Saturday, 20 November 2004

Capital audit confirms resources are the key to child protection
UNISON's long campaign in Edinburgh to expose the lack of resources affecting child protection and child care work has been confirmed by an expert external audit of child protection.

The council has responded positively by accepting all the recommendations and immediately pumping new money into buildings and IT support.

John Stevenson, Edinburgh UNISON branch secretary, said, "We welcome this action but it has been a long haul. We took a grievance to councillors as long ago as 2001 about this, and we argued that the O'Brien report into the death of Caleb Ness was flawed and had missed this point.

"Now at last a report by three independent experts has found that resources are the key issue thwarting social workers' child protection work".

A council meeting in August received an audit commissioned by the council in the wake of the O'Brien Inquiry. Professor Stewart Forsyth, ex senior police officer Douglas Kerr and widely respected social work consultant Anne Black closely examined 41 cases of children on the child protection register and looked at the social work, health and police involvement.

"Their detailed 187 page report is the most extensive ever provided for a local authority in my experience", said John.

"As well as the resources issue, another of their key findings was that information is still not being shared and that often social workers are powerless to get other agencies to pass on information or attend case conferences.

"Even the audit had difficulty getting access to health files", he added. "This report shows the council must act now and it must make sure specialist resources, management and support are carried into the new Children & Families Department.

"It also has to address pay urgently to retain its skilled staff. The council can act now but in the medium term the Scottish Executive must act to make the funds available", said John.

The report itself says:- "Our audit has identified many very hard working, skilled and dedicated professionals in the key agencies working together to try to protect children and make their care safer.

"We remain concerned that in the absence of adequate resources and without the resolution of the remaining problems in sharing sensitive information across agencies there remain some children whose safety cannot be assured"

The audit found that there were social work staff shortages, inadequate admin support, poor IT resources, a lack of placements for children and poor buildings and working conditions. It did address some areas of practice but put this firmly in a resources context and praised staff for the quality of work and reports, noting that the social work report was often the only report available to case conferences.

UNISON Edinburgh Branch has issued its own response to the audit's 49 recommendations. See

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