Hospitals and social services still failing to protect children

By Joe Lepper

| 06 November 2007

Hospitals and social services teams are failing to work effectively to safeguard vulnerable children, according to a report into new partnership arrangements put in place following the Victoria Climbie inquiry.

Greater co-operation between agencies was a key recommendation of the Laming Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, but a National Children's Bureau (NCB) report has found many partnerships between hospitals and social services are beset by poor com- munication and co-ordination.

Three quarters of hospital staff surveyed for the report said they had difficulty making contact with a social worker to talk about child protection.

Report co-author Di Hart, NCB principal officer for youth justice and welfare, said: "We found differences in procedure and culture that aren't being addressed, increasing the likelihood of cases like Victoria Climbie being missed.

"In some cases hospitals felt social services did not treat their concerns about a child seriously and on the other side we found some social services felt cases presented to them were too vague."

A key aim of the Department of Health-funded report A shared responsibility: safeguarding arrangements between hospitals and children's social services is to urge local safeguarding boards to work towards addressing communication and cultural differences.

The report urges boards to ensure formal agreements are in place about the roles and services to be provided to protect children. In addition, the report calls for joint monitoring arrangements, staff training and to have professionals in place to deal with issues, such as suspicious injuries presented at accident and emergency involving vulnerable children.

A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY: THE KEY FINDINGS

- Forty-seven per cent of hospitals have hospital-based social workers, 48 per cent have access to social workers off site and five per cent of arrangements involve social workers working across hospital and social services sites

- Only 36 per cent of hospital staff are satisfied with responses from social services staff to their concerns about child protection

- Twenty-three per cent of social services teams say there are no procedures for when children from outside the area are admitted to hospital

- The study comprised responses from 51 social service departments and 42 hospital trusts, covering a total 130 hospitals.

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