This report is to give an insight into the existing strengths in the partnership between the Children Young People and Education (CYPE) Directorate, specifically Children’s Social Care, and Police colleagues whilst promoting safeguarding and youth safety. Alongside the strengths, the areas of development are also a focus as the Council adapts and responds to the social changes and presenting needs.
The Sub-Committee considered a paper set out on pages 81 to 86 of the agenda, which explained the partnership between the Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Directorate, specifically Children’s Social Care, and Police colleagues. The Director of Children’s Social Care introduced the item and the Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention summarised the report.
The Sub-Committee asked about the meaning of ‘low-risk domestic abuse’ referenced in the report, how this escalated, the consequences for children living in these situations, and what was around the perpetrators. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Team received ‘MERLIN’ reports from the police which were graded on risk, and it was then decided whether Social Care intervention was required. Detective Inspector Hart explained that calls to households could take the form of a ‘non-crime domestic situation’ where a report was written and any children at the address spoken too; this would be recorded as a low-risk incident. Members heard that Operation Encompass enabled referrals at low risk to be processed through the MASH Team, and then highlighted to safeguarding leads at schools of children in these households. The Sub-Committee heard that if there were four low-risk calls in a 12 month period then this would increase the associated risk and escalate a case to be discussed at the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to decide follow up actions with partners. Members highlighted the fear that victims of domestic violence had of taking any action against their perpetrators, and asked what support and resources were provided to victims. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that the strength of Operation Encompass was that it engaged the partnership, who were working with families and young people at a universal level, to enable discreet conversations to take place, for example, through designated safeguarding leads in schools who already had established relationships with families.
Members asked if anyone in Croydon had been charged with domestic abuse with a child as a victim from witnessing domestic abuse in their household. The Detective Inspector responded that it was unlikely that this had happened specifically, but the impact on children in a household would be used to form part of the larger picture around domestic abuse cases. The Sub-Committee asked if there were any cases where the police would discourage domestic abuse victims from pressing criminal charges. The Detective Inspector stated that this was not the case, and that the police were working in close partnership with the Family Justice Service and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) to provide support to victims. It was acknowledged that with very historic cases, or cases with very little evidence, that the police might not be able to take cases any further even with best efforts. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that domestic abuse had been included in the report as it could be a contributing factor to presenting youth safety needs.
Members asked about the Youth Integrated Offender Management Partnership, and heard that the young people worked with were generally in the age range of 18-25. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that police analysts had been integrated into this work, and that applying this intelligence had significantly reduced numbers of young people in the programme.
The Sub-Committee asked what was being done to increase trust amongst communities who had lost confidence in the police. Inspector Morteo responded that the new Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Mark Rowley, had launched a ‘Turnaround Plan’ featuring nine priorities, and that he was very open on trust and confidence. The Sub-Committee heard that there was a commitment to removing ‘bad officers’ and eliminating misconduct, and that there was more work happening with community groups than ever before. Members heard that it was thought that current methods of measuring trust and confidence were not sufficient, and needed to be improved. The Cabinet Member for Community Safety explained that the Youth Safety Plan was in development at the Council, and increasing trust amongst young people in the police was key to this being successful. Members heard that the Cabinet Member for Community Safety had been working closely with the police and local communities and that open conversations had been key in responding to an incident where the Central Police Team had conducted a Stop and Search where a young person had been put to the ground. The Cabinet Member for Community Safety explained that a new initiative had started that saw community members providing training to the police, to try to build trust between communities and the police. The Detective Inspector added that there were weekly meetings with partners to discuss ‘every child every time’ and what was being done by the police on a daily basis to increase police transparency. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that the ‘Complex Adolescents Panel’ was a partnership group that met a weekly basis and considered exploitation within individual children’s cases; the police co-chaired the Panel to enable shared accountability in developing and driving child safety plans. Members commended the role the police were playing in partnership working but recommended that the police do more to inform the wider community about the work they were doing.
The Sub-Committee asked about hotspot areas where children were more at risk and how this was monitored and mitigated. The Inspector explained that these hotspots moved depending on the time of year, school terms and what assets the police put into certain areas. Members heard that these hotspots were identified and monitored through intelligence sharing and crime reports. There had been a three-week operation focussed around Church Street to tackle schoolchild robbery, as levels of this offence were heightened in Croydon and across London. Neighbourhood Safety Officers were often deployed to hotspots and, where needed, central assets could be requested to Croydon to provide additional resource. The Inspector stated that work with other statutory organisations, such as the Council, was the best they had seen it. Members heard that there were 16 Schools Officers in priority schools who performed high visibility patrols and had been involved in the Church Street operation. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that they had been working closely with the Violence Reduction Network and police to develop a locality based response model that recognised emerging needs and provided intervention and support to children and young people in these hotspot areas; it was recognised that intelligence sharing with the police was vital in targeting support and intervention where it was most needed. The Youth Engagement team had been engaged in Church Street to try to minimise anti-social behaviour and risk.
Members commented on the need for more joined up thinking in the way that young people were dealt with to acknowledge their previous experiences and trauma. The Director of Children’s Social Care agreed and explained that the Youth Engagement Team were very skilled at engaging young people to create teachable and reachable moments where valuable conversations could happen to change the perception and experience of the police for young people. The Director of Children’s Social Care explained that there was a lot of joined up working that happened during ‘Complex Strategy Meetings’ that considered groups of young people whilst looking at ‘places and spaces’ as a focus for that work. It was acknowledged that this was a very difficult, fluid and complex area of work in the child protection landscape, where the focus on moving from prevention, to intervention, to arrest was happening simultaneously around different groups. The Cabinet Member for Community Safety commented on the complex relationship between being an observer, victim and perpetrator of violence. The Sub-Committee heard that the government had launched the ‘Serious Violence Duty’ that made links between youth violence and domestic abuse; the Safer Croydon Partnership would be developing a risk profile followed by a strategy and action plan for Croydon that brought these elements together. The Council is developing a Youth Safety Plan, and would be developing a Domestic Abuse Strategy, and the Cabinet Member explained that they were cognisant of linking in all of these elements to ensure the safety of children and young people.
The Inspector reassured the Sub-Committee that there were no probationary officers in Safer Schools roles in Croydon, following a recent high profile case that had been reported. Members heard that education on ‘Adultification’ training had been provided to officers through Council workshops and had provided valuable learning. The Inspector explained that the police worked very hard with colleagues on the Youth Offending Team to keep children and young people out of the criminal justice system, and that this was one of their key objectives. The Detective Inspector explained that they felt it was a very positive time to be engaged in partnership working, which had been galvanised by the pandemic. The Head of Service Access, Support and Intervention explained that partnership working enabled an environment where respectful challenge could take place, incorporating direct feedback from young people. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People explained that they had visited the Youth Offending Team and Youth Court and had been encouraged by what they had seen. The Sub-Committee heard that the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People had also observed the Complex Adolescent Panel and Croydon Safeguarding Partnership where the police were valued partners. The Cabinet Member for Community Safety thanked police partners for attending the meeting and commended the work being done in the Safer Croydon Partnership to ensure children and young people felt safe in Croydon.
The Sub-Committee were grateful for the police representatives attending the meeting and giving detailed answers to Members questions.
The Sub-Committee concluded that they would like to visit some of the meetings attended by police to observe partnership working in action.