The Safer Options Manager and Strategic Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service Manager introduced the report.
· Members were advised Safer Options was the Bristol’s Violence Reduction Unit which responded to serious youth violence, child criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation, peer on peer abuse, knife crime and missing children; that the aim was to build an integrated system which prevented harm to children and young people.
· The Commission was told that the Council and Barnardo’s had developed a partnership to support this work.
· Duncan Stanway, Director (Barnardo’s)spoke to the slides in the pack. He explained that the reason Barnardo’s were involved in this work was to have an impact; that ‘Roots’ service was funded in partnership with the Council, delivered with Learning Partnership West, and had positive outcomes, which included an example of a 16 year old boy who had been referred in due to concerns about County Lines and relationship with his mother had broken down, that the intensive one-to-one support enabled changes that protected him and he was reintroduced to school, achieved GCSEs, was linked into employment and training opportunities, and his mum had a better relationship with him and no longer lived in fear for his safety at the level she did before.
· Duncan Stanway (Barnardo’s) advised the Commission that Bristol was the first local authority that Barnardo’s sought to partner to tackle the issue of exploitation of young people; and that Barnardo’s continued to invest its own charitable money into the city as tackling exploitation was a strategic priority for Barnardo’s,and proposed a piece of work around service design was carried out with the Council which would find solutions to support young people who faced harms from exploitation, co-designed with youth people, their families and communities as well as the professional network.
· The Deputy Mayor, Children Services, Education and Equalities, thanked all the teams and everyone who was engaged in this process. She advised Members that violence in the city was taken very seriously; and it was approximately 3 years ago when she and colleagues travelled to Glasgow to learn from their public health approach. The Safer Options approach was then set up with support from the Police & Crime Commissioner, the Police, and other agencies. She welcomed this approach, and that there was a need to understand what end-to-end services were available to support Bristol’s young people.
· The Deputy Mayor advised that, although evidence was available to refer to, children and young people themselves needed to be central to how the issues were addressed; and that the Safer Options approach complimented the Mayor’s ongoing initiative to address those issues, and that with the concerted effort of all partners engaged in this workit was hoped that more deaths such as the sad passing of Dontae Davis, 18, in October 2021, could be prevented.
· There was a discussion around cost and eligibility criteria for the services, and Members were advised that there were a wide range of interventions, from intensive long-term support to more targeted group work, which included girls groups, detached outreach and innovative work ongoing within outreach programmes; there was not a ‘unit cost per child’ as the graduated approach meant that there was intervention at every level and so types of intervention were different for everyone.
· The Commission was told that there was a high level of investment in the city through the violence reduction work compared to previous years; that £424,000/year had been received from Home Office which funded education and inclusion work, girls groups, parent support programmes and there were other streams of funding which included public health grants
· It was explained that Bristol had around 51% of young people at highest risk of exploitation in the most deprived areas of city where there was high levels of anti-social behaviour, crime, homelessness, and wider determinant factors such as poverty - which was a massive driver of all forms of exploitation.?
· The Commission was advised that the specialist youth service offer was one strand and universal work, around education and support to parents, families, and children, was important – this was a driver for the10-year strategy. This strategy was based on evidence that, for young people, adversity started at the age of 10, and had suffered long term trauma; and so secure funding was needed so investment could be used for a broad range of preventative options.
· The Vice-Chair referred to the importance of main stream schooling, that inclusion in mainstream was the foundation for what was discussed in this session, Special Education Needs, and all children’s services - as until provision within mainstream worked for the needs of all children there would be a higher need for alternative provision, youth services and safeguarding; and requested clarification of how the different parts linked together in a coherent strategy, which included where schools fitted in, and so there was also a need to hear from Academies.
· The Deputy Mayor, Children Services, Education and Equalities advised Members that she had set up a series with conversation with head teachers in the city about what had been discussed and raised by the Vice-Chair; that she would have liked to see a move toward zero-tolerance to exclusions, as it was known staying in education was essential part of prevention and protection from exploitation.
· The Director of Children, Families and Safer Communities told Members that the discussion,and the team, had demonstrated that this was a societal and community-based challenge that waslargely rooted in poverty, and so the solutions were for all to deliver. ? She referred Members to the ‘Weapons In Schools’ approach, which had helped to keep children in school, and this was based on the Safer Options and Strengthening Families teams working closely with schools to undertake the risk assessments and build the support plans required to enable a children to stay in school; that it would not be for any one part of the system to deliver that - it took the school, the family, the community, the police and social care that came together and focussed on the child’s needs. Those were the examples that needed to be built upon and invested in, as this approach could be used for other reasons for school exclusions.
· Members were advised that Cabot Learning Federation had a task team established, funded by the Department of Education as it was recognised that there were children within the school with contextual safeguarding need, which, from January 2022, would consider interventions in the school to prevent exclusions which helped to build resilience in the community.
· There was a discussion around families who agencies found it difficult to engage, and the Commission was advised that there were systemic barriers to engagement, and real fears that families held about agencies involved in their lives. Local assertive outreach was provided to help mitigate those barriers, and relational offers to families, which would build confidence,were in use. This included community mentoring and ways to involve credible community members into the process. A graduated response wasrequired as exploitation was a safeguarding and child protection issue, and so although there were legal powers in place to intervene, if necessary, these were at a high thresholdand every opportunity to work with families were explored and undertaken before that level would be reached. There was a strategy to work with families on an equal basis as change would not be achieved without families being on board.
· That the report be noted.
The Chair, on the behalf of the Commission, thanked Ann James, Director of Children, Families and Safer Communities, who, after working at Bristol for 32 years, would be leaving. The Chair thanked her for all she had done for the city, and passed on everyone's best wishes for the future.