Room for improvement, says child protection report

MORE needs to be done to improve the initial response of staff in Argyll and Bute to children who may be in need of protection, according to a new inspection report.

The Care Inspectorate of Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland has published its findings this week following an inspection in June of services to protect children in the Argyll and Bute area.

The report evaluated four quality indicators and found three to be ‘good’ – these being ‘children are listened to and respected’, ‘children are helped to keep safe’ and ‘meeting needs and reducing long term harm’ – while one, ‘response to immediate concerns’, was deemed to be ‘weak’.

Inspectors also evaluated two aspects of the work within the local authority area, and found both ‘self-evaluation’ and ‘improvements in performance’ to be satisfactory.

The report states that “overall, staff identify vulnerable children and families at an early stage and provide a range of effective supports to prevent difficulties or stop problems getting worse.”

The report found that families may not always receive the type of help most appropriate to their needs, and recommended that managers should look at ways of providing support to the most vulnerable families during evenings and weekends.

Staff were praised for recognising and reporting child protection concerns without delay, although inspectors found that a few staff members were reluctant to share concerns.

They also found there was scope for social workers, police and health professionals to share more information, and discovered that “information is not always gathered from all available sources to build up a complete picture of a child’s circumstances”.

A press release from Argyll and Bute Council stated that “partners are actively working to address” the weakness in initial responses to child protection issues.

The authority’s spokesperson for social affairs, Councillor Andrew Nisbet, said that work had already begun to address the issues raised in the report.

“While most of what the report had to say was very positive, parts of it highlight areas in which work remains to be done, and we are addressing those as a matter of urgency,” he commented.

“The report highlights a number of process weaknesses where opportunities to improve information sharing exist, and we have already implemented steps to address and overcome these.

“We are acutely aware that there is no room for complacency in the child protection arena, and we will continue to strive towards improving every aspect of the services which we and our partners provide to protect children and young people in Argyll and Bute.”

A follow-up inspection will be carried out within the next 12 months and will be followed by a report on the progress made.