Increasing numbers of public sector workers are to be trained to identify the tell-tale signs of child neglect after a scheme to train 400 with the skills proved highly successful in allowing the authorities to step in and help before problems have had the chance to escalate.
Barnsley Council introduced a neglect strategy recently, working with partner organisations, to allow them to offer struggling families the assistance needed to tackle neglect issues while they were still manageable, without the need for more serious action such as taking children into care.
That involved a team of 20 workers acting as trainers to provide 400 colleagues with the skills needed to spot problems and take action to work with families to find solutions to their problems, which often stem from issues involving poverty, mental health, drug misuse and domestic violence.
Councillors on the authority’s scrutiny committee heard details of how the policy was working and Coun Malcolm Clements questioned whether 400 trained staff was enough, in a town with around 120 schools.
“I am wondering if the number of people who need to be trained may be far larger than 400?” he asked.
He also questioned how much of an impact poverty had on whether neglect was likely within families.
The council’s head of children and family social care, Deborah Mercer, told him: “For the numbers of professionals trained, we have a rolling programme.
“We know there is a real thirst, the practitioners are really, really keen to take up training and every training programme which is put up is full, immediately.
“We will continue to keep rolling that training out and promote work through schools,” she said.
The training is simple to understand, meaning those who have not been formally trained are able to grasp an understanding of the details they need to look out for.
It is acknowledged that poverty can be a key factor in neglect cases, but it is also known that some families tackle the challenges which poverty presents without neglecting their children.
Scrutiny committee members have now recommended that a briefing session should be organised for all councillors so they can learn more about the work, with the possibility of using other council outlets, such as the area councils which work across all Barnsley communities, to play a role in ensuring neglect is identified and halted as early as possible.