“I am pleased to hear that the extra £6.5 million investment we have made in children’s social care is starting to pay dividends in terms of creating additional capacity among social work teams. This means that social workers can spend more of their time working directly with families so that children can remain living safely at home, as they should be able to, but only when the circumstances are right. Over time, the positive impact of this will become even more evident as we start to see fewer children needing our care and protection, with more help given to families so they can stay together and children are kept safe.”
The report confirms that the number of calls and emails to Children’s Services, from the public and professionals who have concerns about a child, went up by 22 per cent (106,010 compared to 87,235 in the previous year). There was also an increase in the number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) requiring support - accounting for half of the increase in the number of children in care.
A strength of the service, highlighted by the report, is the number of well-timed visits by social workers to families. Cabinet members were informed that the more active intervention of social workers that has been possible in recent years has contributed significantly to reducing the length of time children need to have a child protection plan in place, with few requiring a repeat plan within two years.
Cited as an ongoing concern is the risk of child sexual exploitation, and adding to this, the growing issue of ‘county lines’ – the recruitment of vulnerable children by inner city gangs to supply drugs to suburban areas and rural and coastal towns. The report explains how, in working with the Police, the County Council’s Willow Team (a multi-agency team of specialist social and health workers) is being effective in disrupting county line activity and preventing vulnerable children from falling victim to such gangs.