Managers sometimes unreachable for child protection queries, Northamptonshire report says

Social workers need to concentrate on only the most serious cases, experts say
Social workers need to concentrate on only the most serious cases, experts say

Child protection workers in Northamptonshire are still sometimes unable to speak to senior managers when needed, a report claims.

The practice was one of the criticisms made by Kevin Crompton the county’s ex-Local Safeguarding Children Board when he left earlier this year.

Yet the latest report on the effectiveness of the child protection body MASH (multi agency safeguarding hub) - made up of police, NHS and Northamptonshire County Council among others - said the issue is still a problem.

The report said: “There has been a telephone line introduced to allow professional-to-professional conversation, but incidents have been highlighted where health staff were unable to speak to the senior practitioner and were told by the call handler to make a referral.

“These have been highlighted to senior managers at NCC.”

The NHS Nene report shows the volume of referrals to the MASH increased throughout the last year.

At year end closing referrals escalated from 10,516 (12/13) to 14,601 (13/14), a 39 per cent increase.

However, Mr Crompton and County Hall bosses have repeatedly made the point that the county’s ‘inadequate’ rating for child safeguarding in early 2013 has pushed the referrals up as staff react by adopting a ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude.

Illustrating the point, the report says that in a six month period 9,000 referrals were received out of which 200 became Child Protection managed, that is potentially serious, cases.

Mr Crompton, before he left in March this year, warned that unwarranted calls were overloading social workers, who needed to concentrate on fewer, more serious, cases.

Northamptonshire Police stressed that it was a good thing if every single time a someone suspects a child may be being abused they picked up the phone and called the authorities.

Ivan Balhatchet, Northamptonshire Police assistant chief constable for crime and local policing, said: “An extensive training programme has taken place across Northamptonshire Police over the past year to raise the awareness of child protection issues and safeguarding.

“More than 900 officers and staff are now better trained to look out for signs of child neglect or other areas of concern no matter what incident they are dealing with.

“An increase in referrals should not been seen as negative.

“A year ago we were recording 300 per month, but now we have 800 cases where officers have recognised a potential risk to children.

“We triage all 800 and send through only those that meet the partnership threshold.

“This is a very sensitive and complicated area to deal with and we are working with all our partners to continue to improve child protection services in Northamptonshire, not least with the creation a year ago of the MASH (Multi-

Agency Safeguarding Hub).”

- If a child is in immediate danger, left alone or missing, people should contact the police directly and/or an ambulance using 999.

If there is no immediate danger, but you are concerned about a child’s welfare telephone 0300 126 1000 or email

For more information about child protection, visit the council’s website .uk