Protection is their strong point
Children in Renfrewshire are the best protected in Scotland, according to a new report.
The local authority's child protection services respond quickly, work well together, provide good information for the public and are not afraid to admit where there is room for improvement.
Renfrewshire comes out joint strongest in HMIE reports on child protection, alongside East Renfrewshire, with 23 out of 32 such reports having been completed across Scotland.
The authority was ranked "excellent", the highest rating, in three areas: staff development; vision, values and aims; and leadership and direction. In the remaining 15 categories, it was given 12 "very goods" and three "goods".
Inspectors were "very confident that children who required protection were known to services and prompt action was taken to ensure their safety".
Staff took "prompt and appropriate action when children were at risk of immediate harm or for whom concern had been expressed", with social work and police working well together.
The leadership of all senior staff responsible for child protection was praised, resulting in a "high level of trust and co-operation between services".
Services were "easy to access" and support often continued after immediate risks had been addressed.
Members of the public knew how to report concerns, and there had been a number of successful initiatives to raise public awareness of child protection issues. These included mass mailings, media interviews and advertising on local buses.
There was also a "particularly effective infomercial" in shopping centres in Renfrewshire and Glasgow, the neighbouring authority also involved in the campaign.
"The message was that if people had any concerns, they should report them," said Tim Huntingford, chairman of the Renfrewshire Child Protection Committee. "It's a significant issue that people are reluctant to report, or think it's none of their business."
Anyone noticing a formerly happy child looking "bedraggled or miserable" had been encouraged to report their concerns, from school dinner ladies to joiners carrying out repairs in council houses.
Mr Huntingford said Renfrewshire was also marked out by how well different bodies communicated and knew each other's responsibilities. "That hasn't always been the case, but I think it's very strong in Renfrewshire," he said.
"There is no one agency which can respond to issues of child protection. You can only hope to make a real difference when all agencies work together effectively."
The authority believes its performance is even more impressive, given its social problems. Renfrewshire has the fourth-highest rate of premature male alcohol-related deaths in the UK, and is fifth in Scotland for intravenous drug use. In 2007-08, 58 per cent of children on the child protection register were affected by their parents' substance abuse, and domestic abuse is above the Scottish average.