Inspectors have praised the efforts of Hampshire County Council and partners working together in Hampshire, for the robust way they are keeping children across the county protected from abuse and neglect at home.
Their conclusions follow a joint inspection of Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services, Hampshire Constabulary, Health, and Probation Services, by Ofsted, HMI Constabulary, the Care Quality Commission and HMI Probation, that took place during December 2016. Its specific focus was on the multi-agency response to children living with domestic abuse.
Councillor Keith Mans, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, commented:
“I am very pleased with the findings of the Joint Targeted Area Inspection, and this affirms my view of how high the bar is set by this Authority and our partners to help keep children safe. I am fully aware of the commitment and dedication of our social care professionals, at all levels and I know this is something that all of the agencies at the centre of this inspection, have in common. The willingness of all partners to put the needs of the child first, and work together at every level to achieve the best outcomes for children, is something I regularly witness, first hand.”
Inspectors found that the overall standard of practice by Hampshire’s agencies in their response to domestic abuse is “strong”, and that strategic arrangements for responding to domestic abuse are “robust and highly effective”.
Importantly, their view was that “all partners are dedicated to improve outcomes for all vulnerable children, including those experiencing domestic abuse.” They added: “It is evident that leaders in all organisations are committed to the partnership and appropriately prioritise the protection of these children.” The Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board was also praised as being “dynamic and forward thinking”.
Inspectors highlighted that frontline social workers were knowledgeable about individual children and ensure that their needs are met at an appropriate level. Equally strong, is the way in which managers oversee and analyse the work of social workers - with Inspectors stating they had seen how this was improving outcomes for children.
Among “impressive” services that prevent risk, was the award winning police project, Operation CARA, which evidence shows reduces reoffending in domestic abuse cases. The inspectors’ view was that police officers prioritise “the protection of children living in homes where domestic abuse occurs”, and “routinely and appropriately identify and respond to domestic abuse incidents’” with “appropriate referrals into social care for consideration”.
Olivia Pinkney, Chief Constable Hampshire Constabulary, commented:
“This report underlines the crucial importance of partnership. As agencies we are committed to improving our own services but in assessing how good we are at keeping vulnerable people safe we must lift our heads and look at the full picture. For policing this means not just arrest rates but good information sharing and innovative approaches such as CARA that are actually proven to break the cycle of offending.
“I’m delighted that the joint inspection team looked at that full picture. Their conclusions underline that the people of Hampshire can take confidence in strong overall standards of practice. I hope that this will give any person or family suffering from the misery of domestic abuse the confidence to come forward and talk about it.”
A “clear commitment to partnership working” by the County Council impressed the Inspectors who reported that the “open style of leadership and innovation is creatively driven by the Director of Children’s Services. Considerable support for this innovation is offered from both the Lead Member and the Chief Executive.’ Their report includes an example of this: “a sophisticated understanding of domestic abuse [was] evident through the innovative role of the domestic abuse workers in the Family Intervention Team, based within the local authority child in need teams.” Inspectors stated that this “evidences a highly effective service that provides one of many examples where the strategic intention of the partnership has been successfully translated into practice.”
Furthermore, Inspectors noted the significant investment in bringing key expertise and resource, from each of the partners, together in a ‘Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub’ which they commented “supports effective and timely communication between these agencies.”
Heather Hauschild, who represents the NHS in Hampshire on the Safeguarding Children’s Board and Chief Officer at NHS West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are very pleased the inspectors highlighted our commitment to safeguarding children from abuse and neglect across Hampshire. We are dedicated to ensuring children’s safety and welfare come first.
“We are working together to improve the way we respond to and understand children’s needs and risks by making changes in primary care settings and co-locating health professionals within the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub with other agencies.”
Commenting on behalf of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company, Kim Thornden-Edwards, Chief Executive, said:
“We are pleased that the JTAI report recognises the importance of HIOW CRC’s ongoing collaboration in its role as a partner with other agencies. The CRC has a specific role working with offenders to manage risk and protect victims. Our new Interchange model will see our case managers working more in community and family settings, which will increase our opportunities to observe family interactions. We will continue to deliver Building Better Relationships, the nationally accredited domestic violence programme, and we are increasing our capacity to run more programmes and reduce any delays.”