Social workers in child neglect shock

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WIGAN youngsters may have been left open to neglect as parents were handed too many chances by social care professionals, a report has revealed.

A review of cases from across the country found a “mixed picture” in the quality of responses from local authorities and agencies.

Inspectors - from children’s watchdog Ofsted - used evidence from 11 authorities, including Wigan Council, and stressed “an urgent need” for improvement in social care practices. It also praised a section of Wigan’s care provision.

The report comes in the same week that a separate study by charity Action for Children said nearly three-quarters of children in the UK say they know another child suffering from neglect.

Anne Goldsmith, director for children and families at Wigan Council, said: “Child neglect is unacceptable and is treated very seriously.

“One of our key priorities as a council is to ensure that children and young people feel safe and are protected from any form of neglect, which is why we are working hard to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“Our Graded Care Profile, which is cited in the report as an example of best practice, is an example of the work we’re doing to prevent neglect and to identify the warning signs early. The profile encourages social workers along with other partners to work with parents to assess and address the issues before it’s too late.

“Wigan Safeguarding Children Board offers training to all professionals who work with children on the use of the Graded Care Profile and the detrimental impact neglect has on child development. We will continue to work hard to ensure that the borough’s children are protected from neglect.”

Children were being left in harmful situations for too long in nearly half of the long-term cases examined, the watchdog said.

The report concluded: “The quality of professional practice in cases of neglect is too variable, both between and within local authorities and by partner agencies.

“Some parents are given too many chances and some children are left in situations of neglect for far too long, with potentially very serious consequences. This is of serious concern.”

It also highlighted a lack of communication between local children’s safeguarding boards (LCSBs) about the extent of neglect in their area.

And professionals did not “consistently challenge” parents who failed to engage with child protection plans.

Debbie Jones, Ofsted’s director for social care, said: “It is widely accepted that neglect can have a devastating impact on the life chances of children and young people, and as recent high profile cases have shown, at its very worst, can be fatal.

“Some children live with serious and complicated difficulties in their families, and we need to examine what we can and should be doing to stop neglect far earlier in their lives.

“Absolutely vital to this is ensuring all social care practitioners are able to recognise the impact that neglect has on children, as well as being properly supported by skilled and experienced managers who are able to advise on help and intervention before the damage becomes irreparable.

Wigan’s Graded Care Profile was highlighted as being “strongly supported by the LCSB” as an example of how local authorities “have introduced specific material to support practitioners in assessing the degree of risk to a child.”

The review took into account the views of parents, carers, council professionals and partner agencies.

No children were found to be at immediate risk of harm at the time of the inspection, Ofsted added.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The report highlights the devastating consequences neglect can have on vulnerable children, which is why we’ve been clear that anyone working with children should take swift action when alerted to the early signs of abuse and neglect.”