Hartlepool Borough Council in social care team revamp

COUNCIL chiefs are restructuring their social care services in a bid to further boost its work with vulnerable children. The move comes as the number of children subject to a child protection plan and classed as looked after in Hartlepool has risen in the past three months.

However, the overall number of children receiving a service from Hartlepool Borough Council’s children’s social care team has dropped from 861 to 830.

Of those, 101 children are subject to a protection plan, which is up from 81 in April.

A protection plan ensures children see doctors regularly, get to school safely and have someone to talk to.

Council chiefs say the increase may be down to recent high-profile cases of child neglect, which led to an increase in referrals and other agencies reviewing how they carry out their work.

Figures, between April and June, show that 162 children in Hartlepool are classed as looked after, up from 155 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, there are 567 children classed as in need with complex or acute needs, down from 625.

The issue of safeguarding children was discussed by councillor Cath Hill at her portfolio meeting for children’s services.

Coun Hill was told that the service currently employs 119 staff to work with children and their families, but a restructure was planned for the autumn.

It will see an initial response team set up to carry out initial assessments, leaving other staff free to focus on delivering long-term services.

The restructure will also see three new posts being created and a number of temporary positions have become permanent.

Council officers say case loads are manageable, but they are being closely monitored.

Sally Robinson, the council’s assistant director for safeguarding and specialist services, said: “The overall number of children has reduced but the protection plan and looked after figures have increased, which is probably down to heightened public awareness and agencies reviewing their own safeguarding arrangements.

“The creation of a dedicated initial response team will allow the medium to long term teams focus on their work around court, working with children and implementing child protection plans.”

She added: “It is worth noting that of the three recently appointed staff, two social workers are experienced workers seeking to move to Hartlepool from another authority.”

Coun Hill said at the meeting: “There is little to say except that everybody seems to be working hard and doing a good job for the children and young people of the town.

“It is also very gratifying to know that qualified social workers want to come to Hartlepool and also that we have a good reputation within the community of the North East.

“I would like to thank everybody for their hard work.”