Effective multi-agency arrangements to address child abuse at Stockton-upon-Tees has been highlighted in a Joint Targeted Area Inspection.
Inspectors from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services undertook a joint inspection of the multi-agency response to abuse and neglect in Stockton-On-Tees, including a ‘deep dive’ focus on the response to children experiencing neglect.
The inspection concluded that local partnership of agencies have a strong shared commitment to tackling neglect.
This is exemplified by the children’s hub which acts as the front door for referrals for children at risk and there is a ‘comprehensive early help offer’ for families, said the report.
The report outlines how:
- Individual agencies are focused on enhancing the knowledge and skills of front line staff to tackle neglect.
- The partnership shares a learning culture that supports continuous improvement.
- The LSCB has a strong and independent identity.
- Strong and effective leadership in the local authority’s children’s services drives the development of child-focused practice in response to neglect.
- Social workers have the right skills and knowledge as a result of a good development package for social workers includes formal training, less formal drop-in sessions and a range of online research.
- Although neglect is not a specified priority, it is recognised as a cross-cutting theme in the Cleveland police and crime plan.
- The National Probation Service has developed a range of tools to strengthen its management of child safeguarding, including neglect.
- Midwives routinely visit pregnant women in their second trimester of pregnancy with a view to engaging with women and help them to consider how they are preparing for parenting and in addition pick up any vulnerabilities and whether early help is needed. Most GP practices hold regular multi-agency vulnerable families meetings.
- Inspectors saw evidence of effective multi-agency work with children at risk of going missing and at risk of exploitation. The developing use of the neglect assessment tool is increasingly informing planning for children at risk of neglect.
Areas for improvement include increasing the number of children who attend child protection conferences. Between April and September 2017, just eight of 222 children who could have attended did attend, although work to improve this is underway.
The current joint strategic needs analysis does contain relevant information about vulnerable children. However, much information dates from 2013–14 or earlier, and wider information to support understanding of risk to children and the commissioning of services is absent in some key areas.
Despite the helpful breadth of information presented, the children’s services performance framework lacks sufficient analysis, inspectors found.
The report highlights that while it is positive that Cleveland police have developed additional training for officers, inspectors found that inconsistencies remain in the quality of child safeguarding decision-making at the frontline, including when children are suffering from neglect. Cleveland police are experiencing difficulties in managing demand linked to vulnerability and in the protection of children in particular. This needs close monitoring, the report says.
Partner agencies are not consistently made aware of children living in potentially neglectful environments by Cleveland police.
Agencies are not sharing information sufficiently in some cases when a child becomes a 'child in need'. As a result, strategic and managerial leads within health services cannot always be assured that those children supported by the local authority as children in need due to neglect are known to the health services.
The report concludes that the director of children’s services should prepare a written statement of proposed action responding to the findings.