Inspectors warn of 'ineffective' response to neglect in Haringey

Joe Lepper
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Multi-agency efforts to support children at risk of neglect in Haringey are too variable, and some practice is ineffective in improving their lives, inspectors have found.

A joint inspection by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, and the police and probation inspectorates, found that when children are assessed they are too often either not offered appropriate support or their cases are closed too early.

The inspectors, who were assessing the multi-agency "front door" for child protection - the point at which children at risk become known to local services - found that children face long waits for counselling support. 

Inspectors also raised concerns over a lack of parenting programmes and other initiatives aimed at offering long-term help for families where neglect is present.

While the inspection team welcomed the setting up of a multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash) to assess child protection concerns, they were concerned that decisions were mainly taken by social workers and rarely involved other partners, such as health and youth justice. Strategy discussions relating to the Mash mainly involved police and social workers only, the inspectors found. 

"The identification, assessment and service provision for children living with neglect in Haringey are too variable, and some practice is ineffective in improving the child's day-to-day lived experience," a letter outlining the findings of the inspection states.

"Although some good practice is evident, this is often due to the commitment and skills of individual professionals rather than sound practice underpinned by robust management oversight and quality assurance systems."

"Too many children are subject to social care assessments that do not lead to the provision of appropriate services, and cases are closed too early without sufficient progress being made. Some children are therefore referred and assessed again as they did not receive effective help before their case was closed.

"There are not enough parenting programmes or other interventions to support long-term change for children experiencing neglect. Children who would benefit from counselling support have to wait too long for this service."

Despite concerns, the inspection team found that some improvements were evident. It said the Mash now includes a full-time health representative and the team has good access to latest performance data.

Meanwhile, most parents of children aged between seven and 15 with experience of neglect were positive about the way their social workers communicated with them.

The working relationship between police and social workers was also found to be improving.

"For example, the arrangement to co-locate a social worker with the police between 3pm and midnight, seven days-a-week, has been agreed in order to support more timely assessment and response of the risks to children suffering neglect and other forms of abuse outside office hours," the letter adds.

"In addition, the police are embedding a greater number of police officers in the Mash, which is a positive development."

Haringey's child protection standards have previously come under the microscope following the deaths of Baby Peter Connelly in August 2007 and Victoria Climbié in February 2000.

Geraldine Gavin, interim independent chair of Haringey Safeguarding Children's Board, said: "The inspection has helped us to identify all of those aspects of the agencies working together that need to be improved, including getting involved much earlier when children or their parents first need support, and making sure all services, keep children in their plans even when working predominantly with adults,"

"As partners, we are all united in our endeavours to make sure the improvements needed will be our key focus over this next year and well into the future.

"The Haringey Safeguarding Children Board met in mid-December after the inspection to start planning the improvements, many of which are now underway. Now that the joint targeted area inspection letter has been confirmed, this action will of course be urgently accelerated."

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