Act fast to reduce risks

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Henry Hepburn reports on contrasting verdicts on two authorities' child-protection services

Abused and neglected children are protected better in one local authority than anywhere else in Scotland - but a mixed report has emerged from another part of the country.

Every aspect of child protection in East Renfewshire was in the top three of HMIE's six gradings, with three "excellents", 12 "very goods" and three "goods". Aberdeenshire's child-protection services, however, only merited five "goods", nine "adequates" and four "weaks".

Aberdeenshire was "weak" - HMIE's second-lowest grading - in information-sharing and recording; recognising and assessing risks and needs; leadership of change and improvement; and participation of children, families and other relevant people in policy development.

Inspectors also told the authority to ensure chief officers and senior managers work better together, and to do more on self-evaluation and quality assurance.

The action taken by staff to protect children and keep them safe when identified as at risk was a main strength. Others included the range of early intervention for vulnerable families and the support for pupils from police school liaison officers and school nurses.

The report concluded: "Inspectors were confident that when children were identified as being at risk action was taken to protect them and keep them safe. In most cases their short-term needs were met, though children did not always get the help they needed quickly enough from some specialist services."

Many issues were already known to services, having been identified in earlier reports, and "timely and effective action" was now needed to minimise risk.

East Renfrewshire was "excellent" in how children are listened to, understood and respected, as well as operational planning and vision, values and aims.

Main strengths include "visionary leadership" and an "innovative approach" to looked-after and accommodated young people, which sees the chief executive and directors acting as "corporate parents".

Others were:

- public awareness of how to keep children safe;

- "very effective" therapeutic services in schools;

- the wide range of policies and procedures for staff;

- "high-quality" planning processes;

- the quality and easy accessibility of training;

- and collaborative approaches to keeping children safe, particularly joint support teams in schools.

There was room for improvement in involving health staff when there are child-protection concerns, arrangements for medical examinations, and planning to meet the needs of children and families.

Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, said: "I believe that child protection is everybody's business and that's why it is so encouraging to see different agencies working together so successfully in East Renfrewshire."

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