Taskforce to be formed for children most at risk in Sandwell

A new taskforce to identify children most at risk in cases of domestic violence will be introduced following Ofsted’s damning criticisms of Sandwell’s children’s services.

It is part of an action plan to be introduced despite council officers admitting in a report to chiefs they are already under pressure due to staffing and budget cuts.

From next month the council is running a pilot scheme where adult and children’s screening meetings will be held together in a new revised format.

Previously they were held separately and relevant information was not effectively shared.

Cabinet member for children and families Councillor Simon Hackett, who has been appointed to turn children’s services in Sandwell around after the resignation of Councillor Bob Badham, said: “There is a commitment from me and our partners to pilot a joint domestic abuse screening process to improve the response to children and young people.

“All partners are committed to resourcing the pilot which will start in May.

“This aims to ensure that children and young people receive help at an earlier point before situations become critical. I will be reviewing the findings of the review in due course.”

Earlier this month Sandwell Council’s children’s services was rated inadequate and failings were highlighted, including criticism over the handling of domestic violence cases.

Despite being notified of 4,840 domestic violence cases in 2011 to 2012, only 307 were assessed and only eight percent of those were taken further.

A report to the neighbourhoods and communities scrutiny board sets out the new arrangements for dealing with domestic violence cases.

The council is going to introduce a multi agency safeguarding team who will specialise in working with children and families who are victims of domestic violence.

The report states: “The multi-agency safeguarding team would be part of assessing the immediate risk and children in need. The multi agency safeguarding team would work closely with agencies to ensure information is shared and would work directly with families.”

Councillor Badham and service director Helen Smith stepped down earlier this month after Ofsted labelled the council’s child protection arrangements “inadequate”.