A North London family was left with ‘prolonged financial problems and living in cramped conditions’ after failures by the local council, NHS, and police. A recent children’s protection inspection highlighted a “significant delay” in providing the family with the right support.
Living in temporary accommodation at the time, a mum and her children needed to move home for welfare reasons. However, the three agencies were said to 'not know of each other’s involvement' in the case so didn’t communicate with each other. This meant they couldn’t intervene and respond early enough to help the family.
The findings came following a recent joint inspection of the Harrow Strategic Safeguarding Partnership (HSSP) by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
The HSSP is made up of Harrow Council, NHS Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Metropolitan Police, with the aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of vulnerable groups including children.
The report criticised the partnership for leaving children waiting too long for specialist interventions, such as cognitive behaviour therapy and CAMHS, as well as there being a shortage of permanent police officers and some schools still not receiving Operation Encompass notifications - which aims to support children who are experiencing domestic abuse.
Inspectors note a lack of effective communication between partners means that police aren’t informed of all missing children who are reported to the council. Written records of return home interviews for missing children are also not shared with the police. Instead, social workers provide a verbal account.
The report says: “This practice means that not all agencies are aware of missing children and the reasons why they go missing, meaning that the multiagency's attempts to track, trace and safeguard some missing children are less effective.”
The partnership had recently moved into a new hub, but inspectors said the location was 'not meeting the needs' of agencies to work effectively, with some partners describing the site as “not fit for purpose”.
However, the report also found that children and families who attended the local NHS trust had any concerns about their welfare 'addressed swiftly', parents talked positively of the support available and received lots of useful advice, and a wide range of help is available to victims of domestic abuse
The report adds: “The local authority ‘family hubs’ deliver a comprehensive range of good-quality support and services to children and their families, who agree to the support, from birth to adulthood.”
Harrow Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Hitesh Karia, said, “We welcome the findings of this inspection report. It was largely positive about the quality of early support services for children in Harrow and we agree with its judgement that more work is needed to better join these up.
“This is a task not just for the council but for the many other agencies with which we work every day. The inspection has helped us to identify a shared plan for improvement, and I am confident that we are already further forward than at the time of the inspection team's visit.
He added: “In respect of the comments on the new location for our front door services, the inspection came one week after our move to a new multi-agency hub. This is now fully operational and supporting our commitment to better joint working.”
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