Protection system

Child welfare system currently stands on the brink of a dangerous precipice – Stephen McGhee

Stephen McGhee, Managing Director, Spark of Genius, Member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

It is worth starting at the start of a child protection issue that arises. Normally Scottish social workers would be informed of any problem; maybe a child has come to school and there are warning signs of neglect at home. This process of identification and subsequent action helps protect children. Recent statistics released suggest that referrals for child protection have fallen in up to half of Scottish local authorities, with eight local authorities noting a drop in referrals by more than a quarter.

A quarter. Let’s think about it for a moment. 25 percent of the children and youth in our communities who were previously supported by early childhood care referrals are no longer cared for by social workers and other professionals. They have been crippled by shrinking budgets and a shrinking workforce being asked to meet the needs of a growing number of cases and a pandemic that has cast a veil on access to schools and homes . Our ability to identify statistical analyzes of problems has improved, but resources continue to struggle to keep pace with needs. It requires urgent attention. A famous quote comes to mind:

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“The real measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable.”

The image depicted here is not a one-sided issue. The reduction in identification masks concerns about how the industry’s workforce has been wiped out by COVID-19 and Brexit, among other societal influences.

Services report a lack of access to a skilled workforce, with potential staff members discouraged from working in a post-Covid environment in group settings. Pay rates also remain a problem in a sector charged with meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in society. Brexit has also reduced access to a skilled, prepared and ready workforce to provide our children and young people with a better quality of life.

Thanks to a combination of these and other factors, we are finding that more and more children and youth do not have access to services, such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), in such a way. punctual.

Figures from Public Health Scotland show that as of June 2021, 1,686 children and young people have been waiting for treatment for more than a year. This figure represents a doubling (787) compared to June 2020.

All is not negative, however, and I have never seen an esprit de corps like the one our frontline staff members demonstrate on a daily basis to those in need of our services. In fact, primary care services have adapted in an unrecognizable way in 18 months.

The people side of care has shown that there is a deep determination to fix what is a broken system. It is now up to leaders to rise to the challenge and move away from the dangerous precipice on which child protection currently rests. Every second counts.