Care Inspectorate highlights ‘uncertainty’ in named person system

Uncertainty over Scotland’s named person service has resulted in the “lack of a co-ordinated overview” of youngsters’ needs, a new report has said.

The Care Inspectorate also warned that in some child welfare cases “neglect had not been sufficiently recognised or adequately responded to” before children were either seriously injured or fatally harmed.

The watchdog examined 25 significant case reviews (SCRs) which were carried out across Scotland over three years, looking into failings of care of 44 children and young people.

With significant case reviews carried out after a child has died or been significantly harmed, the Care Inspectorate found a “recurring theme was that of children remaining unnoticed in neglectful or harmful situations until a threshold for child protection was reached”.

In almost all instances where there had been a significant case review, the “families were already known to services and were being supported on a non-statutory basis”.

But despite that the report said: “As in our previous review of SCRs 2012-2015, neglect had not been sufficiently recognised or adequately responded to before risks escalated and children were seriously or fatally harmed.”

The Care Inspectorate found the “timely and appropriate sharing of information and effective communication” between various professionals and agencies “remains a challenging area”.

It added that this suggested an “ongoing ambiguity and understanding of what and when to share information, and in what circumstances”.

With the Scottish Government having set out to provide a named person for every child, as a single point of contact for their welfare, the report went on to highlight the “uncertainty within the system”.

The named person system had originally been due to come into place across Scotland at the end of 2016 – but this was delayed after a Supreme Court challenge resulted in Education Secretary John Swinney having to bring forward new legislation.

The Care Inspectorate found that in 10 of the 25 significant case reviews it examined – which took place between April 2015 and March 2018 – there was an “element of professional confusion about the roles of the named person and lead professional, with findings identifying that they were not always well understood by practitioners or that practitioners lacked confidence in the role”.

The report added: “These uncertainties impacted on the lack of a co-ordinated overview of children’s needs.”

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “It’s everyone’s job to help ensure that every child in Scotland is kept safe, nurtured and supported to reach their full potential.

“We know that social workers and others across Scotland successfully care for and protect many children and young people every day, despite often challenging circumstances.

“We also know that it is very difficult to eliminate all risk.

“In the small number of cases where a child has come to harm, it is crucial that all agencies involved are fully committed to reviewing actions and decisions in each case, to learn any and all lessons that need to be learned.

“This report contains important insights that we expect partners to consider.”