Council chiefs have launched a new strategy aimed at reducing child neglect in St Helens.
Last year the Department for Education published its ‘working together to safeguard children’ guidance, which identified three statutory partners whose responsibility it now is to agree local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.
In St Helens the three statutory partners are St Helens Council, St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Merseyside Police.
In light of this new arrangement, a new strategy has been developed to help address child neglect in St Helens.
“Chronic neglect has a detrimental impact on the lives of children, young people and families,” the report says.
“It has been a long-standing issue in St Helens, which will require a whole system approach to tackle, and strategic vision, oversight and accountability to deliver a meaningful change that improves outcomes for young people.”
The purpose of the St Helens Safeguarding Children Partnership Neglect Strategy for 2019-2024 is to set out how the three statutory partners will improve recognition of and response to neglect among all agencies involved in safeguarding.
It is hoped through a “whole borough approach” partners will start to reduce the prevalence of neglect within the borough’s communities.
The strategy is split into three objectives: recognising neglect, responding to neglect and reducing neglect.
It then outlines a series of actions and outcomes against each of its three objectives.
The Safeguarding Children Partnership Board will be tasked with the delivery of the strategy.
“Partners using this strategy will need to consider neglect in the context of other risk factors such as domestic abuse, substance misuse, adult mental health, child poverty and youth homelessness,” the report says.
“The partnership in St Helens is ambitious and determined to drive better outcomes for children, young people and their families, and delivery of this neglect strategy will be underpinned by our shared vision and principles of working together.”
In St Helens, neglect is defined as the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.
Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.
Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment); protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger; ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care givers) and ensuring access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
One of the reasons why it is believed neglect is so common in St Helens is due to high levels of deprivation.
In the most recent indices of multiple deprivation in 2015, St Helens was ranked as the 36th most deprived local authority in England out of 326.
Overall, a quarter of the population (41,264 people) now live in areas that fall in the 10 per cent most deprived in England.
The local proportion of children living in poverty is estimated as 24.8 per cent excluding housing costs, and 29.8 per cent after housing costs are included. This equates to 10,023 and 12,038 young people respectively.
“There is evidence of a strong relationship between family socio-economic circumstances and rates of child abuse and neglect, with the likelihood increasing along with the level of economic hardship,” the report says.
“In St Helens, this is reflected by the rate of children in need due to abuse or neglect being significantly higher than the England average (228.1 and 181.4 per 10,000 children respectively in 2018).”
In 2014, during a full inspection of children’s social care, Ofsted highlighted a poor understanding of neglect in St Helens and a weak early help offer.
Neglect was again highlighted as a serious issue by the watchdog following a focused inspection in July 2018.
St Helens Council’s cabinet endorsed the delivery of the new neglect strategy as one of the three statutory partners of St Helens Safeguarding Partnership.