The Sub-Committee considered a report outlining the work carried out across the Borough to manage allegations made against staff who worked with children and young people in a paid or unpaid capacity during the 2016/17 financial year. There was a statutory requirement for local authorities to have clear procedures in place for responding to allegations of harm or abuse of children by staff or foster carers within the Children’s Act 2014, and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) had overall responsibility for managing and coordinating allegations against those who worked with children in Bromley.
During the 2016/17 financial year, a total of 223 referrals had been reported to the Local Authority which represented a 15.5% increase in the number of referrals received and recorded from all agencies across the Borough compared to the previous year, which was in line with referrals received by other London local authorities. A number of factors had been identified as contributing to this increase, including the robust recording of all allegations whether or not they met the threshold for further action, the delivery of regular multi-agency Allegation Management Briefings and the drive to raise awareness of allegation management procedures. Where it was identified that the threshold for harm or potential harm to a child was met or there were concerns that a professional might not be suitable to work with children, a LADO Complex Strategy Investigation meeting was convened. In 2016/17, 106 strategy meetings were convened as a result of allegations, the outcomes of which identified that two cases were founded, three were substantiated, 60 were unsubstantiated, 25 were unfounded as the referrals were assessed as malicious and 16 were ongoing cases.
The Local Authority Designated Officer introduced the report and reported that since the report had been written there had been a marked improvement in referrals from the Police.
In response to a question from the Chairman surrounding whether any conclusions could be drawn from the increase in allegations made against foster carers the Local Authority Designated Officer reported that no conclusions could be drawn. Some of the children within the placements were challenging and the same complaint could be repeatedly made, and therefore repeatedly recorded. The Director of Children Social Care and the head of the Quality Improvement Service suggested that an increase in referrals was not necessarily a bad thing and that a more positive aspect of the increase in the number of complaints could be that children felt empowered to speak up and were more confident that any issues would be taken seriously and investigated.
In response to a question concerning how foster carers were supported when unsubstantiated allegations were made the Local Authority Designated Officer explained that foster carers were provided with one to one support from their allocated social worker. The Director of Children’s Social Care explained to Members that the issue was around the training provided to foster carers. The Director stressed the importance of ensuring that foster carers were provided with the reassurance that the local authority understood the pressures foster carers were facing and would support them when allegations were made and investigated.
In response to a technical question from the Chairman concerning the difference between ‘founded’ and ‘substantiated’, the Local Authority Designated Officer explained that when an allegation was ‘founded’ there was no doubt that the incident occurred. For an allegation to be ‘substantiated’ the body of evidence that had been gathered, from the investigation and witness statements, confirmed that an incident had occurred.
Responding to a comment from the Chairman surrounding the behaviour of professionals in their personal life and referrals to the LADO, the Head of Quality Improvement Service stressed that the issue was the implications of the cumulative effect of an incident or behaviour on a child.
The Local Authority Designated Officer confirmed that in relation to arrangements for peer audit meetings with colleagues in other local authorities had taken place. It had been agreed that good practice in other boroughs would be observed by the end of the year.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
(Following consideration of this item Councillor Collin’s left the meeting)