Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Concern over NHS child protection

Child at window
Health services are challenged to demonstrate they can work together

Wales' children's commissioner has voiced his concern about the ability of the NHS to co-ordinate its protection of young people.

Keith Towler said recent child death cases highlighted the role of health providers in identifying child injury.

He pointed to recent reports by watchdog groups which he said identified inconsistencies in practice.

In response, the Welsh Assembly Government said the wellbeing and rights of the young was a top priority.

Last month a restructure saw seven NHS health boards take control of all hospitals and community services.

In his second annual report, Mr Towler said he was concerned about the ability of the newly- enlarged local health boards to undertake their role on local safeguarding childrens' boards, the organisations which co-ordinate child protection.

We must ensure that current spending decisions do not undermine early intervention and prevention work
Yvonne Rodgers, Barnardo's Cymru

Local safeguarding children boards were set up in 2006 to coordinate the work of all those involved in child protection. They include social services, health professionals and police.

Mr Towler said their success depended on the ability of those involved to work effectively with each other.

Last month, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) said the number of serious case reviews involving children in Wales had doubled.

They found 17 cases reviewed in 2007, and 34 in April 2008.

There are currently more than 50 serious case reviews ongoing or pending in Wales but the CSSIW found the current arrangements "are not working effectively."

The CSSIW also found many of the local children safeguarding boards were "not effectively discharging their functions" while "some agencies, by their non participation, were failing in their duty to co-operate".

Mr Towler said he was "particularly concerned" by the findings of the HIW report into the arrangements in the health service in Wales.

The HIW found NHS staff were "generally alert to child protection issues" but that "some staff working in adult services still appear to not accept that they also have a role in child protection".

Baby P
Reports after the Baby Peter case found failings in Wales' child protection

It also raised concern that "not all staff working in the NHS have been Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checked and that there are inconsistencies in the way CRB checks are undertaken across NHS Wales".

Mr Towler said he challenged Wales' public health services to demonstrate their robustness and effectiveness in working together to protect children.

He said the assembly government needed to have clear strategy to ensure children are effectively safeguarded.

Financial climate

He also said current financial climate should not be used as an excuse by local authorities to backtrack on delivering services to children and young people.

Barnardo's Cymru director Yvonne Rodgers said: "We must ensure that current spending decisions do not undermine early intervention and prevention work, otherwise in five years the legacy of the current financial climate will be even more children and young people at risk and experiencing poor outcomes."

The Welsh Local Government Association said improving services for children and young people remains a top priority for every local authority in Wales.

The assembly government said it would consider the report's findings and respond in due course in line with the timescales agreed.

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