Services to protect children and young people in the South Ayrshire Council area have received their highest ever ratings from inspectors in a report published today (Thursday), placing them among some of the best in the country.
The report from the Care Inspectorate sets out the findings of a detailed inspection – which took place in November and December 2011 – of services provided by the Children's Reporter, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, South Ayrshire Council, Strathclyde Police and voluntary and independent organisations to protect children under 18 years of age.
The Care Inspectorate reviewed a number of case files and talked to a number of children, their parents and carers regarding their views on the services they had received. Inspectors also spoke to staff who had worked with children, parents and carers as well as senior managers.
Inspectors assessed four of the six quality indicators – children are listened to and respected; children are helped to keep safe; meeting needs and reducing long-term harm; and improvements in performance – as very good, which means these areas show major strengths. The remaining two indicators (response to immediate concerns and self-evaluation) were rated as good, highlighting a number of important strengths as well as some areas for improvement. The ratings place South Ayrshire as one of the top ten performing areas in the country in relation to child protection.
Councillor Nan McFarlane, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Social Services, said: "This is the best ever report on child protection we have seen in South Ayrshire and one of the best in the country so I'm delighted to see it published today, reflecting how far we have come over the last few years.
"We all have a duty to protect our children and young people and the report endorses the approach being taken across South Ayrshire to do just that. And not only are our services clearly doing their job in supporting vulnerable children, there's also been a significant amount of work undertaken to provide information and guidance for those people who may be concerned about a child so they know exactly what to do and who to contact.
"Child protection is one of the most important jobs we have to do as a Council and we're obviously doing that extremely well, which is great news."
David Anderson, Chair of the Public Protection Chief Officers' Group (COG) and Chief Executive of South Ayrshire Council, said: "I'm delighted the inspectors recognise the strength and quality of the partnership working in place at all levels to ensure services deliver for the most important people – South Ayrshire's children and young people – and genuinely make a difference for them.
"I'm particularly pleased the inspectors highlight that the tailored and flexible approaches taken to child protection in South Ayrshire are reaping benefits for the children and families involved and that, during child protection investigations – which can be extremely distressing for all concerned – families are being kept very well informed.
"Our priority is to ensure everything we do focuses on what's best for the child or young person at that point of time and we take great care and pride in ensuring that we achieve this consistently.
"We can always do better and will continue our work to improve the services we offer; however, in the meantime, I would like to thank all those who have played their part in delivering child protection services and achieving positive outcomes for children and young people in South Ayrshire."
The inspectors recognised a number of particular strengths that made a difference to children and families in South Ayrshire, including:
- Highly flexible support provided to meet children and families' needs at an early stage.
- Staff sharing responsibility and working very well together to meet children's needs and improve their future outcomes.
- Very effective work by staff to gain children and families' trust and confidence.
- Clear leadership and direction which is motivating staff to make and sustain improvements.
In the inspection report, a number of South Ayrshire projects are recognised as examples of good practice by the inspectors including the award-winning Positive Attitudes to Alcohol Peer Education project, where S6 pupils deliver a four-week programme to all S1 pupils to help them change their attitudes to alcohol and learn how to keep themselves and others safe.
Also commended was the positive partnership working between health, education and social work staff to ensure the most vulnerable young children get the best possible start in life and a project to provide young people with easy access to sexual health advice and support to promote their physical and emotional well-being.
Mandy Yule, Director of Integrated Care and Partner Services – NHS Ayrshire & Arran, commented: "We welcome the findings of the Care Inspectorate report. We are very pleased that the report recognises that we are working hard to protect children and we will learn from the recommendations for areas to improve."
Superintendent Helen Swann from Strathclyde Police added: "Strathclyde Police Ayrshire Division welcomes the constructive and valuable feedback contained in this report. We are fully committed to working with our partners to improve in the areas identified and to build upon the strong foundations recognised by the Care Inspectorate so that we continue to protect South Ayrshire's children and keep people safe."
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the South Ayrshire Community Planning Board, added: "The strengths recognised within this report are a terrific example of community planning in practice with the partners coming together with one sole aim – to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society today.
"Together, we have made a number of positive steps forward to ensure we all provide children and young people – and their families – with the right support, in the right way and at the right time. It's clear this is happening on an increasing basis and I am confident the partner agencies will continue to work in a positive way that puts our children and young people first."
Inspectors agreed two areas for improvement with services in the South Ayrshire Council area:
- Ensure information is shared promptly to allow risks and needs to be fully assessed.
- Continue to strengthen approaches to joint self-evaluation and ensure these are informed by children and families' views.
They also confirmed they are confident the services will be able to make the necessary improvements and will not make any more visits in connection with this inspection.
A copy of the full South Ayrshire Council area inspection report as well as the good practice case studies can be found at www.careinspectorate.com.