During Return Home Interviews ( RHI) the VEMT team have identified issues that require early intervention in order to minimise future risks, i.e. online safety/grooming and therefore have accepted referrals for 1-1 work as part of the emerging pathway referrals with direct work completed by the Youth Engagement Worker.
Every month a Quality Assurance dip sample is undertaken of Return Home interviews to ensure that standards are being maintained. This is to ensure that the child’s voice is clearly being heard within the interview, that staff are being ‘professionally curious’ in their approach to ensure that they are getting sufficient information to ascertain risks and needs and that effective follow-up, referrals and signposting is being offered. The theme for the dip Sample is decided by the VEMT Team Manager in consultation with the Contextual Safeguarding Officer.
The quality of the RHIs has greatly improved in the past 12 months. By promoting the ‘best-placed person’ approach and offering consistency to the child, this is enabling relationships to be built, trust to be gained and quality discussion about the needs of the child and how services can work together to formulate an effective safety plan. Staff completing RHIs are advised to record in such a way that each individual interview is a ‘story’ in its own right, not a continuation from one before. This allows the external reader to clearly see the preparation in doing the RHI, the interview itself and the follow-up actions.
Within the future behaviours section of the RHI, the staff are encouraged to use the Signs of Safety approach and clearly reference from the contents of the discussion what we are worried about? What is working well and what needs to happen. This approach will continue to be embedded.
Every child and young person who participated in a Return Home Interview received a follow-up call after 2-3 weeks to offer them the opportunity to provide feedback on the services they received, monitor referral progress and also do a welfare check to see how things were since the missing episode. A snap survey was used to capture these results as below.
There is an option on the form for free text to allow for individual comments. Below is a selection of the comments made:
“The worker did some safety planning with me in case I felt like running away again”
“I learnt that people can use you to make you do things”
“He really listened to me”
“I would like to thank xxxx for what she did and reassuring my child to talk to me rather than running away.”
“Really happy as I am now getting the help I need”.
The VEMT Team and the Humberside Police Locate Team continue to have a daily morning call to share information about children that are currently missing, identify and known contacts/addresses and ensure that the police have a copy of the updated Philomena/Missing Person Action Plan. Following this meeting, any additional tasks are allocated to the responsible Social worker or Team Manager.
Every Friday morning there is a Weekly Missing meeting, which is co-chaired by the VEMT Team Manager and the Inspector or Sergeant from the Police Locate Team. The agenda is influenced by any children who have had repeat missing episodes during that week, or any child or young person whereby the circumstances of the missing episode or information within the found notification raises concerns. The allocated Social Worker, Team Manager and any other agency working with the child, is invited to the meeting and emphasis is placed on how we can address and reduce the missing episodes through a multi-agency approach.
The VEMT team have worked closely with Humberside Police in recognising those children and young people at risk of Child Exploitation, Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery, and ensure that each child has a package of support around them and that appropriate safety plans and police disruption have been implemented. For every child open to the MACE panel, where the Act and Purpose conditions have been met, the Social worker has been assisted in completing the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referral for children who are deemed to have been trafficked.
Hull is 1 of 10 pilot areas participating in the NRM local devolved decision making with a newly established multi-agency panel. Despite a delay by the Home Office in the Pilot going live, the panel have met on a monthly basis and utilised the time to look at historic cases of NRM referrals in the Hull area, the support received and plans implemented and to recognise deficits in practice, to ensure that best practice is achieved with new cases coming to the panel.
Primary Schools Delivery
In early January 2021, the VEMT team noticed an increase in missing episodes for the 10-12 years of age cohort. Further exploration revealed that the episodes related to them meeting up with friends, going to parks etc. and increasing their independence.
The Contextual Safeguarding approach recognises that in this adolescent development phase, peers become escalated in the hierarchy of importance, and the influence of family decreases. A preventative and proactive approach was put in place as the additional concerns were the impact of the pending summer holidays and children making new friends/peers in preparation for the transition to secondary school. The VEMT team had a period of planning in February and March to offer briefings to all Year 6 pupils in the Hull area to explore missing episodes, highlight the risks/consequences of potential exploitation, the impact on family/carers and what to do if they are missing/lost.
The offer was made to all Primary schools and by May 2021 we had 52 Primary schools booked in for delivery in June and July 2021, many schools booking multiple briefings and also staff awareness sessions. Delivery has taken place during June 2021 and by the end of June, we had spoken to over 1100 pupils. Sadly COVID has had an impact with planned briefings to 3 schools having to be cancelled due to outbreaks, closures and members of the VEMT team having to isolate and test after following a school briefing delivered and a student that attended testing positive.
Every child was offered the opportunity to feedback following the presentations on a feedback form. These forms have been collected and a thematic summary report will be devised which will not only influence future presentations and service delivery but also will be shared with schools to enable them to plan their curriculum in order to address risk and adopt the contextual safeguarding approach.