The Director for Early
Help and Children’s Social Care presented the report and the
following was noted:
- Contacts had reduced
over the lockdown period, this had now begun to rise with August
figures in line with numbers experienced before lockdown. Referrals
had increased but not spiked.
- There were concerns in
managing some of the challenges experienced by families which had
not come to light due to children not being in sight of services
such as schools and addressing these was priority for
- The issues experienced
by Kent County Council have had a London wide impact.
- In order to sustain
service improvement a quality assurance framework was implemented
to enable senior management to retain focus on
- There had been a
reduction in the number of heads of service, with those remaining
in post continuing to work to deliver improvements.
- One of the strengths of
the department was its systemic practice, which included a
successful bid for the social workers in schools project, the
impact of which was expected to be extensive.
- Work continued to
address the impact of Covid 19, in
particular on the mental health and wellbeing of
- A focus visit was
expected from Ofsted in the autumn. This was due to various reasons
including the Council’s financial challenge, the resignation
of the Executive Director and incidents that had occurred since the
presentation, the Chair and the Sub-Committee thanked officers for
all the work they had done in serving the needs of Croydon’s
children, and in particular recognised the role of Robert Henderson
as well as Nick Pendry in bringing the service forward and driving
improved standards of professionalism.
A Member questioned how
the department was managing the difficulties of protecting children
at serious risk during the lockdown period. Officers said that as
soon as the lockdown had been announced they reassessed all Child
Protection (CP) and Child in Need (CIN) cases and appointed
priority numbers. All Priority 1 children continued to have direct
visits from social workers in full PPE and officers were confident
in ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable children identified.
There was reasonable confidence that the safety of children on CIN
plans was maintained as best as possible, although visits for those
children could only be maintained through virtual means. The risk
was that these children may have become more at risk during the
Covid period and this may not have been
identified due to a lack of face to face visits. There had been a
spike since the end of lock down in referrals of adolescent
children due to the impact of issues as a result of Covid.
Additionally since the
end of restrictions there had been an increase in gang activity,
exploitation of adolescents and knife crime which had not been
present during the lockdown period.
It was asked how the
department was securing permanent placements for the considerable
number of children ordered by the courts and with children awaiting
adoption. Officers advised that there had been some delays, in
particular with introductions to prospective adopters, which
normally take a number of staggered close visits, long term foster
carers and special guardianship. There had also been delays
experienced in the recruitment of potential adopters and the
recruitment of foster carers had slowed due to the
lockdown. The Permanence team was
working to get back on track to ensure that any delays in seeking
the right placements for children were minimised.
A Member asked when the
project for social workers to be based in schools would commence.
Officers responded that this project was currently in the
recruitment stage, with funding for eight social workers secured
through a Department for Education pilot. It was envisaged that all
posts would be recruited to by October. The purpose of the pilot
was to reduce the number of contacts through the SPOC.
In light of the
Council’s current financial challenges, it was questioned
whether there would be capacity within the service to deal with
spikes in referrals, as experienced during the Covid recovery. Officers confirmed there was built
in capacity to manage any consequences. There was an agreed plan in
place in the event of acute spike to recruit additional agency
social workers. The financial position was not extended to the
delivery of statutory services and there had been assurance from
the Council’s leadership that needs would be met.
A Member commented that
one of the threats mentioned on page eight of the report was the
continued child protection work in Croydon and officers were asked
to elaborate on that statement. Officers replied that the threats
alluded to were based on a mixture of a rise in cases and the
complexity of issues presented which resulted in issues such as
mental health concerns, increased incidences of domestic violence
as well as difficulties in managing parenting. All issues would
require different levels of intervention and a multi-agency
Concerns were raised on
the ability of staff to provide services to children in need who
may not come to the attention of services during the lockdown
period. Officers acknowledged that this was a challenge that may
need to be resolved should there be further lockdowns, as there
would be an increased risk for vulnerable children without regular
Officers were thanked
for their attendance and response to questions
In reaching its
recommendations the Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
- The dedication and
effort of staff through challenging circumstances was
- The Director of Early
Help and Children’s Social Care provided a positive insight
on upcoming challenges and how the department was prepared to
manage the difficult times ahead.
- The complexity of the
challenging times ahead was not to be underestimated.
- Reassurance was needed
that there would be flexibility in resources and capacity to meet
the needs of families with additional needs in the coming months in
light of the expected financial challenge as well as pressures of a
second wave of Covid-19.
- There were still
concerns as to how the department would respond to the unknown
level of increased risk to Children In Need, in particular
adolescents, especially in the event of further lockdown
- The need for urgency in
placements for children must remain a priority
- The news of the funding
received from the Department for Education to pilot placements of 8
social workers in schools was praised and a future update on
progress and outcome would be welcomed.
resolved to Recommend:
- That the department
devise a clear plan as to how it will protect the currently unknown
number of Children In Need whose behaviour may have escalated,
especially in case of further lockdown restrictions.
- That the Chair of the
Children and Young People Sub-Committee write a letter of thanks to
staff in children’s service for their dedication and hard