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Agenda item

Neglect in County Durham


The Committee received a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services which provided an update on Neglect in County Durham and a presentation by the Strategic Manager for the One Point and Think Family Service (for copies see file of minutes).


The Committee received a presentation which highlighted the definition of neglect, the causes, the impact of neglect on children, the link between neglect and poverty, the neglect of older children and lessons learned from the JTAI and progress of actions by the LSCB Neglect sub-group.


The Chairman commented on the high number of cases in Durham which were categorised under neglect and it was established that although tge figure for Durham was higher compared to the North East and Nationally, there were questions with regards to the way information was recorded and when combining all categories, the overall figure was similar.  Durham had a low emotional harm figure.


Councillor Considine confirmed that as a member of the Fostering Panel, she had undertaken a very informative 1-hour training course with regards to Signs of Safety and suggested that it would be beneficial for Members to participate and especially those of whom were school governors.


Councillor Brookes said that the increase in abuse could not solely be put down to social economics and he suspected the prevalence of neglect had rocketed as services made improvements to the identification process and it was reassuring because it showed staff training was working, however he asked for further information on the way that data was recorded.  The Corporate Equality and Strategy Manager confirmed that socio-economics had been stable over a number of years, however changes over the past few years there had been changes in employment and welfare reform and the creation of a ‘working poor’.  Although a small number, people on benefits, with low incomes and essentially little money, were more prone to having children who suffered from neglect.


The Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services added that there was a question over how the government defined poverty, as it was no longer unemployed families who were suffering, but working families were under pressure due to increased childcare costs and fuel and rent increases.


With regards to identifying the signs of neglect, the Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services confirmed that schools were excellent at identifying signs of neglect and they were not afraid to make referrals if they had concerns about children.


Councillor Kennedy referred to the figures given on the number of children on the rate of neglect by deprived areas and queried whether more area-specific information could be provided.  The Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services confirmed that a cluster map could be provided, to demonstrate hotspot areas in the County.


Councillor Kennedy confirmed that there were positive relationships between the VCS, schools and One Point in her area and the community centre often provided free food and activities for children who were identified as being in need.


Councillor Bainbridge asked how many people were on the vulnerable parent pathway and the Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services confirmed that there were between 2500 families at any one time working with One Point but she couldn’t confirm the proportion of those whom were categorised as neglect, although it was high.  Within Families First there were between 1000-1500 and they included children in need, those with a child protection plan and those undergoing safeguarding proceedings.


Councillor Jewell asked how confident Children and Young People’s Services were that they were picking everyone up and whether services had a proactive or reactive approach.  The Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services confirmed that she was confident that the approach was more proactive than in the past, the Home Environment Assessment Tool which was undertaken by Midwives and Health Visitors during pregnancy and shortly after birth was able to highlight concerns very early on and schools were also playing a huge role in addressing concerns.  She could never say that every child was picked up as there were still those late night Police referrals, however they were much less common.


Councillor Charlton queried the ability of secondary schools in identifying and referring neglect as children were less open the older they got.  The Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services confirmed that as children got older, they were identified by risk taking and anti-social behaviour, and mental health issues.


Councillor Kennedy confirmed that she knew from experience working in secondary school that separate pastoral teams would work with children and families, and if they did not attend meetings, a referral to One Point would be made and information would be passed on. 


The Operations Manager, First Contact, also added that it was difficult to identify signs and symptoms of neglect in teens as much of the behaviour displayed, mimicked normal adolescent behaviour.


Councillor Hopper queried whether adequate measures were in place to monitor the frequent movement of families’ from one local authority to another and the Strategic Manger - OP/Think Family Services, confirmed that there were procedures in place and a recent case which had been managed successfully.


Councillor Patterson confirmed that there was a worrying increase with regards to neglect and the National funding formula did not take into account the additional burden on schools to deal with it.  She suggested that there was a lack of hard evidence which demonstrated the link between Children and Young People’s Services and Public Health and suggested a fact find review may need to take place as children needed better outcomes.  The Strategic Manager - OP/Think Family Services, confirmed that the figures were being scrutinised to ensure problem areas were being targeted.




That the report and presentation be noted.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714