreatment that have an impact, but also the context in which they take place. Often, it is the interaction between a number of factors that increases the likelihood or level of significant harm.

The high cost of abuse and neglect, both to individuals and to society, underpins the duty on all agencies to be proactive in safeguarding children.

There is a duty on organisations to make appropriate arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. It is a shared responsibility. Effectiveness depends upon commissioning activity and efficient joint working between agencies to respond to incidents of abuse. In addition, there is an increasing focus on preventing abuse occurring in the first place. Analysis of information on any potential trends could assist with both prevention and response.

Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Government agencies should ensure that children are properly cared for. They should protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them.

The local picture

Calderdale has a population of around 208,400 of which 50,300 are children and young people (Office for National Statistics (ONS),  Mid year sub national population estimates 2015 ).

A child protection plan is the activity undertaken to protect a child who is at risk of significant harm. It sets out in detail what work each of the professionals involved will do and what action family members must take. There has been a steady increase in the number of children with a child protection plan from 41.00 per 10,000 in 2015-16 to 51.75 per 10,000 in 2016-17. This is above the national rate of 42.90 per 10,000 and above statistical neighbours average of 44.80 per 10,000. Audits undertaken of child protection investigations highlighted all were appropriate and included some families with high numbers of children.

The numbers of children in care have come down slightly over the past year to under 300, which bucks the trend nationally, where on average the numbers of children in care have risen. This is now in line with the England average and statistical neighbours.

The number of Early Intervention single assessments (EISAs) is increasing. In 2014/15 there were 56.7 per 10,000 population. In 2015/16, there were 79.7 per 10,000 population. This indicates that more children and families are benefiting from a multi-agency response at an earlier stage.

Calderdale has a slightly higher reported rate of domestic abuse repeat victimisation than the West Yorkshire average (Domestic abuse) and domestic abuse features heavily in many child protection and early intervention cases in Calderdale.

Until recently, infant mortality rates in Calderdale were significantly higher than both the Yorkshire and Humber, and England and Wales averages, but are now similar to both regional and national averages. As always with infant mortality data, at a local level small changes in numbers of infant deaths can show a large impact on rates.

Inequalities

Of 326 local authority districts, Calderdale is ranked the 89 most deprived (the lower the rank, the higher the deprivation).

46 of Calderdale's neighbourhoods are ranked as within the 30% most deprived neighbourhoods nationally. There are around 28,200 of Calderdale's residents living in neighbourhoods ranked in 2015 as being within the 10% most deprived in England. This includes 7,000 children aged 0-15 years old.

Poverty and disadvantage can impact on the overall wellbeing and development of children and contribute to the occasions when children require protection. Addressing inequalities is central to all partner agendas as we know that in Calderdale where you live can make a difference.

Current provision

The key priorities for the children and young people in Calderdale are outlined within the Children and young people mission plan:

Children and young people mission plan

Children and young people mission plan

Early intervention

In Calderdale, services to children, young people and their families are provided on a ‘Continuum of Need’. In other words, most children will access universal services such as school, dentist, and general practitioners (GPs) as required throughout their life, and will not have any additional needs. Children whose needs are met in this way by universal services are described as children at level or tier 1 of the Continuum of Need.

The Continuum of Need

Continuum of need diagram

The diagram shows that when additional needs are identified or are unmet, additional services need to become involved and the response from the relevant agencies should be more coordinated. Most children with additional needs will be at level 2. Those that require a coordinated response may be referred to one of the Early Intervention panels (with parental consent) in order to identify the correct services to support members of the family, and to nominate a Lead professional to complete an Early Intervention single assessment. The Lead professional may be someone the child or family is already working with, for example a learning mentor, health visitor, youth offending team (YOT) worker, or youth worker. The aim of the assessment is to better understand the child or young person’s needs. The family and professionals will produce a plan to help the family to deal with the difficulties they are experiencing. This will involve having regular multi-agency meetings to make sure that the plan is working. This is level 3 of the Continuum of need.

When the support of services has not been able to make a difference, or if the child’s needs are very complex, Children’s Social Care may need to become involved to provide a more specialist type of support. ‘Children in Need’ are at level 4 of the Continuum of Need.

Statutory Intervention

Concerns about the abuse, exploitation or neglect of a child or young person need to be referred to the Children’s Social Care MAST (Multi agency screening team) so they can make enquiries to find out what is happening to the child and whether protective action is needed. Children who are involved with Children’s Social Care for these reasons, are said to be at level 5 of the Continuum of Need.

Child Sexual Exploitation and Missing Children

The Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board (CSCB) manage and strategically lead the multi-agency focus on child sexual exploitation (CSE) and Missing in Calderdale. The CSE hub remains well-attended by partner agencies and is evidencing good outcomes for children and young people, with information regularly scrutinised and monitored by the CSCB. Intelligence about children who are missing from home, school or care is shared with CSE hub held three times a week.

Children and young people who are missing from home, care or full time school education, and those at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking, receive well coordinated responses that reduce the harm or risk of harm to them. Risks are well understood and minimised. Local authorities, schools and local police are aware of, and implement in full, the requirements of the statutory guidance for children and young people who are missing. Comprehensive records are held and shared between agencies to help and protect children and young people. Together they take steps to ensure that all children are safe, including those who are excluded from school, and that for those who are missing or often missing there is a clear plan of urgent action in place to protect them and to reduce the risk of harm or further harm.

Children experiencing domestic abuse

The Domestic Abuse Hub went live in January 2016. It ensures full information sharing from partner agencies on a daily basis. Childrens Social Care sit on this hub to identify children and young people at risk.

The CSCB is concerned with how children who experience domestic abuse are identified and protected. The Calderdale Domestic Abuse Strategy, led by the Calderdale Domestic Abuse Strategic Group, describes the plans for tackling domestic abuse in Calderdale and provides a context and framework for addressing the issue. 

Children with special educational needs or disabilities 

The CSCB have worked with the Children and Young People's Commissioning service within Calderdale Council to determine steps to be taken to ensure that children with disabilities are safeguarded. These steps have been identified, monitored and measured through the Disabled Children’s Charter at the Disabled Children and Young People Board. The CSCB has led work in keeping with the recent publication from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on how local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) can protect children with disabilities. This work has included reviewing our multi agency training programme to ensure it is inclusive and differentiates for children who have disabilities or special educational needs, auditing case files, and improving self assessment questionnaires.

User views

Involving children and young people, and hearing their voice, is an important part of how Calderdale works to deliver the best possible outcomes for families. There are many forums and mechanisms through which the voice of the child is heard in Calderdale, and all partners strive to translate this into meaningful action.

Children and young people play an active role in informing the Council and their partners about their views and priorities, and many aspects of multi agency practice focus on ensuring their views, voice and perspectives are heard and listened to.

The annual Public Health led school health and wellbeing survey, the electronic Health Needs Assessment (eHNA) survey: key findings  gives partners a clear view of how a significant part of the school population view a range of issues, from how safe they feel through to their views about social, physical and emotional aspects of their lives. This survey forms a bedrock that informs a number of partnerships in how they implement the Children and Young People's Strategic Framework, which sets out how partners will share and work together to make things better for children in Calderdale.

The results of the eHNA found that there were lots of positives, including:

  • young people feeling safer at home, on the internet and in the area they live;
  • more secondary school students have had information about the dangers of sexting;
  • nearly all children and young people rate their health positively;
  • very few students regularly take drugs or smoke; and
  • fewer primary school pupils than ever have tried alcohol. 

However:

  • more secondary school students report receiving indecent images or messages from a random stranger;
  • almost a third of children and young people have low or fairly low emotional wellbeing;
  • about a quarter of primary school pupils have self-harmed, rising to almost a third of Year 10 girls; and
  • body image remains a problem, with over a quarter of those who don’t exercise regularly saying they are embarrassed. Over a third of secondary school students are unhappy with the way they look and whilst a third of students think they are too fat, nearly half want to lose weight.

This year, all mainstream secondary schools took part, along with 74 primary schools (out of 93). 

The child’s voice and understanding ‘what is it like to live in this family’ are key parts of understanding the daily lived experience for our children. As a result the Council and many partners prioritise work that ensures children and young people are involved and that their views make a difference to planning and delivery of services as well as priorities.

This has been demonstrated most recently in the delivery of the Transformation Plan for emotional wellbeing services and in the new Domestic Abuse hub arrangements. Both of these developments represent the potential for a further shift in increasing the effectiveness of responses to children and embedding a more joined up approach. This will reduce delays and support approaches that increase the chance of positive outcomes, and in turn reduce the pressure on acute and intensive services. The Board continues to benefit from when partners are able to demonstrate how they include children in all aspects of their services.

The CSCB members provide extensive assurance through an annual audit of how service planning and delivery is influenced by the views and wishes of children and young people, irrespective of age and communication ability. The most recent audit suggested that some members still had work to do and recognised limitations.  Some used the voice of the child in bid writing and as part of a tendering and commissioning process, and other more adult focussed services referred to using the views collected by other agencies to inform their own. Many referred to the safeguarding systems which require the voice of the child such as the Early Intervention Single Assessments, Child Protection Plans etc.  Questionnaires, participation groups, online surveys, voice and influence teams and Interpreting services were all provided as examples of engaging with children and young people. Audit was given as an example of how this is monitored and reviewed. Some gave examples of targeted engagement of children with specific vulnerabilities such as children with disabilities or children who are looked after which resulted in changes to the following policies: Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Pathway; Tier 3 Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for children who are looked after; and Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TAMS).  

Unmet need

There are challenges of knowing what the real level of need and demand is for Privately Fostered children however, there has nationally been a concern of underreporting. Calderdale is benchmarking against minimum national standards and there have been developments against some of these. Although there is no evidence to say that Calderdale is under reporting, the Local Authority and CSCB use a more positive approach to promote and raise awareness through promotional leaflets and Safeguarding guides  targeted at school staff, GP surgeries and in community centres. Private fostering leaflets  are produced in different languages to try to overcome any further barriers there might be around raising awareness.

The Community Safety Partnership in Calderdale has commissioned research looking into the threats and risks to Calderdale. Work has commenced through the CSCB, the Safeguarding Adult Board and the Community Safety Partnership in establishing whether there are services in place to address these risks and how it can be improved. 

Projected future need

The child population in Calderdale is expected to increase as the young age structure of the South Asian population (which currently stands at approximately 12% of children and young people in Calderdale - ONS Census 2011 Ethnic group: table QS201EW ) mean that there are likely to be more South Asian children in future years. In Calderdale, this group is particularly concentrated in the most deprived wards.

The fragmentation of health services and growth in commissioning process means that there is a potential for information sharing and multi agency working to deteriorate. The CSCB is taking action to address these potential concerns through information sharing agreements and negotiations with commissioners around safeguarding delivery.

There are increasing numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are becoming looked after by Calderdale Council. These children and young people can have complex health needs, as well as significant barriers to accessing services.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

Statutory, voluntary and community organisations, professionals and volunteers all work to the  West Yorkshire Multi Agency Safeguarding Procedures

The Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board (CSCB) website is a valuable resource for local and national guidance, and toolkits for practitioners to use in keeping children safe.

An alphabetical list of local guidance, drawn from national, regional and local best practice evidence can be found at  CSCB local guidance

National links to support and guide professionals

References and further information

References

Further information

More information on children and young people can be found at Further resources.

Always open first panel: 

Author

Julia Caldwell, Business and Quality Assurance Manager, Adult and Children's Services. (25th October 2017).

  • Co-chair of the Calderdale and Kirklees Child Death overview panel;
  • Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board;
  • Calderdale Safeguarding Adults Board.