Why Orkney is not Getting It Right For Every Child and Young Person

The prevailing culture did not invite healthy challenge and there was little evidence that leaders had been proactive in creating opportunities for, and encouraging, scrutiny, challenge and debate.Care Inspectorate Report

The Report from the Care Inspectorate looking at the services provided for children and young people in need of care and protection in Orkney has been published.

Click on this link to access the report: Report of a joint inspection of services for children and young people in need of care and protection in Orkney

  • Leadership and direction – Unsatisfactory
  • Impact on children and young people – Weak
  • Impact on families – Adequate
  • Improvements in the safety, wellbeing and the chances of vulnerable children and young people – Weak

[Adequate: strengths outweigh weaknesses; Weak: Important-priority action required; Unsatisfactory -major weaknesses – urgent remedial action required]

It is the boast of Orkney that the islands are a wonderful and safe place to bring up children. For many children and young people this is indeed the case. For those, however, who need support and protection the system that is there is failing them.

The report on the joint services from the Care Inspectorate is upsetting and damning. It is upsetting for those individuals who work with  children and young people and who are making a difference. The report highlights the work of Connect, YPeople, Women’s Aid,early years staff, those living in the outer isles and individuals who are there for children and young people when they do need support and protection. The individuals who young people keep in contact with after they have left the care situation.

The system, however, that is supposed to be there to protect and care for all children has failed them.

Highly inconsistent, lack of appropriate training, failure to recognise neglect, delay in making decisions, limited out of hours support, communication failures, poor reporting and record keeping, health staff not included and young people not involved in their own care plans.

Police, health and education staff told us that they were not confident that child concerns were always treated seriously when they made a referral to the social work service. They did not always get feedback on what had happened after they referred a concern. Care Inspectorate Report

Gerry O’Brien, Chief Executive of NHS Orkney, said:

“We take very seriously and accept unconditionally the inspectors’ findings, and acknowledge that this report makes difficult reading for all involved in providing these important services for our children and young people.

“Considerable improvement is clearly needed. The inspectors set out recommendations we will follow to set a clear path for improvement – a path that will be closely monitored by the Care Inspectorate to make sure we do this as effectively and as rapidly as possible.

“It must be noted, however, that inspectors also found good practice already in place. As we develop our improvement plan – and look to other agencies to see what works well there – we will ensure that this work is maintained and enhanced.

“I want to make a special mention of all the staff involved in these services. I know they have the best interests of our children and young people at heart and the criticisms in this report will be hard for them to read. All partners are committed to supporting them and moving forward together to provide the very best services for our most vulnerable young people.”

In 2018 the Scottish Government provided funding for local provision for a “trauma-informed joint review of arrangements for forensic medical examinations for children and young people“. This had not been done. A gap had been left in the advocacy service which provides essential individual support for children and young people in need of care and protection whilst a new service was being developed. The potential to look at good practice in other islands authorities was not used. Reading through the report so many times a strategy was started and never completed.

Alarmingly Getting It Right For Every Child(GIRFEC) was not embedded in practice across joint strategies in the Orkney  children and young people’s partnership (OCYPP).

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) supports families by making sure children and young people can receive the right help, at the right time, from the right people. The aim is to help them to grow up feeling loved, safe and respected so that they can realise their full potential.

GIRFEC is a way for families to work in partnership with people who can support them, such as teachers, doctors and nurses.

This is a system in Orkney where those who should be involved are not. Where joint working is neither ‘joint’ nor ‘working’. Young people themselves were often not contributing to their own care plans.

Skills Development Scotland were well informed about care leavers and were able to support them when needed. Some schools had a nurturing approach and provided a calm and respectful ethos. Using the Scottish Government’s Pupil Equity Funding staff were able to support families and school liaison. Police Scotland had introduced ‘Operation Portrait’ – an intranet site which supports their officers working in places like Orkney to recognise and respond to child protection concerns.

There are people and services in Orkney endeavouring to support children and young people but a complete failure to have a joined up approach results in the system as a whole remaining weak. It results in children and young people not getting the support they need as front line staff increasingly under pressure do not have the advantages of collaborative working.

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said:

“It was clear that the partnership was experiencing major challenges in ensuring that the most vulnerable children in need of care and protection consistently get all the help they need, when they need it.

“A significant amount of work is needed to reduce the risks created by inconsistencies in key child protection processes, embed accountability for, and shared ownership of, corporate parenting and modernise approaches to services for children and young people in need of care and protection.

“We recognise the Community Planning Partnership has limited capacity with a very small pool of managers available to take forward improvements at pace while also meeting operational demands.”

It is both an advantage and a disadvantage of small communities that people live and work in close proximity. The culture which exists in a system where staff do not challenge decisions taken “even when staff did not consider decisions and actions to be in the best interests of vulnerable children, young people and families.” has to change. That culture change is what needs to happen if improvement is to be made.

The prevailing culture did not invite healthy challenge and there was little evidence that leaders had been proactive in creating opportunities for, and encouraging, scrutiny, challenge and debate. Care Inspectorate Report

Peter Macleod said:

“We are pleased that leaders in Orkney recognise the need for external resource and expertise because we cannot be confident that they will be able to make the necessary improvements quickly enough without additional support.”

There is an urgent need to address the failure of the system of care and protection in Orkney. All the building blocks are there to have a support structure which can deliver the best for our children and young people. There are individuals and services which are doing their best but the lack of real collaborative working is the barrier to delivering improvement. It is not a question of money and funding. It is all about culture change.

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is based on children’s rights and its principles reflect the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

And this is central to that approach:

it requires joined-up working – it is about children, young people, parents, and the services they need working together in a coordinated way to meet the specific needs and improve their wellbeing.

boy child happyReporter: Fiona Grahame



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