Fears over child protection decisions at Dorset County Council

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: AUDITS: Director of children’s services Sara Tough AUDITS: Director of children’s services Sara Tough

COUNCILLORS have raised concerns over the number of children being made subject to a second child protection plan within the space of a year.

Members of Dorset County Council’s audit and scrutiny committee asked for director of children’s services Sara Tough, to attend their meeting to address their concerns.

The concerns stem from a report showing the council was failing under a ‘performance indicator’ on the number of children who experience a second child protection plan in the space of 12 months, with the total figure for the year at 24.

Committee chairman Trevor Jones said: “We are concerned about some performance indicators being missed in a very sensitive area where there is enormous reputational risk to the authority if things go wrong.”

Mrs Tough explained that when a child was issued with a second child protection plan in a short space of time it led to questions over the decision to deregister the child in the first place and the plans put in place after that decision had been made.

She said that the number of children subject to child protection plans had increased significantly in the last year, from 243 to 292.

Mrs Tough added that audits were taking place to look at all 24 cases where a second plan had been made within a year.

She warned a similar audit had taken place around 18 months ago, looking at a smaller number of children and on that occasion no obvious pattern was revealed and in each case the decision to deregister was deemed to be the right decision at the time.

Mrs Tough said a review was also taking place of all the service’s performance management mechanisms that have recently been introduced to ensure they were still robust.

She said: “They are adequate and fit for purpose but we are reviewing them to be absolutely certain with the changes we have made.”

Committee chairman Trevor Jones moved to reassure the director that the body had asked her to attend so they could see if there were any ways they can support her work.

He said: “Historically nothing has meant more to this committee than to ensure that Dorset’s safeguarding arrangements for vulnerable children are of the highest quality we can achieve.

“We requested that you came in order to we can support you and say that wherever we have a role to play you must have the resources and support you need.”

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