Archive for September, 2007

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They were designed to be the vehicle to move from a more narrow focus on child protection to a broader safeguarding agenda, drawing in a range of new partner agencies. But have local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) proved themselves to be the effective successors to area child protection committees?
The government’s verdict after visiting eight LSCBs and consulting statutory partners for its review was that “some are doing well and grasping their agenda” but others are making less progress on the prevention and promotional activity. The review says that statutory partners, such as the police, the local NHS and children’s services, are “generally represented on, and showing commitment to, their LSCBs”.
But some LSCBs are “finding it difficult to secure the full engagement of partners leading, in a few cases, to statutory partners not attending meetings”. Other partners, although present, have “limited understanding about their role”. And the report finds “little evidence” of strategic health authorities’ involvement at all – possibly as a result of their substantial restructuring.
The review team acknowledges that the resources available to LSCBs “varies substantially between and within regions”, and that too much time is spent agreeing budgets. Dr Vic Tuck, development officer for the Warwickshire safeguarding children board, says it would have been “helpful if the government had prepared a formula rather than leaving it to local negotiation”. He adds that without a formula, LSCBs have found it hard to encourage a financial commitment.
Barnet in north London was one of the first to set up its LSCB and claims a “longstanding record of success in gaining attendance from relevant partners across multi-agency partnerships at a level which is both senior and strategic”.

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TRAFFORD Council has confirmed it’s changing the criteria for access to social care.
In future only service users whose needs fall within the “critical” or “substantial criteria” will continue to receive their services from the council.
It’s estimated that between 800 and 1,000 of the borough’s 5,090 social care service users will lose their “high moderate care support” when the new criteria is introduced on October 1.
The kind of services they have received range from home care, day care, meals on wheels, equipment and direct payments that on average cost the council about £78 per person each week.
Residents banded “high moderate” in other parts of Greater Manchester – including Bolton, Rochdale and Salford – continue to receive these services.
Messenger understands Trafford’s executive member for adult social care, Councillor John Lamb, confirmed the decision on September 13.
It follows the conclusion of a public consultation on September 7, with 243 people returning questionnaires.
Trafford’s corporate director of community services and social care, confirmed the overall feedback to the proposal was “no”.
But he explained: “While we appreciate the worries of the people these changes will impact on, we have been reassured throughout the consultation period that there is an understanding of why these decisions have to be taken.

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VULNERABLE youngsters are being left at risk by a slow and inadequate child protection service in the Capital, a damning HMIE report revealed today.
There are too few foster and residential places in the city for children who need to be taken out of their family home for their own safety. Young sexual abuse victims and the disabled are among those being let down by the city council, according to the report.
Some at-risk children were not seen regularly by a social worker, there was no co-ordinated approach to track youngsters moving from one part of the city to another, and there were delays in getting specialist help for those with challenging behaviour or mental problems.
Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, today demanded “significant improvements” and asked for a progress report from the council in six months.
The number of vulnerable youngsters has spiralled in recent years, with high-profile cases such as baby Caleb Ness, shaken to death by his brain-damaged father in 2001. The 11-week-old had been left in the care of his father and drug-addicted mother in Leith.
The death triggered a major review of the city’s child protection service and the council today claimed it has learned the lessons from the subsequent O’Brien report.
But Unison, the public sector union which represents social workers, said the service is operating on a shoe-string budget and called for a new national strategy.
John Stevenson, Unison spokesman, said: “There are simply not enough resources. It is not within the power of the council to create the service that is required, without a huge increase in council tax.

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A welter of research has appeared over the past 10 years attesting to the positive contribution that fathers (living with their children – or not) can make in the lives of their children. This has also drawn attention to the marginalisation of fathers by social services.
Despite this, key shapers of social work opinion continue to marginalise fathers by refusing to include them in policies or practice or stereotyping them as all bad (and, at the same time, elevating mothers to the status of sole carers).
Examples abound. The new Scottish framework for assessment was published on the web in February 2007 as part of the Scottish executive’s programme to develop an integrated assessment framework for children and families work. It is intended to be “relevant to any professional working with children or young people whether in the context of education, social work, health, police or other services”. The material is built around a case study of the life of Mairi from birth to 18. A timeline presents various critical incidents in her life such as being fostered, her adoption and referral to a young people’s unit for an eating disorder.
At the end of the timeline, Mairi goes to university. Nowhere in all the various discussions of her life’s ups and downs does a birthfather, foster father or adoptive father take any part.
There is one passing reference to Mairi’s biological father. If this was a case of a birthfather abandoning a child then it might be an accurate portrayal. But we are not told this, just that he has returned to Asia. No efforts are made to create a picture of him for Mairi’s memory box and in other preparations for her fostering and adoption. Good practice in writing the framework materials would suggest that Mairi needs as much of her father’s history as can be obtained. And this ought to be brought forward just like the work with and about Mairi’s birthmother.

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A highly critical report into child protection services in Edinburgh claims some youngsters are being left in high risk situations without the support they need. Inspectors said they were “not confident” that all children who are referred are being properly assessed and protected. However, they did say services have improved since the tragic death of baby Caleb Ness four years ago. The killing of an 11-week-old boy at this flat in Leith in 2001 prompted a major review of child protection services in the capital.
Caleb Ness, who had been identified as at risk, was shaken to death by his brain damaged father Alexander.
The report into the tragedy found fault at every level of the city’s social work department. Now a new report shows that lessons have been learned but there are still serious flaws in the system. It says that: “Some children, particularly older children were not always provided with the help and support they needed and, as a result, some of them were left in high risk situations or without adequate support.” Those in charge of protecting the capital’s children admit that more must be done.
Asst Chief Constable Neil Richardson, chair of the Edinburgh Child Protection Committee, said: “It is a critical report but it gives us an ideal opportunity to tailor our energies and our focus on the areas that are going to be of most benefit and to drive the improvement that we know we need to deliver over the next 12 months.”

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Social care staff at North Yorkshire County Council, one of the biggest local authorities in the country, are to install a new electronic Integrated Children’s System to track the care of vulnerable children.
Liquidlogic’s integrated children’s system (ICS), called Protocol, will provide full electronic visibility of case loads, replacing the paper-based case management currently used.
The council implemented the system in response to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) initiative for every child to have a record of their care in place on one system.
Guidelines on systems for social services from the department say that authorities must have an IT-based solution that supports practice and case record keeping from case referral to case closure.
North Yorkshire’s ICS project manager, Fran Senior, told EHI Primary Care: “At the moment, we have no electronic system in terms of business processes and care tracking. Practitioners go out to patients to do their job and have to manually complete paper forms detailing assessments which are then passed on to administrative staff to type up and enter into an individual database.
She added: “We had started to consider changing this and then the DCSF stepped in and made it mandatory to have an electronic system for records on children’s care. The fundamental benefit of this will be for practitioners, increasing their abilities to do their job by providing them with a full picture of a case, and ultimately improving outcomes for vulnerable children.”

Probe into Huntley suicide attempt

Posted: September 30, 2007 in News

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An investigation has been launched into how Ian Huntley, the man convicted for the killing of two ten-year-old girls, was able to attempt suicide in jail. The former school caretaker was yesterday admitted to hospital after he tried to take his life by overdosing on drugs in his prison cell at Wakefield prison. He is now back inside the high security jail. This is the third time Huntley, who is serving a 40-year sentence for the killing of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in 2002, has tried to end his life. Speaking about the incident, the editor of the Prisons Handbook, Mark Leech, said: “This is a dreadful story for the Prison Service and a huge embarrassment for them, particularly as Huntley is the highest possible security category. “It is going to require some heads to be banged together to sort this out – they really must get to grips with it because this is not the first time, by any means, that Huntley has tried to take his own life.”.