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Report on child safeguarding approach shows huge demand for services in Cardiff

A Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) report found that demand for child safeguarding services remains high (Pic: Pixabay)

A CARE inspectorate’s report on the approach to child safeguarding in Cardiff shows continued demand on services.

Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) said the current context of safeguarding in the city is one of “persistently high levels of demand”.

The joint inspection of child protection arrangements in the city looked at the work carried out by Cardiff Council, South Wales Police and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

A number of concerns were raised in the report, such as delays to accessing services, recognition of safeguarding issues and a lack of data.

The report also stated that child safeguarding demands are increasing in complexity, but added that there has been a positive focus on safeguarding across the local authority, police force and health board.

Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for children’s social services, Cllr Ashley Lister, said: “Safeguarding children and young people is a collective effort, and this report highlights the importance of multi-agency working between the local authority, police force, health board and schools.

“The report recognises the continued challenges being experienced across the UK and the rise in demand and complexity of cases.

“However, inspectors have found Cardiff Council to have a positive focus on safeguarding where our leaders, managers and front line staff have a good understanding of the experiences of children and families that need help and protection.

“Practitioners understand their roles, information is shared efficiently and voices are heard.”

Information from the council referenced in the CIW report shows that the number of section 47 enquiries in the area increased by 46% from 2019/20 to 2022/23. A section 47 investigation is initiated by a local authority when a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.

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Cardiff became the first city in the UK to be formally recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City in 2023.

Cllr Lister added: “Our staff work tirelessly to support children and their families who receive our services despite the challenges they face across the sector, and we are grateful to all of them.

“As the UK’s first Child Friendly City, Cardiff continues to ensure children’s rights are a part of our decisions and policy and we are committed to listening to children and their families, whilst working closely with our partners to improve multi-agency participation and initiatives to build communities where every child is safe, valued, and children’s voices are heard.”

Under the key areas for improvement highlighted in the report, CIW states that there was inconsistent compliance with statutory time frames for section 47 enquiries.

At the time of inspection, there was a high number of children looked after not receiving an initial health assessment within the statutory timescale and there was a backlog in processing domestic violence disclosure scheme applications.

The CIW also found that the police were not properly capturing whether children have been seen or spoken to.

The inspection report states: “It is not often not clear from a [public protection notice] whether a child was present at an incident and whether they were seen or not.

“Where there is a clear investigation by the child abuse team, the voice of the child is evident.”

Highlighting strengths, the report states that there are examples of thorough explanations of complex family situations in assessments and families are regarded as central to safety plans and achieving desired outcomes.

The CIW said there are positive examples of services supporting the safety and well-being of children at Cardiff and Vale UHB, adding that the health board’s links with primary care colleagues are positive and that a digital health pathway has recently been developed to support GPs in safeguarding decision making.

Good use of flags and warning markers by police officers to highlight vulnerable children was also found by CIW. The care inspectorate also said that vulnerability is a clear focus for force leaders.

A South Wales Police spokesperson said: “South Wales Police remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding children and we are encouraged that the Care Inspectorate Wales report identifies our strengths and determination to improve.

“As highlighted in the report, South Wales police is a key participant in Multi-Agency Safeguarding arrangements.

“Whether at first point of contact in our Public Service Centre, or in the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs, our staff are committed to identifying and addressing safeguarding concerns and improving outcomes for children.

“The report also highlighted that ‘vulnerability is a clear focus for force leaders’, and we are committed to ensuring we have sufficient trained officers to engage with our partners and fulfil our statutory obligations.

“We have robust mechanisms in place to identify those who may benefit from Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), while also encouraging the public’s ‘Right to Ask’ for police disclosure.

“There are a number of reasons why disclosure maybe delayed, some of which are beyond the control of police.

“Nevertheless, we are working hard to improving our performance.

“So far in 2024, on average we have conducted all stages of DVDS within 17 days, well below the 28-day statutory guidelines and improved from the position at the time of the inspection.  However, as the report recognises, we will continue to work hard to reduce this time.

“South Wales Police is continuing to improve capturing the voice of a child and accurately record the lived experience of children at point of first contact.

“The inspection acknowledges the efficacy of specialist trained officers in this regard; however, training is being extended to our frontline officers and supervisors to enhance our responsiveness and ensure consistent quality across all interactions.

“We appreciate the inspection team’s valuable observations and are actively working to refine our approach to safeguarding.

“We will continue to reflect and improve, ensuring that our practices not only meet but exceed the expectations set forth in safeguarding children.”

Cardiff and Vale UHB has been approached for a comment.