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An inspection into the care and protection of children in Eilean Siar , 21/10/05 [S]

A report by the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) into the care and protection of children in Eilean Siar. The Western Isles Child Protection Committee request the inspection following the arrest of 13 adults in October 2003 in relation to the alleged abuse of three children.

The SWIA makes 31 recommendations. Some have implications for all local authorities, NHS Boards and all agencies that deal with the protection of children. Others are directly aimed at the Scottish Executive.

Summary of key recommendations

All local authorities

The SWIA have made recommendations about the importance of the timely transfer of records when families move to another authority, appropriate training and support for foster carers and their families, recording and sharing of information by schoolstaff, training for school staff on child protection and supervision of social work staff.
 
Recommendation 8 - All local authorities should make sure that when a child known to them moves to a different authority with their family, all the files or copies of the files are transferred immediately.  Staff in the receiving authority must be given time to read them fully and must appreciate the importance of doing so.
  
Recommendation 9 - Local authorities should make sure that all foster carers have access to training appropriate to their caring role.  The needs of foster carers’ own children should be considered and if necessary additional help offered to them through group or individual work.
 
Recommendation 10 -  Local authorities should make sure that there is a senior member of staff in every school responsible for recording and passing on to social work or other agencies any information about a child or their family where there are concerns about child protection.  If they record specific concerns in a child’s file which are not passed on to the relevant agency, the reason for this must also be recorded in the child’s file.
 

All NHS Boards

SWIA has recommended improved arrangements for the strategic management of child protection in primary care teams, the development of managed clinical networks to enable health professionals to access expertise in child protection and better coordination of services for children with complex additional needs.
 

All agencies involved in protecting children

SWIA has made a recommendation about risk assessment.  The agency has also identified the importance for all the agencies involved in protecting children to better bringtogether, analyse and regularly review the information they gather about a child and their family.  We have also recognised the demands placed upon staff who work in this difficult area and recommended accessible staff counselling.
 
Recommendation 16 - Where agencies know that a convicted sex offender is acting as a parent, social work managers and frontline staff should be informed.  They should make sure that risk assessments of the offender’s behaviour form part of a comprehensive assessment of the care and protection needs of the children.  Particular attention should be paid to the risks which the person presents in a family context and how this will be managed.  The assessment should also address the ability of the other parent to protect the children if necessary. 
 
Recommendation 17 - All of the agencies involved in protecting children must gather the information they have on individual children at risk into a chronology of key events and contacts, review it regularly and make sure that it is passed on to the professional with the lead role in protecting the child.  The professional with the lead role must co-ordinate this into a multi agency chronology on a regular basis.
 
Recommendation 18 - All agencies should make sure that staff engaged in work protecting children have access to confidential counselling which is separate from their line management.  Staff working in very distressing circumstances should be expected to have an initial meeting with an independent person outwith their organisation to discuss available options for support. 
 

The Scottish Executive

The SWIA has recommended that the Scottish Executive change the fostering regulations to ensure the robust assessment of relatives and friends when children are placed with them through a children’s hearing and take steps to improve the information available to children’s hearings.  In addition the SWIA recommends a national system is set up to provide advocates for children and guidance produced for professionals to enable children to express their views. Recommendations are made about a national training programme for chairs of child protection case conferences, best practice in the use of forensic medical evidence and the role of paediatricians in child protection work.  Two key recommendations are the establishment of a multi-agency resource to which all staff in Scotland working with complex child protection issues can draw upon for advice, expertise, training and research.  Firstly, it should include the development of  a national register of staff suitably qualified in joint investigative interviewing.  Secondly, SWIA recommend the Scottish Executive develop guidance to help professionals determine the most appropriate course of action where a child is found to be living in a household with a convicted sex offender.   
 

Further information

An inspection into the care and protection of children in Eilean Siar