Work still to do on child protection

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THE way the council looks after children at risk of harm and neglect has improved since it was branded inadequate by Ofsted a year ago – but it is still not up to standard.

There are more permanent qualified staff, better working arrangements and assessment processes and they are managing to cope with an increasing workload.

More needs to be done but the service is on course to having an official Notice to Improve removed before March next year.

The latest inspection by Ofsted says: “Where risk of harm has already been identified, child protection enquiries are promptly undertaken by qualified social workers – children are seen and appropriate action taken to ensure their safety.”

Calderdale Council’s spokeswoman for children and young people services, Olwen Jennings, said the authority had come a long way in the past year.

“While inspectors have recognised the work that has been done, it is important that we do not falter in our determination to make Calderdale a safer place for our children to grow up in,” said Coun Jennings (Lib-Dem, Todmorden).

Director of children’s services Janet Donaldson said: “Our top priority is to ensure children are safe and I will not rest until I am sure that everything we do is as strong and robust as it should be.”

The Ofsted report published this week shows that many aspects of the management of work and initial information gathering is “weak” and some records do not provide evidence that information has been properly explored or subject to management scrutiny.

“The quality of referrals from partner agencies, including domestic abuse notifications from the police are variable. But the quality of initial and core assessments examined during the inspection is satisfactory.”

After last year’s report, the statutory organisation responsible for keeping children safe from harm was criticised for failing to show it had ever done anything useful and the chairman resigned.

The new chairwoman of the Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board, Jane Booth, said of the latest inspection: “The council, police, NHS and schools should work closely to bring about further improvements.

“We will continue to monitor progress to ensure that effective and lasting changes are made.”

Rizwan Patel, 26, and Alliah Bradshaw, 29, of Edward Street, Hebden Bridge, were jailed for three years in June 2009 after subjecting their six-week-old baby to a catalogue of abuse and then failed to seek medical help when she contracted meningitis.

The child, known as Baby H and who was on the at-risk register, had suffered brain damage and was left partially blind, deaf and with cerebral palsy.