CHESHIRE West and Chester Council has been praised for finding vital resources to protect the needs of the area’s most vulnerable youngsters.
In her annual report Audrey Williamson, independent chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) highlights the significant challenges and changes faced by many organisations involved in the protection of children.
The Cheshire West and Chester LSCB maintains oversight of these changes and their impact.
Mrs Williamson said: “It is heartening to be able to write that our LSCB agencies have continued to prioritise safeguarding and have protected the resources required to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children.
“Many bodies and organisations have faced significant challenges this year and LSCBs are crucial in assuring the needs of the most vulnerable remain paramount in the light of these challenges.
“Organisations, including the council, health provider agencies and commissioners, the police and voluntary and faith sector agencies, have experienced further decreases in resources.
“We will seek to maintain and improve the quality of services which safeguard and promote the well-being of children, strengthen the voice of the child in our work and listen to the experiences of families who receive services.”
From April 2012 to April 2013, a total of 477 children were the subject of a Child Protection Plan. During the year 227 new plans were created, giving a rate of 31.6 per 10,000 children against the national rate of 37.9 per 1,000 children.
In the same year 397 youngsters were living in the care of the local authority – an increase of 53 from the beginning of 2012 – and marginally above the average rates for CWAC’s neighbours and all-England data.
The Local Authority invited a team of external professionals to act as ‘critical friends’ in examining arrangements for Children in Care.
Cllr Mark Stocks, executive member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “The protection of our children is a priority of this council and of the £113m saved by the authority since its implementation, we have been able to plough back around £14m into children’s services.
“Much of this money has gone directly into protecting children at risk which is why we have been able to maintain progress in the face of reduced central grant.”
Opposition spokesman for Education and Children’s Services, Cllr David Armstrong, said: “I am pleased the authority has been able to maintain the resources necessary to protect our most vulnerable children.
“I would also like to thank Mrs Williamson and the CWAC Local Safeguarding Children’s Board for their excellent work during the year and hope it will be possible to maintain this standard in the future.”
The report reveals 54 per cent of all child protection plans were delivered for children under the age of five years and that neglect and emotional abuse were the most prevalent reasons for issue.
Fifty-six per cent of all plans for neglect were for children under five and 71 percent for physical abuse fell in the same age group.
Mrs Williamson added: “We need to think carefully about the services offered to families and whether they are providing the right support at the right time.
Nonetheless, we must also be assured that when a child needs to be taken into care that this happens swiftly; and later, that they are fully involved in planning for their needs.”