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Concerns raised over Scottish council’s work to protect children at risk of harm

A report by the Care Inspectorate has found significant issues with services for children at risk of harm within the West Dunbartonshire local authority area (Ian West/PA)
A report by the Care Inspectorate has found significant issues with services for children at risk of harm within the West Dunbartonshire local authority area (Ian West/PA)

Less than half of the work being done to reduce risks of harm or abuse towards children within a Scottish local authority has been rated as good, a report has found.

The Care Inspectorate found work to reduce the risk of harm to children and young people in the West Dunbartonshire area needed to be more effective in an inspection of services.

Inspectors found the effectiveness of services in improving children’s lives was unclear and called for the West Dunbartonshire Community Planning Partnership to submit an improvement plan.

The regulator inspected the partnership made up of West Dunbartonshire Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Police Scotland between October 2021 and March 2022.

Several issues within the partnership have been identified in a report from inspectors which surveyed staff, parents, carers and children involved with the services.

They found a “concerning” difference between staff survey results and record keeping. Results from the survey showed employees who delivered services were confident in their knowledge, skills and abilities in protecting children from harm.

The majority of staff also said children were being protected from harm and almost all thought the processes were effective.

However, the regulator did not feel this was reflected in records that they looked at as part of the inspection and questioned what led to the level of confidence shown.

Inspectors also felt there was not enough to show staff were supported to improve their skills or receive feedback.

It was also found the social care partnership was not using learning and development from training sessions to assess the effectiveness of the work it was doing to keep children safe.

Assessments and plans relating to service users was also found to require improvement. The inspectorate found they could “not always see the impact” of activities intended to support children and young people at risk of harm.

They did not feel there was sufficient evidence that children and young people’s voices were included in decisions made about them and that there was little evidence their views were communicated during meetings about them.

The report also stated it was “difficult to establish” whether mental health outcomes were improving for children and young people.

Half of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that mental health was improving.

However, the report did acknowledge children and young people felt they had the opportunity to build a relationship with key workers. The partnership was also recognised for its initial response to identifying and responding to concerns.

A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire Community Planning Partnership said: “Improving the lives of vulnerable children and young people is at the heart of our work and we welcome all recommendations made by the Care Inspectorate to strengthen the services we offer.

“A comprehensive action plan is already in place, with the HSCP (Health and Social Care Partnership) allocating additional funding to support delivery.

“We recognise that there is work to be done, and we are committed to making these improvements to provide the most robust service we can to safeguard our vulnerable residents.”

Edith Macintosh, interim chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “Following this inspection, the Care Inspectorate and scrutiny partners decided the most appropriate course of action would be to support the partnership to undertake improvements in the key areas we have identified. 

“While we are reassured that the partnership now knows where changes need to be made in order to improve, we feel that they need external support to take all the necessary actions. The partnership has agreed with this approach and has recognised the need for improvement.”