Support and protection for vulnerable children and young people in Hampshire is effective

Vulnerable children, young people and their families, in the Hampshire County Council local authority area, receive the right level of help at the right time as a result of highly effective multi-agency ‘front door’ services provided by health, children’s services and the Police

Feb 16 2022

This is one of the main findings following a joint targeted area inspection undertaken to pilot potential new arrangements for future inspections up and down the country. The findings were formally reported back to Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary and the NHS in a recent letter from the inspectors from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), as well as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
 
Councillor Roz Chadd, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services at the County Council, commented: “As an Ofsted judged outstanding local authority for children’s social care, our children’s services department was asked to take part in an inspection held to test the Inspectors’ proposed revised approach for future inspections. 
 
“We were pleased to support the pilot, in the interests of ensuring that future inspections are updated, and agencies continue to be thoroughly scrutinised. For the new inspection approach to be effectively examined, it was important that we treated this as an official routine inspection.  The findings, therefore, are equally credible. I had no doubts that our Children’s Services have maintained high performing standards, but this latest endorsement from external inspectors reinforces our confidence and should reassure Hampshire residents that we are responding to and supporting our most vulnerable children and young people in our county extremely well.”
 
Dr Sally Robins, Children and Maternity Clinical Lead for the Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, said:  “We work hard to ensure children and young people receive the right care at the right time across the county and so it is reassuring to read the findings from this report.
 
“We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure this vulnerable group in our communities receive the level of support they require.”
 
Inspectors were also impressed by the pioneering, collaborative agency work to safeguard children at risk of criminal exploitation, who go missing or who have been trafficked or smuggled; concluding that the quality of work is “consistently high”. This is attributed to strong and effective communication, including out of hours, which targets children most at risk and helps to keep vulnerable children safe. High-risk strategy meetings, attended by a broad range of professionals from the relevant services, helps to identify perpetrators and plan action to prevent children most at risk being drawn into gangs and associated areas of criminal and sexual exploitation. 
 
Multi-agency meetings held daily mean that information is quickly shared about children and victims at high risk of domestic abuse, resulting in early action being taken and support put in place for victims and their children. 
 
The inspection, which took place from 15 to 18 November 2021, also concluded: 
 
- Agencies work diligently together to help vulnerable children and to prevent risks from escalating

- Early Help Hubs provide sensitive, imaginative and innovative child-centred help and protection which is making a substantial difference to helping vulnerable children and their parents, reducing risk and improving their life chances

- Leaders have been quick to respond to the increase in demand for services. For example, in recognition of the 20% increase in referrals and assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic, additional health, police and children’s services staff have been employed in the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub

- Professionals retain a child-focused perspective, while being respectful and empathic of unmet parental needs. They ensure that the voice of the child is heard and the child’s views and lived experiences are at the centre of decisions

- Professionals make consistently strong efforts to understand parental history and trauma alongside the impact of mental illness, domestic abuse, poverty, addiction and insecure housing, evaluating how these and other vulnerabilities affect their ability to provide stable, safe and consistent care for their children
 
Overall, the inspection determined that “the safeguarding partnership in Hampshire is highly effective”.
 
Owing to this inspection being a pilot to test potential new arrangements, the agencies within the local partnership are not required to formally reply to the Inspectors with a written statement of proposed action that responds to the findings.