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More to do to support vulnerable children

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Front
More to do to support vulnerable children

A MASSIVE amount of effort has gone into protecting children at risk across Dumfries and Galloway over the last 18 months – but council chiefs admit there is still plenty of work to do.

Currently 226 children and 129 families are being supported by the council’s family support team, which proved to be a lifeline service during the pandemic.

However, there are eight families and 11 children waiting to be seen by the family support team, which is run by social workers and their colleagues.

Some financial constraints have also been highlighted in a report by the social work department, which concerned several councillors at last week’s social work committee.

Dee and Glenkens Councillor Andy McFarlane said: “This public document would suggest that we’ve got a finite capacity to deal with this, which means that when we get to a certain level then if you’re not in, you’re out.

“That suggests to me that we need to be looking at resourcing.”

However, chief social work officer Lillian Cringles assured elected members that the council would always go into debt to make sure children were properly looked after.

She said: “At any point if I felt we weren’t able to meet that duty and make sure children were safe, I would bring an urgent item back to the council.

“I do have the authority to overspend when it comes to risk, and from good governance we would always consider the weighing up of the risk against the budget.

“But I’m very clear, and I’ve always said to elected members: financial issues won’t come into it if it’s safeguarding children.”

The council’s family support team has been praised for its invaluable work helping children and families, many of which are dealing with alcohol, drug, and/or mental health issues.

The report states that the family support team are following government’s national guidance for positive change, however extra focus is placed on keeping families together and children safe.

Stephen Morgan, senior children and families manager, said: “It’s really quite exciting because research shows that, if we intervene as early as possible in people’s lives effectively, that will improve people’s outcomes.”

He went on: “When we speak about early intervention, that’s not just about intervening in people’s lives at as young an age as possible. It’s as soon as we, as a council, are aware there’s an issue.

“What we’ve done in addition to this is we’ve changed the way do our social work. We really ask our social workers, and all of our social work staff, to spend time with people and make relationships with them.

“This helps identify their own strengths as individual human beings, and identify strengths as family units and wider support network. That has paid massive dividends.”

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