Ofsted praises multi-agency response to neglect

By Tristan Donovan

| 13 November 2017

Case audits are helping agencies in Cheshire West and Chester deliver well co-ordinated and effective action to prevent the neglect of children, a deep-dive inspection has found.

Inspectors praised timely action to reduce the risk and impact of neglect in Cheshire West and Chester. Picture: Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock/posed by models

A joint inspection of multi-agency response to abuse and neglect in the area found that most children receive timely and appropriate action to reduce the risk and impact of neglect.

The inspection, conducted by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Probation, and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that the findings of case audits are widely distributed, leading to successful improvements in how all agencies protect children and new developments such as a tool for spotting the neglect of older children.

Professionals from all agencies in the area, including those who work with adults, were found to have a good understanding of neglect and the local processes for identifying and reacting when a child may be at risk of neglect.

The inspection also noted how professionals adapt their approach to the needs of individual children and that a culture of professional challenge between different agencies helps each agency recognise areas for improvement.

Examples of good work included frontline police officers who identify neglected children routinely seeking consent for them to be considered for early help and a school nurse who accompanied a family on a visit to a dentist to ensure the child received dental treatment.

In another case the pooling of information between agencies allowed the identification of a history of neglect of a boy who had been referred to the youth justice service after committing actual bodily harm.

The information allowed the service's co-located mental health worker to work with the boy on his emotional responses in the context of a past of neglect rather than defaulting to treating his behaviour as criminal and taking a traditional anger management response.

However, inspectors also identified several areas for improvement including a lack of clear measures for monitoring progress in plans for children experiencing neglect.

"The measures by which improvement is to be evaluated are not sufficiently detailed in plans," the report said.

"This means that both parents and professionals may not be clear about what needs to be achieved by when and how progress will be measured.

"In complex cases of neglect, such clarity is essential if professionals and parents are to work together and children effectively protected."

There were also found to be gaps in how the police share information with children's social care and management oversight in the police being more focused on the quantity of cases than the quality of decisions.

The area's integrated access and referral team also lacked access to the youth justice service's case management system, slowing the team's ability to check if new referrals are involved with that service.

In addition, there was also drift and delay in a few cases and GP attendance at child protection conferences remains "relatively low".

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