By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
Seven priority areas to better protect Nottingham children have been identified by a group of authorities which includes Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire Police.
A report from the body says problems at Nottingham University Hospital’s (NUH) maternity services, and the city council’s inadequate children’s services, continue to pose ‘challenges’ to the safeguarding of children in the city.
The annual report comes from the Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Partnership (NCSCP).
The group is made up of officials from the city council, the city and county’s Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Nottinghamshire Police.
Some of the areas which have been identified as needing priority work include targeting harmful sexual behaviour, neglect, domestic abuse and making sure children’s voices are heard.
The report also highlights, as priority one, that the Labour-run city council, like most local authorities, “has been challenged by a rise in levels of child exploitation”.
During an Executive Board meeting at Loxley House on May 23, where the report was considered, Cllr Cheryl Barnard, who is responsible for children’s safeguarding, said: “This is a statutory partnership that provides safeguarding arrangements for Nottingham City Council to work with our partners to coordinate our safeguarding practices, to respond to the needs of our children in the city and publish safeguarding reviews and provide scrutiny.
“During the time this report covers the main issues affecting children were domestic abuse, child exploitation and neglect, and a new sub-group covering education and learning has been set up to maintain joint working and provide assurances.
“Our overall vision remains enabling children and young people in Nottingham to live a life free from fear, harm and abuse.”
Other problems are facing all three partners, and the city, including the council’s children’s services and NUH’s maternity services.
An Ofsted inspection of children’s services was carried out in July 2022, and the resulting report rated them ‘inadequate’.
In March 2022 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) again rated NUH maternity services as ‘inadequate’.
Midwife Donna Ockenden is currently running a large-scale review into care given by the NUH maternity services.
The council’s financial constraints have also been raised as a challenge.
The NCSCP says, as such, it will “continue to monitor and require detailed updates” from both the city council on its children’s services, and NUH on its maternity services, with particular regard to the ongoing independent review.
The report says: “The annual report details some of the challenges facing the partnership over the coming year.
“As well as significant financial constraints careful attention will need to be given to the findings of the review of NUH maternity services and any lessons to be learned by the partnership, as well as the on-going scrutiny of Children’s
Social Care with a particular focus on the ‘front door’ of Children & Families Direct.”
It notes work has already taken place to deliver training in schools, sports clubs and faith groups.
A training programme, drawn up by a recently employed Safeguarding Training Officer, has also been introduced to provide training for all professionals in the NCSCP, to help them better look for signs of neglect, radicalisation and substance misuse, for example.
Catherine Underwood, the council’s director for people’s services, added: “Safeguarding children is everyone’s business but it is a particular responsibility of the local authority.
“It is important to reflect the work that is happening that is responding to the needs of children in the city.
“Whilst we have three key statutory partners, it is important that we recognise the wider contribution of communities, voluntary sector and schools.”