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CAMBRIDGESHIRE UNDER FIRE FOR FAILING TO PROTECT CHILDREN

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Management at Cambridgeshire CC's social services department has been heavily criticised in a report on its child p...
Management at Cambridgeshire CC's social services department has been heavily criticised in a report on its child protection service.

The Social Services Inspectorate report was prompted by the death of six-year-old Rikki Neave in 1994 and the subsequent sentencing of his mother for cruelty and neglect. It said that more than two years after Rikki's death an action plan to address flaws in the child protection service had still not been prepared. An inspection also found the plan eventually drawn up fell behind schedule very rapidly.

SSI chief inspector Sir Herbert Laming said: 'Despite past statements by the council, serious and deep concerns remain about Cambridgeshire's ability to protect vulnerable children. Dedicated front-line staff have struggled to do their best. Their efforts have been frustrated by an absence of direction, effective procedures and efficient management.'

In particular, the report highlighted a lack of decisive action when social workers failed to cope, no reviews of staff workloads or the way money was spent, no strategy for tackling hostile parents, a lack of staff monitoring and a lack of appropriate training.

An absence of leadership and support was identified among management. The management structure was too complex and information about cases difficult to monitor due to the lack of an appropriate system.

Tad Kubisa was social services director from 1985 until 1996, when Ted Unsworth took over. Mr Unsworth left to join charity Turning Point last month. The present acting director is Brian Waller, who recently retired as Leicestershire's social services director.

Cambridgeshire social services chairman John Holdich said: 'Our sole aim is to improve the level of childcare in Cambridgeshire and to fully restore confidence in social services. I am under no illusion how difficult this is going to be.'

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