Southend Ofsted report: Some children subjected to “chronic” neglect

Some children in Southend are subjected to “chronic” neglect, a watchdog has revealed.

Ofsted, which carried out an inspection of Southend Council’s children’s services in May, has issued a broadly positive report, outlining some “significant” improvements.

However, in a brief mention in the report, inspectors say starkly: “Some children experience chronic neglect and exposure to domestic violence for too long”.

Southend Council insists it acts quickly to identify children in need.

However, the scale of the problem was underlined by Daniel Cauchi, manager of the St Vincent’s Southend  said there were occasions they were putting mothers and children into a B&B as they could not get hold of social services.

He said consistency was needed to help the people he sees coming through St Vincent’s.

Mr Cauchi, who leads the centre which supports vulnerable families in Southend, added: “This is about social workers changing in and out.  We need consistency in social services, in having the same person but that seems to change heaps. That’s so vital.

“It’s having that person listening and understanding. There is trauma around these people. It’s about taking those things into account and having consistent people. When they change people it’s not consistent so there is no proper transition and people get frustrated and give up.”

Underlining the scale of the challenge, Mr Cauchi said: “They are living in poverty, half these families. They become irrational because they aren’t thinking straight and it becomes chaotic. We get situations over weekends where we can’t get hold of social services and we end up trying to put mum and child into a B&B.

“It’s not always about poverty though. That’s a general statement. It comes from poor education and a generation of not the right mindset. It’s not always linked to poverty. If I think of all the families I deal with, it’s not the case.”

Helen Boyd, Conservative councillor responsible for children’s services, said: “We are on an improvement programme and its pleasing to see the progress that we have made in the areas highlighted in the last report. Our social workers are quick to identify cases of chronic neglect and domestic violence and recognise the urgency, however each situation is unique and what works for one child and their family, won’t work for the next. But we are committed to improving the outcomes for children and their families in Southend.

“We will update our improvement plan to focus on addressing these issues, in particular working with families to make sure support plans are responsive and timely.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter