Region’s most vulnerable children are in safe hands

CHILDREN in the Borders are well protected and the multi-agency approach taken by health workers, the police, council staff and the Children’s Reporter is working well to keep the region’s most vulnerable youngsters safe according to a Care Inspectorate report based on a visit to the area by inspectors in September this year.

When answering the question ‘how well do we protect children and meet their needs’ the inspection team’s evaluation of services in the Borders was: children being listened to and respected (very good); children are helped to keep safe (good); response to immediate concerns (very good); and meeting needs and reducing long term harm (good). The scoring options are rated from outstanding, very good, good, satisfactory, weak, through to unsatisfactory.

The inspectors highlighted good practices being used by the multi-agency team in the region, such as the help given to vulnerable pregnant mothers to reduce the risks to their newborn babies, the Addiction Family Service which is improving the lives of children affected by parental substance misuse and the work of LGBT Youth Borders in improving the health and well-being of young people.

John Raine, chair of the Multi-Agency Child Protection Committee said: “I am extremely pleased to receive what is a positive inspection report and requires no follow up inspection.

“The report makes it clear that good progress has been made in the Borders. It shows that agencies are committed to providing high quality and effective services to protect children and young people and there is clear evidence that this is happening. This is a credit to the staff from all agencies involved.

“However there are always areas of improvement and agencies will continue to work even more closely together to improve our policies and practices. “

Director of social work for Scottish Borders Council, Andrew Lowe agreed, saying: “We are always looking for improvement in child protection. We do this by working with others and it is therefore heartening to read this report but we also see learning points here and we will continue to work on these.”

The inspection drew attention to three areas in need of improvement, which on the plus side had also been identified by the local team who have already started work on plans to make the changes.

One of these is the need to improve support to meet children’s longer-term health, education and care needs rather than just focusing on their immediate needs and in a joint statement the local team said: “These plans are at an early stage and will take time to show improvement in this new locality approach.”

Another area for improvement is the need to develop support to vulnerable children and families at an early stage, ensuring they get appropriate help when they need it and that the help is given in a way that meets their individual needs.

The final suggested area to work on was for the multi-agency team to improve their self evaluation so that they have a clearer focus on the outcomes they are aiming for to help individual children and families.

Sheena Wright, director of nursing and midwifery for NHS Borders said: “Agencies within the Borders are committed to working together to protect and support children at risk within our area. This report shows that we deliver an efficient and effective service. However, we are not complacent and will continue to develop our multi-agency approach and improve services to keep children safe within the Scottish Borders.”