‘Storing Up Trouble: A Postcode Lottery of Children's Social Care’ APPGC July 2018
Does where a child lives affect their chances of getting support, whatever their level of need, and is it getting generally harder for children and families to get help? This is one of the central research questions posed by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children culminating in a new report of interest to LSCBs and MASAs.
Analysis of 37 Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) threshold documents found some significant disparities in how local areas were addressing need, particularly in response to children who are self- harming, families with housing problems and even children experiencing physical abuse. It will be interesting to see how these disparities play out going forward in the new MASAs.
Responding to surveys carried out as part of this Inquiry, both social workers and Directors of Children’s Services said that locally agreed thresholds, as published by the LSCB, are one of the top three factors that influence decisions about the level of intervention or support (if any) a child receives. Directors of Children’s Services explained that the primary reason for this inconsistency is simply that some local authorities have more resource to fund ‘early help’ services than others.
AILC’s Chair David Ashcroft is quoted in an evidence session, recommending that, “We need to talk about the whole system”. Emma Lewell Buck noted “We are observing a worrying trend in children’s social care in which the shift towards late intervention is getting worse not better, the rate of re-referrals is increasing and cuts to early intervention mean that cases are being closed prematurely. “
The Inquiry heard that “some local authorities are encouraging a re-think of the process for assessing need and risk and providing appropriate support for children and families. David Ashcroft, Chair, Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, talked about his work as Chair of the Norfolk LSCB to develop a new child-centred approach which encourages professionals to have early conversations with families and make decisions based upon the child’s needs.”
Leeds LSCB was also highlighted and praised for its approach by Ofsted: ‘The [Local Children’s Safeguarding] Board exercises careful scrutiny of the transition from a traditional threshold management model to one where referrals receive considered conversations and responses based on the needs of children, rather than establishing whether a threshold has been met... Board partners, particularly schools (who are the biggest referrers), describe a discernible culture change from rigid threshold discussions with the front door, to one in which productive conversations are held, with growing confidence that the early help offer in clusters is providing reliable, robust and appropriate alternatives based on need and risk.’
‘Distress Signals: Unaccompanied Young People's Struggle for Mental Health Care’
This new report on UASCs by the Children’s Society found that “Lack of awareness and training among paediatricians, GPs, social workers and other professionals working closely with young people hinder identification of mental health need among unaccompanied young people.”
An important report for LSCBs - Sam Royston, The Children’s Society’s Director, Policy and Research says that “low awareness among professionals and services about young refugees’ needs, as well as language barriers, all contribute to making their pain worse. There’s a lot that local and national government can do to help child refugees recover and rebuild their lives” The report is here.
Contextual Safeguarding Apply by 18th September 2018 for Support to your Local Area
Contextual Safeguarding has designed a ‘Scale Up’ project funded by the Big Lottery to offer three local areas the chance of support until 2022 to embed Contextual Safeguarding into their Children and Family service. Having spent a year in the London Borough of Hackney initiating the first Contextual Safeguarding system, we have generated resources, approaches and practical understanding that we now want to offer up to others.
Supported by a Contextual Safeguarding hub at the University of Bedfordshire comprised of a coordinator, researcher, social worker, administrator and headed up by Dr Carlene Firmin, each site will be supported to create an approach that works for them to receive contextual referrals into the front door, screen and assess those referrals, plan and intervene with harm identified in peer groups, school, neighbourhood and online settings. Find out more/apply on the project webpage. Sites will be selected by November through a multi-stage application process - expressions of interest close on 18th September 2018.
‘How Safe Are Our Children’ NSPCC 2018
This year’s NSPCC report sets out what the available data tells us about the current child protection landscape, and takes a closer look at how safe children are online. The report highlights:
- There have been increases in police-recorded child sexual offences across the UK and increases in child cruelty and neglect offences in all UK nations except Scotland
- The last decade has also seen increased numbers of children on child protection plans and registers
- Almost a quarter of young people were contacted online by an adult they did not know
- Since the offence of communicating indecently with a child was introduced in England and Wales in April 2017, over 3,000 crimes have been recorded by the police
LSCBs will also be interested to note that the child death from assault/abuse rate has declined slightly over recent years, but suicide amongst 15-19 year olds, previously in decline, have now started to rise in recent years - up 25.7 per cent since the average for 2006 to 2010. There were 115 suicides in England where death was recorded as by intentional self-harm, and a further 28 deaths by undetermined intent of 15 to 19 year olds in 2016.
The report notes: “Research suggests that social and economic factors influence the risk of suicide.”
Revolving Door: Are We Failing Children at Risk of Abuse and Neglect? Action for Children
A new Action for Children Report here, Illustrates concern that opportunities to intervene early are being missed. Some children are stuck in a revolving door into social care, in a cycle of referral and assessment, but only receiving help at crisis point. The Revolving Door report notes that between 2010 and 2017 there has been a:
- 13% increase in the number of children in care
- 31% increase in the number of children subject to a child protection plan and
- 108% increase in child protection investigations.
“And yet there was a £2.4 billion real terms cut in central government funding for children and young people’s services between 2010/2011 and 2015/2016.”