Care for at-risk children in Aberdeen praised

Inspection report highlights service strengths but says more needs to be done to help young people leaving care

Wednesday 4th September 2019

A wide range of services is available to help children and young people in Aberdeen who have experienced abuse and neglect, with staff confident at recognising the signs of risk, according to a recent inspection report.

Led by the Care Inspectorate, officials highlighted strengths in the way children and young people in need of care and protection in the area are supported.

In Aberdeen there were 83 children and young people, from 57 families, on the child protection register at the end of December last year – a number which has remained “fairly static” over time.

There were 550 children and young people being looked after in 2017-18, a decrease from 590 the previous year. This equates to 1.6% of the 0-17 age group – higher than the national figure of 1.4%.

The inspection, carried out between January and May this year, involved looking at a range of services under the umbrella of the Aberdeen Community Partnership.

It includes Aberdeen City Council, NHS Grampian, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Services and the voluntary sector.

The report found staff were having a positive impact on the quality and stability of care and support experienced by children and young people and their families by emphasising and building on strengths in families.

Staff were confident in recognising the signs of risk of harm and responses to immediate risk of significant harm were ‘effective’.

Services were said to be working well together to assess and plan support so that vulnerable women, and their unborn babies, could receive the help they needed at an early stage.

For example, it noted the percentage of births affected by maternal drug use during pregnancy in Aberdeen has remained higher than the Scottish average for the past six years.

A child protection clinic that monitors the health needs of children with drug withdrawal symptoms, foetal alcohol syndrome, historical abuse or neglect has been set up in response.

Inspectors also praised a wide range of ‘universal and targeted’ support services available which helped children, young people and their families to recover from experiences of abuse and neglect.

However, areas for improvement were also identified, including around ‘corporate parenting’ responsibilities – with the quality of planning for children and young people leaving care found to be ‘variable’.

The report noted: ‘Less than half of plans to meet the needs for this group of young people that we read were evaluated as good or above and the reviewing of these plans was evaluated as weak in a small but significant number of young people’s records.’

Inspectors also found that children and young people in need of care and protection were not benefitting from timely assessment of their health needs and there were gaps in some services to address their emotional health and wellbeing.

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said inspectors were confident the Aberdeen Community Partnership can continue to improve.

He said: “This is based in part on the robust frameworks which are in place to ensure that Aberdeen’s children and young people at immediate risk of harm are, and remain, safe.”

He added: “Careful attention to the governance and oversight of child protection has paid dividends in supporting improvements.

“Partners now need to ensure they pay equal attention to governance arrangements for looked after children and young people and those who are care experienced in order to achieve similar results.”

Aberdeen Community Partnership said it was delighted at the positive feedback, noting in a statement that “The partnership’s ambition is to ensure the best possible outcomes for all our young people, regardless of their circumstances, through innovation and partnership working and so this report is a welcome boost.”