Headlines: February 14th, 2006

More than 26,000 ‘at risk’ children in England would have a better life if their parents were given more support by local councils, according to a report today from the Commission for Social Care Inspection. The report says that too often services focus only on the need to protect children.The Commission says the children on the Child Protection Register have come from families where parents experience domestic violence, drug and alcohol use, serious mental health problems or physical disabilities as well as problems of housing, immigration or debt. Sometimes, it says, they face a mix of several complex problems at the same time.

Too often, the report goes on, services focus only on the need to protect children, rather than sorting out the root causes and dealing with the problems of their parents. Dame Denise Platt, Chair of the Commission said, “The challenge for local councils is to protect and support children through what may be a very difficult period of their lives, while at the same time helping their parents to overcome their problems and maintain a stable family environment.”

She said society’s aim had to be to do everything to make it safe for children to live with their parents and families but there was little hope of helping children to remain part of a stable, successful family unit if there was not support for parents to overcome their problems.

The report makes a number of recommendations to policy makers, local Safeguarding Children Boards and Directors of Children’s Services as well as to practitioners and researchers. It wants to see a review of and changes to the eligibility criteria for adult services so the needs of parents are properly addressed. It also calls for mechanisms to ensure all the agencies involved work together and it highlights the need for effective leadership, a clear sense of strategic direction, and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities.