Child protection services 'weak'

a damning verdict has been delivered on child protection services in the Midlothian area.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Education, published yesterday, found that children at risk of abuse or harm might not be getting the help they needed, and demanded the urgent development of clear policies for staff.

Children's services were ranked "unsatisfactory" - the lowest rating possible - on three out of 18 performance indicators, and "weak" on 12 others. Only three were considered "adequate", and none achieved a rating of "excellent", "very good" or "good". The unsatisfactory elements were the meeting of children's needs, the effectiveness of planning to meet needs, and leadership and direction.

The report concluded: "Inspec-tors were not confident that all children who had been identified as being at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, and in need of protection, were receiving the help and support they needed.

"Some children had received help from services and their situation had improved, but others had not received the help and support they needed and had not been sufficiently well protected. Work was required urgently to develop clear policies and procedures to guide staff, particularly on planning to meet needs."

The report was the second full inspection of a Scottish council area's entire range of child protection services, including health, the police, the local authority and the children's reporter, as well as voluntary and independent organisations. The first, published last month, was more favourable than Midlothian's, finding that action was being taken to help children in East Lothian, although some waited too long.

Midlothian Council was unable to respond before we went to press.

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