Agenda item

Agenda item

Oxford City Council Safeguarding report 2015-2016


Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee has asked for this item to be included on the agenda for pre-decision scrutiny.

Why is it on the agenda?

The City Executive Board will be asked to note progress and agree the Self-Assessment Action Plan (appendix 1) at its meeting on 16 June 2016. This is an opportunity for the Scrutiny Committee to make recommendations to the City Executive Board.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Dee Sinclair, Board Member for Community Safety;

·         Caroline Green, Assistant Chief Executive.





The Board Member for Community Safety introduced the report.  She said that the Council complied with its statutory responsibilities and was going beyond these in a number of areas.  However the context of budget cuts and increased demand meant that the Council could not be complacent and it was important to be pro-active in promoting partnership working. 


The creation of a permanent part-time Safeguarding Co-ordinator post, which had previously been recommended by Scrutiny, was a very welcome development and more outward looking community work would be a priority for the year ahead.  The Committee welcomed the report including the extension of the annual safeguarding review to include vulnerable adults as well as children, and commended officers on their excellent work in this area.


The Committee commented that neglect was a common form of abuse and that members needed to be sensitive to signs of neglect.  The Committee suggested that anonymised case study examples of safeguarding instances would be a valuable element of the safeguarding training that was being offered to members.


The Committee raised concerns about high levels of absence at academy schools and questioned where the responsibility for this lay.  The Committee heard that the role of the City Council was limited here but what the Council could do was to signpost effectively and work proactively in partnerships with other agencies to highlight these kinds of issues.


The Committee noted that increased awareness and more effective signposting were leading to more referrals and increased pressure on services.  The Committee heard that Officers would appreciate more feedback regarding the outcome of referrals. 


The Committee considered issues around language schools in the City and noted that the Council and the Police were beginning to engage with language schools around their safeguarding responsibilities through a new forum.  The Committee heard that it was unclear where in the City many language school students were living and in what conditions.  The absence of rigorous checking was a concern because these students were potentially vulnerable.  The Committee noted that this lack of rigor contrasted with, for example, the checks around fostering and adoption arrangements, and was a national issue that should be referred up to government.  It was suggested that these safeguarding issues should be thought through and discussed with language schools and partner agencies, and that lessons could be learnt from the recent scrutiny review of guest houses. 


The Committee also noted that the Council’s Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMO) and Private Sector Enforcement teams could have a role to play.  It was suggested that these officers should be trained to recognise safeguarding issues relating to language school students and to report any concerns they come across.


The Committee agreed the following actions:

1.         An item on language schools would be added to the scrutiny work plan for a possible future review;

2.         Details of non-compulsory Safeguarding training would be circulated to Committee members;

3.         A question about how planning applications for a new category of student housing built by private developers would be dealt with would be referred to Planning Officers.


The Committee agreed that a report setting out the following recommendations should be submitted to the City Executive Board:

1.    That anonymised case study examples of safeguarding referrals made by the Council are made available to elected members.

2.    That the Council continues to work positively and proactively through partnerships to raise awareness of potential safeguarding issues in the City and push for action to investigate and address these issues, including, for example, high levels of absence at particular schools.

3.    That the Council continues to request feedback from partner agencies following safeguarding referrals.

4.    That the Council looks to make representations to government through appropriate channels about the need for more rigorous safeguarding arrangements for language school students living in private sector accommodation.

5.    That potential safeguarding issues around language school students living in the City should be thought through and discussed with language schools, the police and other relevant partner agencies.

6.    That Safeguarding training provided to the Council’s HMO and Private Sector Enforcement Teams should cover how to recognise and report potential safeguarding issues around language school students living in the private sector.

Supporting documents: