According to a report following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, a “significant number of children” remain in situations of “unknown risk” in Solihull.
The report was ordered by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahaw after six-year-old Arthur was murdered in June 2020 by his stepmother Emma Tustin at their home in Solihull.
Tustin was jailed for life, with a minimum of 29 years.
Arthur’s father, Thomas Hughes, was jailed for 21 years after being convicted of his son’s manslaughter.
The report into multi-agency responses to risks to children in Solihull was carried out by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the Chief Inspector of Probation (HMIP) for England and Wales.
The inspection found that children in need of help and protection in the area also “wait too long for their initial need and risk to be assessed”.
This means that for a “significant number of children, they remain in situations of unassessed and unknown risk”, according to the report, which was published on Monday (20 February).
Solihull’s Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (SLSCP) said improvement work has already begun.
The report calls for agencies in Solihull to send a written statement of action to Ofsted by May 30 2022.
Did the report make any other recommendations?
The report said the council makes “over-optimistic” decisions on safeguarding in a significant minority of cases, which lack “professional curiosity”.
Inspectors also said they were concerned by incomplete police records which had left children potentially “at risk of significant harm”.
The Local Safeguarding Children Partnership in Solihull had “experienced frequent changes of personnel in its membership for a significantly long period of time”, the report said, leading to a loss of experience.
The multi-agency safeguarding hub is under-resourced, meaning that “too many children in Solihull face drift and delay” before services intervene to protect them, the report added.
The report also found that the local authority has faced “long-standing difficulties in ensuring there are enough social workers” in the area, and that attempts to improve this in 2021 had “limited impact”.
“These difficulties were compounded by concerns raised following the court case for the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in early December 2021, which made social workers highly reluctant to work in Solihull either on a permanent or agency basis,” the report says.
It adds that the current workforce is “committed and knowledgeable and dedicated to meeting the needs of children” but that they face “immense pressure” to meet daily demands and that this “reduces their ability to respond swiftly to all concerns for children”.
What else has Solihull’s Local Safeguarding Children Partnership said in response to the report
As reported by Sky News, on behalf of the LSCP, independent scrutineer Steve Cullen, said: “The Partnership needs to better understand the lived experiences of children in Solihull and individual organisations need to make improvements to the way that they respond to children - we haven’t waited until the report to do this, work has already begun.
“The Local Authority has established a multi-agency Improvement Board with an independent chair to drive forward the necessary changes.
“On behalf of the safeguarding partners I want to provide assurance that we have taken on board all of the comments from the inspectors and we committed to work together to improve the way we protect children in Solihull and to do everything we can to ensure positive outcomes for our children and young people.”
Joint statement released by the government about Arthur’s death
In a joint statement, Minister for Children and Families Will Quince, Minister for Care Gillian Keegan and Minister for Safeguarding Rachel Maclean said: “Arthur’s death was horrific and deeply disturbing. The two individuals responsible are in prison – but we must do everything we can to prevent any more cases like this.
“His death serves as a daily reminder of the urgent need for all the agencies tasked with protecting vulnerable children to work together. That’s why we commissioned this joint inspection of services in Solihull, which has identified two clear areas where priority action is needed.
“Each agency – police, health and children’s services – has an equal duty in this work and we are writing to all three to make clear our expectation that they participate fully in producing and delivering on a written statement of action.”
What has the NSPCC said about Arthur’s death?
Joanna Barrett of the NSPCC said: “It’s hugely concerning that this inspection has found systemic problems with the ‘front door’ of safeguarding services which mean a significant number of children are waiting far too long for their initial assessment, leaving them at risk of harm and cruelty.
“It is absolutely crucial that safeguarding agencies in Solihull are better resourced and work together more quickly and efficiently to share information and intervene as early as possible to prevent any more tragedies like the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.”
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