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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column February 22

22 February 2024

Supporting vulnerable people in Peterborough is one of our highest priorities and I’m delighted to say that we are making good progress with this work.

When our children’s services were rated as inadequate by Ofsted earlier this year, we resolved to make urgent improvements to services that support and protect vulnerable children in Peterborough.

This won’t be an overnight fix, but I wanted to share some examples of our work so far, to highlight just how important this is.

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to all the dedicated staff at our secure children’s home Clare Lodge who were praised by Ofsted inspectors when they visited last month.

Clare Lodge provides care for up to 16 vulnerable girls aged between 10 and 17 who have faced many difficulties in their lives and need a secure environment to help them thrive.

According to the report, the girls living at Clare Lodge are cared for by staff who understand and prioritise their needs and they feel safe and cared for. Inspectors said the home had continued to make improvements since its last full inspection in July when it was rated as good.

The girls who come to Clare Lodge have often faced many difficulties in their young lives, and staff are putting their needs first to ensure they feel safe and cared for and their voices are heard.

Last week I visited a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) in Huntingdon to see firsthand how we deal with enquiries about children.

Any enquiries received which are unclear about whether there are safeguarding issues involved are passed through to the MASH. This is a multi-agency team who undertake information gathering, analysis and decision making about whether there is a need for statutory intervention and if not, what the appropriate intervention for the child, young person and their family might be.

I’m pleased to report that the team is working effectively and I was highly impressed by the systems in place.

Following the inadequate Ofsted report, we set up a special improvement panel which I am a member of and includes representatives from Ofsted, the police and health. I met with the panel recently and again, I’m pleased to say this initiative is already making a positive difference.

In further good news, I am pleased to tell you that we have been shortlisted for two prestigious Local Government Chronicle Awards.

The council along with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Anglia Ruskin University are in the running for the Public/Public Partnership prize for the successful delivery of our new university which opened on time and on budget, making this decades long vision a reality.

We’ve also received a second shortlisting for our School Streets Scheme in the Community Involvement category.

A School Street sees a temporary road closure outside the entrance of a school, enabling it to become a pedestrian only zone during the school’s opening and closing times. It encourages active travel, with the added benefit of reducing congestion and pollution at the school gates and improving safety for children on their way to and from school.

We look forward to June when we will find out if we have won – fingers crossed!

I am a big advocate for getting young people involved in politics and that is why I’m encouraging Peterborough residents aged between 11 and 18 to vote in the forthcoming Youth Parliament elections.

The polls are open between February 22 and 29, with young voters given the chance to elect two youth MPs for Peterborough instead of one, because of the growth in the number of young people living here over the past two years.

I would like to wish all the candidates standing the very best of luck and also say a big well done to our city’s outgoing Youth MP Eva Woods, who has been a brilliant ambassador for Peterborough and has got involved in lots of issues affecting young people. Visit www.peterborough.gov.uk for more information about the elections and how to vote.

Finally, 600 trees are set to be planted in Peterborough as part of the city’s first Tiny Forest.

The council is to receive funds from the Local Authority Treescapes Fund to plant the first Tiny Forest here in on land of Hallfields Lane in Gunthorpe.

A Tiny Forest is made up of 600 fast-growing native trees which are planted densely in an area the size of a tennis court. Each Tiny Forest can attract over 500 animal and plant species within the first three years and provide a welcoming place for people to experience nature and tranquillity.

Our officers are currently working on the finer details of the project but the planting day in March will involve the local community, encouraging them to enjoy this fantastic natural beauty spot from day one. I look forward to seeing the Tiny Forest develop.