£150k on child protection after damning report will be “worth every penny”, says leader

Spending £150,000 on improving Scottish Borders Council’s child protection procedures in the wake of a damning report will be “worth every penny”, the leader of the local authority has assured fellow councillors.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 11th March 2022, 2:04 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 2:04 pm
Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells.

Last year, council employee Linda McCall was found guilty of physically assaulting five vulnerable children over a 14-month period in 2016 and 2017.

A hard-hitting independent report from Andrew Webster QC labelled a delay of more than a year in reporting abuse claims to the council’s child protection unit as “reprehensible”.

At a meeting of the full council yesterday, Thursday, March 10, councillors agreed an action plan to address the concerns raised in Mr Webster’s report.

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There are ten recommendations for change which include improving child protection training, reviewing child protection and disciplinary procedures and improving communications with parents.

Councillors also rubber-stamped an outlay of £150,000 to help deliver the changes, money which council leader Mark Rowley said would prove to be “worth every penny”.

He said: “I don’t want to shy away from the fact that there is a significant financial investment side to this.

“The public will be looking at the six figure sum and thinking if that is the right thing for the council to be spending its money on. It’s worth every penny to get this absolutely right.

“Child protection, the safety of our children does not have a price. We have put additional resources in here and we are right to do so and we shouldn’t shy away from that or be embarrassed about it . Yes, this has cost the council a significant amount but it is worth it to get it right going forward. ”

Speaking in the debate, Hawick councillor Clair Ramage, a former teacher, welcomed the recommendations but urged that they are enforced and not left to “sit on a shelf gathering dust”.

She said: “After five years as a councillor I have come full circle. I frequently highlighted problems in schools, only to be told by the current administration that they were disappointed and saddened by my attitude.

“But how can you face a problem by burying your head in the sand? You have to face a problem to solve it. I am sad that it has taken an inquiry to put in place much-needed recommendations.

“There is a definite disconnect between schools and Scottish Borders Council and we have to sort that. As teachers SBC was often referred to as the ‘Ivory Tower’ and as teachers that is what we came across all the time.

“We need to ensure that this does not sit on a shelf gathering dust and that it is robustly implemented and continually referred to.”