Unwarranted child alerts in Northamptonshire are overloading protection workers

Kevin Crompton
Kevin Crompton

About half of urgent child alerts raised in Northamptonshire each year should not have been raised at the highest level, according to the outgoing chair of the county’s safeguarding children’s board.

Kevin Crompton, who leaves his role on the LSCBN today, said about half the referrals from frontline workers, such as schools or children’s centres, “don’t come anywhere near” the threshold for intervention by the child protection authorities, in other words not even to initial assessment stage.

He said it means northamptonshire’s multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) is being overloaded with cases.

He said: “Fifty per cent of the total referrals end up being ‘case closed’; the concern would’ve been solved in some other way than child protection.

“We know the official volume is more than elsewhere, and what it tells us that we’re not very good at applying thresholds.

“It’s actually a positive that we get this overall number of referrals and we would always rather that people reported concerns.

However, the danger is that you can’t see the wood for the trees.

“We need a smarter system for concerns so that the child protection system is only dealing with the cases it needs to deal with.

“That means we can concentrate on those, assess them quickly and get support to those families or we can remove those children in a timely manner.

“It’s all about safety and if you’ve got that huge volume coming in you are creating too much of a workload.”

“A lot of energy is going into risk management. From my part of view the system isn’t as safe as it’s going to be with better managment.

“What worries me is the volume. What gives me hope is that the volume is being manged better.”

Mr Crompton says that in the first three quarters of the last financial year, there were 11,000 referrals. In the end, more than 5,000 did not need to be escalated.

He said frontline workers will now be shown examples of cases that should and should not have been referred. Mr Crompton said he now expects to see a change in the figures in the next quarter.

Mr Crompton leaves to take charge of Bedford Borough Councils’s social service department.

He said: “I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I continue to be proud to be part of the journey that will result in the change.

“I found an opportunity nearer my home that suits where I am at the moment.

“Whilst I’ve enjoyed being the chair of the LSCB, its a strategic role and its a rul that has influence rather than power.

“I felt the chance to run the system again was a professional challenge I wanted after being away from that for a year-and-a-half.

“To be absolutely clear, I’ve not fallen out with anyone in Northamptonshire at all. I have confidence that the leadership here is of the calibre to make the change. They just now have to focus on the plan and doggedly make it work.”