Children’s social workers do not properly understand the role of probation trusts and youth offending teams when it comes to child safeguarding, an inspection has found.
The joint inspection, carried out by HM Inspectorate of Probation, followed mainstream inspections of youth offending team and probation work, which suggested that child protection was not being consistently delivered well enough.
Inspectors found children’s social care staff did not recognise the expertise, or explore the potential contribution, of probation staff when it came to child safeguarding.
The inspectors examined 85 referrals from probation trusts and youth offending teams to children’s social care services, 138 orders held by probation trusts and youth offending teams and 78 cases where a child protection plan had been, or was in, place.
Despite the requirement for joint safeguarding work, the contribution of youth offending teams and probation trusts is generally not well integrated into joint child protection work, inspectors found. This is due to a lack of knowledge about their respective roles.
Paul McDowell, chief inspector of probation, said child protection is not the sole responsibility of any one organisation. “The success of this important work is dependent on joint working arrangements between agencies,” he said. “But our inspection found that too often work took place in isolated organisational ‘silos’.”
Youth offending teams and probations trusts were also found to be undertaking little joint planning with other agencies, while the report identified recurrent poor practice.
It found children’s social care services did not always facilitate good information sharing, while co-operative work between agencies was discovered to be “confined to information sharing rather than effective joint intervention”.
Some good practice was also highlighted by inspectors, however. This included youth offending teams that were well connected to children’s social care services and some excellent direct work with children.
Among its recommendations to improve child safeguarding, the report said Local Safeguarding Children Boards would need to “promote better understanding across social care staff of the roles and responsibilities of probation and youth offending staff.”
McDowell added that if child protection arrangements are to be successful and effective, senior managers in probation services and youth offending services need to engage at a strategic level with other agencies.
This inspection precedes the introduction of integrated inspections of services for children, which is currently under consultation.