Multi-agency report criticises social services’ criteria for intervention

Children are being put at risk because the criteria for calling
in social services to probe concerns are too limited, says a major
new report.

Safeguarding Children, compiled by eight independent
inspectorates including the Social Services Inspectorate, the
Commission for Health Improvement and Ofsted, reveals disquiet
among all agencies involved with children.

The agencies say the thresholds social services apply in their
children’s services are too high. They feel that social services
are unable to provide “an adequate response” to situations which do
not involve a high risk of serious harm to children and young

Mike Leadbetter, outgoing president of the Association of Directors
of Social Services, admitted that thresholds were too high. “In a
world where we’re fully staffed and where we’re resourced properly
we would want to intervene quicker,” he said.

The report highlights how some agencies are reluctant to refer
child welfare concerns to police and social services and others are
not well integrated into local safeguarding arrangements.

The report recommends that social services should “review the
thresholds” for providing services, for instigating child
protection enquiries and for holding initial child protection
conferences. Local agencies should be made aware of these

In all the agencies, not enough priority was given to safeguarding
in service planning or when allocating resources, the report finds,
adding that recruitment and retention difficulties were hindering

Lack of effective leadership and inconsistent support from other
local agencies prevented many area child protection committees
carrying out their responsibilities, the report adds.

The report recommends that government departments should:

  • Support agencies to recruit and retain enough qualified staff.
    Attention should be paid to the image, status, morale, remuneration
    and working conditions of specialist child protection staff.
  • Ensure that the safeguarding of children is reflected in
    national and local service planning.
  • Establish minimum expectations, standards and curriculum for
    child protection training as part of the core professional training
    of all professionals working with children and young people.
  • Consider whether ACPCs and multi-agency public protection
    panels should be put on a legal footing.

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