Ofsted praises domestic abuse response in Bradford

By Neil Puffett

| 21 April 2017

Social care, justice and health professionals across Bradford have been praised by inspectors for their efforts in responding to child protection issues in domestic abuse situations.

Inspectors found that good-quality support to children and their families in Bradford is reducing the risk of harm to many children. Picture: David McCullough

A joint inspection of multi-agency responses to abuse and neglect, with a special focus on children living with domestic violence, conducted by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation, found "timely and effective" work taking place.

A letter to Bradford Council's director of children's services Michael Jameson, said good quality support to children and their families is reducing the risk of harm to many children.

"Staff in many agencies, including the voluntary and community sector, children's social care, the police, national probation services, youth offending teams and many health services, have a strong focus on understanding domestic abuse from the perspective of the child," the letter states.

"Initial responses to children who witness domestic abuse are a particular strength in most agencies, with prompt information sharing and assessments of the risk to children so that the vast majority receive the help and support they need in a timely way."

Effective joint working was also found to be in place for children subject to child protection plans. Multi-agency arrangements within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash) were found to be "very effective", particularly between the police and social care, with a dedicated domestic violence hub.

"This means that for children who have witnessed domestic abuse, agencies work together well to ensure a speedy response. All domestic abuse incidents reported to the police, where children are present, are risk assessed, and sent promptly to the Mash," the letter states.

"When risks to children are first identified, Mash social workers and police officers act quickly to make sure that they have information from any agencies who know children and their families."

However, concerns were raised that joint planning and co-ordination of work was not found to be in place at each stage of children's involvement with statutory services.

"Once children's needs have been assessed in the Mash and they progress to an assessment, there is not always a well co-ordinated multi-agency safety plan in place prior to them becoming subject to a child in need or child protection plan," the letter states.

"The impact of cumulative risks of children witnessing domestic abuse is not always recognised by professionals. In a small number of cases, this has resulted in delays in children receiving the help they need, and in particular, long-term co-ordinated support.

Meanwhile, inspectors found that not all agencies have systems in place to ensure that they can identify the risk of domestic abuse.

"For example, adult attenders are not always asked about parental or carer responsibility when they attend Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust emergency department, and school nurse documentation does not prompt practitioners to ask direct questions and record answers about domestic abuse," the letter states.

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