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Children's services red-tape 'hampers school nurses'

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Children’s services bureaucracy is hampering school nurses’ ability to identify children at risk of abuse or neglect.

This warning comes in a report by the children’s commissioner for England which says nurses spend twice as much time on paperwork as they do on face-to-face work with children.

A survey of nearly 800 school nurses undertaken by the commissioner showed that they typically spent just under two hours a day seeing children and young people but 42% of them spent more than four hours a day filling in paperwork.

Respondents were particularly damning of the bureaucracy associated with referrals to children’s services:

  • · 41% said that child protection thresholds were set too high
  • · 41% said they were unhappy with the outcomes of at least half of the referrals they made to children’s services
  • · 59% said the number of case conferences they were required to attend was rising

Where referrals are unsuccessful, school nurses said they found themselves engaged in time consuming child protection case work and support activities – work previously undertaken by social workers.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said: “It is clear from this research that school nurses face significant barriers in working directly with children and young people, with paperwork getting in the way. The support they offer needs to be better promoted and new ways to enhance their engagement with children explored.”

Fiona Smith, the Royal College of Nursing professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, told LGC’s sister title Nursing Times: “A major part of the problem is that the number of school nurses is dropping all the time - despite the vital importance of what they do.

“Children and young people are bearing the brunt of these public sector funding cuts with potentially serious consequences for the future.”

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