Dundee child protection in the spotlight at Caird Hall conference

Child protection services in Dundee have improved significantly since the tragic case of Brandon Muir, the 23-month-old toddler who died at the hands of his mother’s violent boyfriend, a conference in the Caird Hall was told.

Around 500 childcare professionals, mainly from Dundee but including representatives from the rest of Tayside, attended the conference which dealt with child protection and development in the city.

Among the speakers was Scottish Government children’s minister Adam Ingram, who said the conference was not a direct result of the Brandon Muir tragedy but acknowledged there had been an even greater focus on child protection issues in Dundee since then.

City council social work director and chairman of the Dundee Children and Young Persons Protection Committee (CYPPC) Alan Baird told the delegates that a follow-up inspection of children’s services by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) had found “positive and encouraging” progress in all the areas criticised.

Mr Baird recalled that HMIE had come to inspect Dundee’s children’s services last year only days after the conclusion of the trial of Robert Cunningham, who was found guilty of killing Brandon.

He said the inspectorate had identified several areas of the service where improvement was needed and he had accepted, as incoming chairman of the CYPPC, that swift and decisive action was required.

Action plan

An action plan was drawn up to address issues highlighted by HMIE and the findings of a significant case review into Brandon’s death.

Mr Baird said an interim follow-up inspection later last year had found good progress with implementing the action plan and a full re-inspection has recognised that positive and encouraging progress has been made in all the areas of concern identified.

He said the improvements in Dundee had been achieved through adopting an approach where the various agencies involved in child protection, including the city council, NHS Tayside and Tayside Police, shared information and responsibility.

Tayside Assistant Chief Constable Bill Harkins said the child protection authorities in Dundee had improved considerably their ability to listen to the children who use the service, which was something HMIE had been particularly keen to see.

Earlier, Mr Ingram has said intervening at an early stage to help families struggling to cope with bringing up children not only helps child development but can also save the public purse tens of millions of pounds a year.

The conference also had contributions from Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, child protection expert Professor Brigid Daniel, Dundee City Council administration leader Ken Guild and chief executive David Dorward.