A largely positive report on Shetland’s child protection services was published today following a visit by the Care Inspectorate in October.
The inspection included services provided by health services, the police, the council and the children’s reporter, as well as voluntary and independent organisations.
It focused on six areas: how well children and young people are listened to, understood and respected; how they benefit from strategies to minimise harm; how they are helped by the actions taken in immediate response to concerns; and how well their needs are met. These areas were all found to be good or very good.
Service improvements through self-evaluation and improvements in performance were also looked at and recommendations made, but in general inspectors were impressed by the services and will make no follow-up visits.
The report highlights the services’ key strengths as very prompt and effective action by staff to help keep children safe and effective communication with children and families to build trusting relationships.
Some examples of good practice were praised by the inspectors, such as the Bridges Project, which aims to improve life chances for certain young people between the ages of 15 and 19. This has also been commended by the Christie Commission.
In addition inspectors commended the early identification and co-ordination of support for vulnerable children through continuous inter-agency work.
The report showed that staff from social work, health, the police service and education met regularly to ensure vulnerable families are identified promptly and support given quickly and for as long as needed. Children are kept safe by speedy and decisive action and families are treated sensitively, with their views taken seriously. However support at evenings and weekends is limited and parents with mental health issues do not always get help quickly enough.
Following the publication of the report, chief officials and the child protection committee have drawn up an improvement plan to address those areas.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said he felt the report was realistic, demonstrating the good work done by dedicated professionals in all services in Shetland, but highlighting some important issues which needed to be strengthened.
Chief inspector of police Angus MacInnes said that this had been a thorough inspection that had looked at child protection issues at every level within the agencies which provide this service in Shetland, and it was encouraging to see that the daily on-going work effectively protects children. He added that, as the new Shetland area commander for Northern Constabulary, he would work with his colleagues to ensure the provision of the leadership and direction for the continued improvement of services in Shetland.
SIC chief executive Alistair Buchan welcomed the report and said that the improvement plan sets out the agenda to take forward young peoples’ services in Shetland.
The officials said they were very grateful to all the staff, service providers and service users who made time to meet the inspectors, which was an enormous help in ensuring they got a full picture of the work done and means that there can be confidence in their findings.