Rise in the number of safeguarding concerns raised about children in Cornwall

26th October, 2021 2:31 pm

The boss of children’s services at Cornwall Council highlighted that while the service is in the top 10% in the country it is in the lowest 20% in terms of funding.

An increase in demand for services aimed to protect children in Cornwall could affect how effective they are in future councillors have been warned.

Cornwall Council’s children’s services were given an “outstanding” rating when they were last inspected in 2019, putting them amongst the best in the country and turning around the fortunes of a service which had previously been described as “inadequate”.

The council’s children and families overview and scrutiny committee heard yesterday that while standards had been maintained and improvements continued to be made, that high performance could be affected by an increase in demand for services.

Children’s service bosses also highlighted that funding could also have an impact as while Cornwall is in the top 10% for performing services in the country it is in the bottom 20% for the amount of money it receives from the Government.

Ben Davies, service director for children and families services, told councillors: “The biggest single primary risk to our work is the sheer volume of work that is bearing down on staff and practitioners.”

He explained that before and during the pandemic the council had seen an increase in child protection enquiries. This was also seen nationally but Mr Davies said that the council had managed to limit the increase.

“We have been highly effective in suppressing the national pattern of increases. We have done that by helping more families at an earlier stage and more effectively before problems become such that they need intervention and are harder to tackle.”

Mr Davies said that the increased demand made it challenging for managers to monitor risk factors due to the volume and intensity of the work coming forward.

He said: “We continue to work extremely hard to manage those demands and maintain our performance. We have an exceptional group of managers and staff in Cornwall who make an enormous effort and personal sacrifice to ensure that children can prosper in Cornwall.”

In 2020/21 the number of child protection enquiries increased by 29.3% and has increased by more than 80% since 2017/18.

A report to the committee explained: “This is due in part to our work raising awareness, understanding and a more effective response to neglect, child sexual abuse in the family environment, along with campaigns to raise awareness of increasing contextual risks such as child exploitation and raising awareness of child sexual abuse within the family environment.”

Committee member Pat Rogerson said she thought it was a “really shocking figure” and that it was “really worrying” that there had been an increase in child protection enquiries.

She also praised the council department for being committed to providing safe and suitable housing for 16 and 17-year-olds leaving care.

Mr Davies said that the council worked “extremely hard” to ensure that those young adults are placed in appropriate accommodation and assured councillors that all placements were suitable.

He also highlighted that the biggest single cost for children’s social care is high-cost placements for children with complex individual needs. The report highlighted that costs had increased by 37% between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

Mr Davies said that the services required can be “extremely expensive to the council and extremely difficult to obtain good outcomes for those children”.

He said that some care packages might cost £10,000 a week or more and he highlighted that in residential care there has been an increase of £660 a week for some placements.

Source: Rise in the number of safeguarding concerns raised about children in Cornwall – Cornwall Live (October 2021)

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