How Lancashire is trying to identify its neglected children

A new training problem aims to bring child neglect out of the shadows
A new training problem aims to bring child neglect out of the shadows

A growing number of professionals who work with young people in Lancashire are being trained to spot the signs of child neglect.

Frontline staff from children's services departments and other agencies are undergoing specialist training sessions designed to create a consistent approach to the problem - and prompt earlier intervention.

The one-day courses draw on a toolkit developed last year which aims to provide professionals with practical advice about how to deal with situations where a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs are not being met - the definition of neglect.

Sharon Hubber, Lancashire County Council’s director of children’s services, told a meeting of the children’s service scrutiny committee that it was important for those coming into contact with children to be able measure their own judgements about the situations in which they are living.

“We all have our different levels of cleanliness, hygiene and food intake,” Ms. Hubber explained.

“This [toolkit] allows you to really think about whether [a situation] is okay - or really worrying. We’ve done work based on what we know is detrimental and what is positive within families.

“We’re trying to make sure our health visitors and school nurses - those frontline professionals who are seeing children every day - are really trained in this [method].”

Ms. Hubber added that awareness and understanding of neglect was not a “tick-box” exercise that could ever be considered complete - and would need to continually evolve. The county is also currently developing an early help model for family safeguarding - designed to promote intervention sooner and so prevent problems escalating.

The toolkit identifies three types of neglect - disorganised, emotional and depressed - and their potential impact on a child’s health or development.

Committee member Matthew Tomlinson stressed the importance of school staff being involved in the programme - because they see children on a near daily basis for much of the year.

“I’m loath to put any more pressure on [them], but if anybody recognises when children are likely to be suffering from neglect, it’s our teachers and teaching assistants,” he said.

The meeting heard that schools were “receptive” to the toolkit - and many had requested it.

Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council adopted a joint child neglect strategy last year. Committee members were told that Blackburn Council had already completed its own version shortly beforehand, but that the two are likely to be amalgamated the next time they are reviewed - because of the importance of taking the same approach in an area which has a single police force.