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Caithness News Bulletins June 2005

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Pilot Inspection Of Services To Protect Children In Highland                           Children's Services etc Index

A report on the most far-reaching examination of child protection services in a Scottish local authority area concludes that children and young people in Highland are well protected. Highland was chosen to pilot the inspection by HMIE in recognition of the progress being made in integrating children’s services and agencies and members of the Highland Child Protection Committee are pleased with the findings of the report, published today (Friday 17 June 2005).

The inter-agency Highland Child Protection Committee will incorporate recommendations from the report into an action plan and agree timescales to further improve child protection services across the Highlands.

In general, Inspectors found that professionals intervene appropriately to prevent, or take early action against abuse or neglect where there are risks in families. Effective help was also provided to most children and young people recovering from abuse or neglect.

The inspectors identified the key strengths in Highland as:

  • the effectiveness of services which intervened early to prevent harm to vulnerable children;

  • good communication and trust between professionals and children and young people;

  • the knowledge, commitment and joint working of professionals whose core task was child protection;

  • the role of voluntary sector organisations, both individually and jointly with each other and statutory organisations, in providing innovative services well tailored to meet the needs of children, young people and their families;

  • the vision, values, aims for child protection, developed by chief and senior officers, which had permeated well through their organisations.

The inspectors also identified that:

  • children and young people should be more actively and consistently involved in decision making and in policy development;

  • planned developments to improve assessment of risks and needs should be prioritised, supported by improved record keeping;

  • arrangements for providing medical examinations should be reviewed and improved;

  • shared responsibility for child protection and child welfare work should be improved; and;

  • agencies should more consistently evaluate the effectiveness of work to protect children and, if necessary, raise public awareness.

Ian Latimer, Chief Constable of Northern Constabulary and Chairman of the Highland Child Protection Committee, welcomed the report.

He said: "When this inspection started, I said that there are no public services more important than those involved in the protection of children. Highland’s public agencies are committed to help develop an effective national inspection process. We believe we have achieved this. As I had hoped, it has been an invaluable learning experience for the Scottish Executive and also for ourselves - and it will certainly prove helpful to all Scottish local authorities. "

Arthur McCourt, Chief Executive of The Highland Council, said: "I am delighted that Highland has been leading on this work with the Executive. I am pleased that the inspection team has recognised that we have played a very important part in developing an approach to evaluating child protection which is fair open and robust.

The report is largely positive and the Council will work within the Child Protection Committee to take on board the recommendation to further improve services to our young people."

The report will be considered by the full membership of the Council on Thursday (23 June 2005).

Jan Baird, Director of Community Care, NHS Highland, said: "The report confirms what we know about our strengths and reaffirms areas in which we need to improve. This valuable external evaluation will assist us all across Highland to continue to undertake the most challenging task of providing services to help keep our children safe from harm and abuse."

The inspection was conducted by a new team, bringing inspectors together from a range of disciplines and regulatory bodies. It involved the range of professionals working in the Highlands Council area, who have a role in the protection of children. This included the services provided by health, the police, the Council, the Children’s Hearing System, as well as services provided by voluntary agencies. Between January – March of this year, 11 inspectors reviewed child protection work with 54 children; examined more than 50 policy documents, interviewed 125 staff and held 22 focus groups. They visited 26 local services, observed 26 meetings and interviewed a number of parents and children.