Key facts on safeguarding

Nationally and locally the numbers of children in care and on a child protection plan have risen. This has been attributed to an increased general awareness of child protection and safeguarding issues, as well as pressures on families due to the financial context of the country, which together are resulting in higher numbers of children coming to the attention of Children’s Social Care Services in Merton.

Referrals

Merton Children’s Social Care (CSC) received 1,477 referrals during 2014-15. Merton’s rate of referrals for 2014-2015 (323.6 per 10,000) is lower than national, London and all statistical neighbour comparators.

Figure 1: rate per 100,000 population of referrals 2014-2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

Single Assessments

Merton completed 1,658 single assessments during 2014-15, an increase of seven percentage points from 2013-14. Merton’s rate of single assessment for 2014-15 is lower than national, London and most statistical neighbour comparators (363.3 per 10,000).

Figure 2: Rate per 100,000 population of single assessments 2014-2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

Domestic violence, mental health, emotional abuse, learning disability, and drug misuse were the most prominent risk factors identified at the end of the assessment.

Figure 3: Factors identified at the end of the single assessment

 

Children in Need

There were 1,544 children in receipt of services as a Child in Need (CIN) from Merton as at 31 March 2015, with an additional 973 CIN at some point throughout 2014-15.

Table 1: Number and rate of Children in Need as at 31 March (2012-2015)

 

Source: CIN Census 2012-2015

Merton’s rate of CIN as at 31 March 2015 (338.3 per 10,000) is in line with national and most statistical neighbour comparators, whilst being lower than the London average.

Figure 4: Rate of 100,000 population of Children in Need 2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

Most Merton CIN at 31 March 2015 had a primary need relating to Abuse or Neglect, although proportionally more CIN nationally and in London presented with this primary need. Family dysfunction and family in acute stress were also prevalent for Merton CIN.

Figure 5: Children in Need at the 31st of March 2015: primary need at assessment

Merton has a higher proportion of CIN aged 16 and over than national at 31 March 2015 (22% compared to 18% nationally). Gender distribution of CIN is in line with national. Merton’s male 10yrs+ CIN population is over-represented when compared to the Merton resident 0-18 population, particularly amongst 17yr olds. Merton’s female CIN population is over-represented for 14-16 year olds when compared to the Merton resident female 0-18 population.

Table 2: Percentage of Children in Need (at 31st March 2015) by age and gender

Source: CIN Census 2014-15

Figure 6: Percentage of Children in Need at 31st of March 2015 by age and gender

Section 47 Enquiries & Initial Stage Child Protection Conferences

There were 648 Section 47 enquiries (S47s) started by Merton during 2014-15, an increase of nine percentage points from 2013-14. There has been an upward trend in the number of S47s started in Merton, London and at a national level since 2011-12. Merton’s rate of S47s started during 2014-15 (142.0 per 10,000) is in line with both national and London comparators.

Figure 7: Children subject of a S47 enquiry rate per 100,000 2014-2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

During 2014-15, there were 267 Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPCs) held by Merton to decide whether a child or sibling group required a Child Protection Plan, an increase of 12 percentage points from 2013-14. Over the last three years there has been an upward trend in the number of ICPCs held at Merton, London and National levels. Merton’s rate of ICPCs during 2014-15 (58.5 per 10,000) is in line with London and National comparators.

Figure 8: Initial stage child protection conference which took place in the year rate per 10,000 2014-2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

Child Protection Plans

Over the last four years Merton’s rate of CPP has remained stable around 36-40 per 10,000, and was lower than London and National averages at the 31 March 2015.

Figure 9: Rate per 10,000 population of Protection Plans at 31st March 2015 against Merton's statistical neighbours 2015

 

There were 177 Merton children subject to a Child Protection Plan (CPP) as at 31 March 2015.

Table 3: Number and rate of children subject of a plan at 31 March (2012-2015)

Source: CIN Census 2012-2015

Most children starting CP Plans in Merton were registered under the initial categories of either neglect (36.3%) or emotional abuse (34.5%). Registrations in Merton under the categories of physical abuse and sexual abuse were in line with national and London, whilst multiple category registrations were higher than comparators.

Figure 10: Children who became subject of a CP plan in the year ending 31st March 2015, by initial category of abuse

 

Merton has a higher proportion of CPP aged 10-15yrs than national at 31 March 2015 (22% compared to 18% nationally). Merton’s CPP male population is also higher than national. Merton’s male 1 and 2, 5 to 7 and 11 to 12 year old CPP population is over-represented when compared to the Merton resident 0-18 population. Merton’s female CPP population is over-represented for 1, 3 and 11 to 12 year olds when compared to the Merton resident female 0-18 population.

Table 4: Percentage of children subject of a Child Protection Plan at 31 March 2015 by age and gender

Source: CIN Census 2014-15

Figure 11: Percentage of Child Protection Plan at 31 March 2015 by age and gender

Merton’s CPP population is more diverse than nationally. Compared to the Merton 0-18 resident population, Mixed, Black or British and Other Ethnic Groups are all over-represented.

Table 5: Number of children subject of a Child Protection Plan at 31 March 2015 by ethnicity

 

Source: CIN Census 2014-15

Figure 12: Ethnic origin difference of Child Protection Plans from the Merton resident population

During 2014-15, 226 Merton children became the subject of a CP Plan, 37 of whom became the subject of a CP Plan for a second or subsequent time (16.4%). Merton is in line with national and above London comparators on this measure.

Figure 13: Percentage of children who became the subject of a plan for a second or subsequent time

 

Key facts on services to support safeguarding

Maintaining robust safeguarding arrangements and achieving positive outcomes for looked- after children are at the core of all activity of children’s services in Merton. The 2012 Ofsted inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children services examined a comprehensive set of criteria, including:

  • ambition and prioritisation
  • leadership and management
  • quality of provision
  • performance management and quality assurance
  • partnership working
  • overall effectiveness and capacity for improvement.

Merton Council and its partners were rated as ‘good’ in all judgement areas. No priority areas for action were specified although some areas for improvement were identified. A post- inspection action plan to address these areas was agreed by the Merton, Safeguarding Children Board, which is monitoring progress. The Board produces an Annual Report which sets out progress and priorities for safeguarding children.

Merton’s Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and Children’s Trust partners have been planning for the implementation of a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (the MASH) in Merton. The MASH is designed to improve information and intelligence sharing across key agencies – and to improve, therefore, the response and intervention – in respect of concerns about the wellbeing or safety of individual children. The MASH began operation in April 2013 and is staffed by social care, education, police, health and probation practitioners.

The establishment of the MASH is part of a wider ‘whole system’ change programme, which will impact on Merton’s current Child and Young Person Wellbeing Model, Common Assessment Framework and referral pathways into and out of the MASH to specialist and early intervention and prevention services. This work needs to ensure that the ‘right’ children receive the ‘right’ level of intervention and support in a timely manner and that our safeguarding and family support resources are more sharply targeted to achieve best outcomes and best value.

Partners are also engaged in the delivery of the Transforming Families initiative in Merton, which involves targeted intensive interventions with some of the borough’s most challenging families alongside a community development approach in specific areas, including, initially, the Phipps Bridge estate. Specifically focusing on reducing anti-social behaviour, improving school attendance and tackling worklessness, the initiative is a three-year programme with an element of payment by results which, if successful, will reduce the burden on some of the partnership’s specialist services.

What works and best practice

Evidence and guidance on effective safeguarding systems are set out in the following documents:

  • Munro review of child protection (final report): A child-centred system (2011), Eileen Munro, DfE.
  • Working together to safeguard children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (2013) HM Government.

Key commissioning recommendations

  • Ensure robust safeguarding systems are maintained in the context of increasing numbers of children in need, children on a child protection plan and children in care.
  • Ensure effective pathways across services to ensure access and interventions for children and young people on the threshold of care.