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In a series of inspections across Wales in 2001 and 2002, inspectors found that child protection services were not ...
In a series of inspections across Wales in 2001 and 2002, inspectors found that child protection services were not operating consistently to the high standards required. A report published by the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales reveals a high level of concern about the way in which some councils were carrying out their work to safeguard vulnerable children.

Jane Hutt, the minister for health and social services said: 'This report contains some very important messages for all who have responsibilities for making sure that child protection services keep children safe from harm and abuse. These messages will help to inform both the work we are doing in response to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry and also the review of safeguards for children in Wales, chaired by Gwenda Thomas AM.'

Graham Williams, chief social services inspector, said: 'I am pleased that inspectors found a good response by social services to clear-cut cases of abuse. There was considerable evidence of the dedication with which staff carried out their role and responsibilities. However, we are concerned about the lack of consistency in dealing with less obvious cases. This report demonstrates once again that there is challenging agenda for improving child protection services in Wales. It also showed how some councils are striving to bring about these improvements. We must learn from those who are providing a good service to vulnerable children and their families. The Social Services Inspectorate will continue helping councils to tackle effectively the issues identified in the report, including problems in recruiting and retaining staff'.

The gaps and delays in providing services most frequently brought to the attention of inspectors were in:

* child and adolescent mental health services and therapeutic work with children

* intensive help for parents with mental health problems, substance misuse issues or limited parenting skills

* services for disabled children

* programmes of intervention with adult offenders

The better-performing councils were responding to these problems because of good leadership from councillors and managers. They focused on delivering a quality child protection service by:

* listening to children and their families

* increasing the range of services available

* improving social work practice

* encouraging more effective multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working together

* getting the whole council to accept responsibility for safeguarding children

Some of the work done to protect children was described as excellent.

Social services responded quickly in cases where there had been clear allegations of deliberate harm or when referrals to social services described very high levels of obvious risk. Families valued highly services such as family centres and flexible home-based support.

However, in many of the cases seen by inspectors, there were problems in delivering an effective child protection service. The problems were often the result ofdifficulties experienced by councils in providing enough skilled social workers, because of a national shortage.

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