No change, but regional variations, in children’s services

The Quality Protects programme is diverting some experienced
staff away from frontline mainstream services, according to a
Department of Health report published this week, writes
Clare Jerrom

‘Developing Quality to Protect Children’ is a report
based on inspections of children’s services between August
1999 and July 2000, and provides a baseline from which it will be
possible to measure improvements in the effectiveness of the
services, as the Quality Protects initiative and Best Value reviews
make their impact.

The report found that over the 12-month period of this programme
of inspections, there was no clear pattern of change in the overall
quality of the services provided.

Social services provided a wide range of services, though some
councils were not providing them in full across their entire

A high proportion of services had been restructured, or were
undergoing reorganisation, and in some cases staff anxieties and
resistance was high.

London councils have the worst staffing difficulties in
children’s services and the most problematic services,
although vacancies were a significant issue in a large number of

Vacant posts and associated use of agency staff was clearly
associated with poorly performing services

Even the early inspections indicated the Quality Protects
programme was being implemented, though some local councils were
further ahead than others.

Inter-agency collaboration was widely accepted, and the
inspections found evidence of councils revitalising their planning
systems. On the whole, health agencies and education authorities
were positive about the way they were involved.

There were also marked improvements in how social services
departments worked with education and housing departments.

Child protection was still seen as the surest way to ensure a
service from social services, although some problems were
highlighted in this area.

Once a child was identified as in need of protection, their
welfare was usually safeguarded, but there were exceptions. In six
per cent of almost 300 cases examined, children were found not to
have been adequately safeguarded.

Levels of current training in child protection, and especially
inter-agency work, were judged to be low.

A substantial minority of parents had negative views about the
quality of work undertaken with them. Forty-five per cent felt
dissatisfied, although a majority said they were kept informed
about developments and were invited to meetings.

The full report is available at





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