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CHILDREN AT RISK STILL FAILED BY EDINBURGH

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By Kerry Lorimer ...
By Kerry Lorimer

Edinburgh City Council is still providing inadequate protection for children almost a year after it was criticised for its handling of the Caleb Ness tragedy.

Staff shortages, poor use of social workers' time and an unwillingness to share information by all child protection agencies were among the failings identified by a damning external audit.

The review, commissioned by chief executive Tom Aitchison, concluded: 'Despite the hard work and dedication of frontline workers, all children on the child protection register are not as safe as they should be.

'During the audit, it was apparent that children and families practice social work staff are doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances,' it said.

'However, hard-pressed staff - often working with little support, poor and sometimes non-existent IT equipment - cannot provide a proper service to all the children on the child protection register.'

The team, made up of independent social work consultant Anne Black, consultant paediatrician Stewart Forsyth and retired police officer Douglas Kerr, examined a sample of 41 cases and made 49 conclusions, of which 20 relate to the city council.

Recommendations include the appointment of social work assistants to reduce the burden on qualified staff and the improvement of IT support.

The findings follow last year's report into the death of baby Caleb, commissioned by the Edinburgh & Lothian Child Protection Committee, which found failings 'at almost every level' of social work and health services (LGC, 24 October 2003).

Edinburgh leader Donald Anderson (Lab) said the council was addressing many of the issues raised in the review: 'In particular, we are continually improving salaries and conditions of work.

'We will not get immediate results overnight, but I do believe we have turned the corner and the number of vacancies has gone down.'

kerry.lorimer@emap.com

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