Safeguarding children review

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A COUNCILLOR has raised concerns about senior council staff being over stretched and has called for a vacant director’s post to be filled.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said “too much is dependent on too few people” at Hartlepool Borough Council and believes the authority should recruit for the post of director of child and adult services.

The position has been vacant since former director Nicola Bailey took up the role of acting chief executive.

When Mrs Bailey left the council to work within the NHS, as managing director of North Durham Clinical Commissioning Group, Dave Stubbs was appointed chief executive.

But the director of child and adult services post remained vacant with the role continuing to be shared between assistant directors until a permanent appointment or another arrangement through collaboration work with neighbouring councils is decided.

Coun Hill said: “There is too much dependent on too few people at the very top.

“While the people that I am talking about are very passionate, committed and hard working there is only so many hours in the day.

“It is time we recruited for a director of child and adult services.”

Coun Hill made the comments during a cabinet committee meeting to discuss the findings of a recent peer review into safeguarding children services.

Sally Robinson, the council’s assistant director, prevention, safeguarding and specialist services, said the council had requested the Peer Review, which took place over five days in September, to examine how the authority and its partners are fulfilling its responsibilities.

The review team was made up of six sector professionals including health, early intervention and social work and was led by the director of children‘s services from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

Key strengths included:

l Strong commitment at every level to improve outcomes for children;

l Highly motivated and passionate workforce;

l Safeguarding is understood and prioritised by all partners.

The review team also highlighted areas that needed “further consideration” including:

l Practice in relation to neglect needs to be reviewed to ensure it does not “mask” other issues such as emotional and sexual abuse;

l Welfare reform needs to be communicated to the workforce so everyone is aware of the impact the changes will have;q

l Capacity and resilience relies on a few key individuals which presents a “major risk” in terms of resilience of the organisation and the partnership.

An action plan had been developed to address the areas of concern.

Coun Hill said: “All Peer Review teams seem to have a bee in their bonnet about welfare reform.

“Everybody in the council, including staff members, are aware of the impact of welfare reforms and we have banged on about this for months.”

Coun Hill, who also said monitoring of services commissioned by the local authority was vitally important, added: “We have to be absolutely sure that we are getting value for money and that the people that we serve are not being let down.”