SBC is praised for child protection work, though improvements needed

VULNERABLE children in the Borders need more support.

That’s the view of the Care Inspectorate following a visit last year.

At last week’s council meeting, councillors were told that while inspectors praised Scottish Borders Council (SBC) for their child protection, they highlighted areas for improvement.

Key strengths were that children, parents and carers have ‘positive and respectful relationships’ with staff and there is evidence that staff listen to their views. In her report to councillors, child protection lead officer Gillian Nicol said: “The (care inspectorate) report highlights that staff are alert to the signs that children and young people are at risk and respond promptly, contributing to clear effective and sensitive action plans to keep children safe in the short term.”

But the council was criticised for its ongoing care of children at risk.

The Care Inspectorate’s managing inspector Joan Lafferty reported: “Overall children are kept safe and their circumstances improve in the short term. For some, their lives continue to improve. However, some children do not get all the support they need to ensure their long-term wellbeing.”

Specialist services were not always available and while staff from children’s mental health services provide good support for children with emotional difficulties, “some children have to wait too long for help to recover from the effects of abuse or neglect”, she said.

“The limited number of local foster carers results in some looked-after children living at considerable distances from their home communities. More attention needs to be given to ensuring children in such circumstances attend school regularly and keep in contact with family and friends.”

Staff worked well together she said but would benefit from more training to help them focus on what is needed to improve children’s longer-term wellbeing.

And she said systems need to be set up to monitor how well the needs of vulnerable children of all ages are being met.

The inspectors agreed the areas for improvement with council staff and said they were confident the changes would be made so would not be back to check.

For its part SBC is going to set up “a robust performance and outcomes framework” to measure how it is doing in helping children. It is considering advocacy services for children and will organise a system whereby a named person will take action if a child needs extra help. It also plans to develop health assessments for children and alter its training to help meet children’s longer term needs.

Officials are also going to put forward plans to increase the amount of money foster carers receive in a bid to encourage more foster families to come forward.

And SBC staff are going to work with a Care Inspectorate link officer to develop self evaluation processes.