Inspectors praise strong commitment to tackling neglect in Stockton

Nina Jacobs
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Agencies in Stockton-on-Tees have been praised for their "strong commitment" to tackling neglect, and a "learning culture that supports continuous improvement", following a multi-agency inspection.

The joint-targeted area inspection, conducted by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, found that the majority of children in the area benefit from timely and appropriate decisions in response to concerns for their welfare or safety.

The report, which analysed agency responses to neglect and abuse, highlights a "strong shared commitment" to tackling neglect among the area's local partnership of agencies.

"This is exemplified by the developing children's hub, which acts as the ‘front door' for referrals for children who may be in need or at risk of significant harm, and by a comprehensive early help offer for children and families," the report said.

Inspectors reported that they witnessed no examples of decisions made by professionals at the children's hub that left children at immediate risk of significant harm.

The hub's use of video-conferencing to support timely child protection strategy discussions was singled out for particular praise by inspectors.

"This supports decision-making that is well-matched to children's individual levels of need and risk," they said.

The report also praised the area's local safeguarding children board for its "strong identity and effective leadership".

"This means that challenges to agencies that arise from the board's monitoring and scrutiny carry a sufficient degree of authority to ensure that agencies respond positively and work to address areas of weaker practice," it said.

Other initiatives flagged up by inspectors included those to enhance the knowledge and skills of frontline staff to tackle neglect such as a "topic of the month" focus on adolescent neglect which was staged by the local authority last year.

Neglect training was also delivered to school-designated safeguarding leads in termly forum meetings, and awareness-raising measures such as a child neglect screensaver used by staff at Cleveland police had been introduced.

However, inspectors did note certain areas requiring improvement such as a lack of resilience in some of the partnership teams within the children's hub which had created a delay in considering the cases of a few children.

It also revealed that the attendance of children at child protection conferences was considerably lower than expected, with just eight of the 22 children who could have attended making an appearance between April and September 2017.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's lead member for children and young people, Ann McCoy, said: "The safeguarding and wellbeing of children and young people is of the utmost importance to us and although we are pleased our progress and good practice has been recognised, we are not complacent.

"We remain committed to working with the local safeguarding children board and our partners in the police, probation service and clinical commissioning group to work towards even better outcomes for our children and young people and are in the process of developing an action plan to further enhance our services."

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