New approach to helping troubled children hailed

A project aimed at improving support for children with troubled home lives has delivered “real results”, according the Scottish government.

The Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFC) Pathfinder scheme has been piloted in the Highlands since 2006.

A review of the project suggests children’s lives were improved in two-thirds of 97 sample cases.

The University of Edinburgh was commissioned to examine what progress the pathfinder has made.

The scheme aims to improve communication between public agencies.

Vulnerable families supported so far include a mother who had moved to the area with her three-year-old daughter to escape a violent ex-partner.

A police officer put her in touch with a health visitor to help her find a local playgroup and the chance of making new friends.

Also, a police report of an 11-year-old girl found playing on waste ground was picked up by a health visitor whose records showed the girl’s mother suffered from mental health problems. A visit to the youngster’s home revealed the mother’s symptoms had worsened and help was sought for the family.

The Highland project was launched in September 2006 to address all aspects of children’s and young people’s needs from birth through to 18.

A second scheme was launched in 2007 and is being run in Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh, Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire

The Scottish government said better quality information was being collected, shared and understood across various agencies in the Highlands.

This had improved trust among staff and led to less time being spent writing reports on the same children and families having to repeat their stories to different staff.

Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram, said: “This report shows that this approach is delivering results for many children and that local agencies are working more effectively together to meet their needs.”

Highland Council social work chief and president of the Association of Directors of Social Work, Harriet Dempster, said it was still early days for the project and review’s findings were “only green shoot indicators”.

But she added: “It is reducing bureaucracy and creating more time for direct work, which I know will be welcomed by front line social work staff.”