Fears over children in poor areas
FEARS have been raised for Rochdale’s poorest children after it emerged that not enough has been done to protect those most at risk of neglect.
Safeguarding chiefs admit that there have been shortcomings in spotting and acting on signs of neglect in the borough, despite the issue being flagged as a priority.
The finding was included in Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Board’s annual report, which went before the council’s health, schools and care scrutiny committee.
The report says, ‘it is fair to say that we have not seen the progress we hoped for to date and neglect remains a significant concern’.
Shockingly, the report adds nearly a third of Rochdale residents live in areas that are among the most deprived in the country while, at 27 pc, the level of child poverty in the borough is worse than the England average.
Jean Hornby said that the issue of poverty had to be tackled in order to address neglect, as the two were inextricably linked.
Jane Booth, chair of Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Boards agreed that, while not always the case, there tends to be more neglect in areas with the highest levels of deprivation. She said: “It’s not just to do with money, it’s do with life opportunities.
“It’s to do with parents’ support and skills.
“If you’re living a pretty miserable life it’s quite difficult to be a good parent.”
Ms Booth, who admitted that the board, council and other agencies were ‘still struggling to see a big impact’ on neglect in the borough, despite their best efforts.
“We are still seeing quite a lot of families needing to be supported by child protection plans, because of neglect,” she said.
And she added that tackling the problem was going to require a ‘really broad approach’.
Ms Booth said: “There will be people living in poverty who know how to access a food bank or cook a meal.
“And there are people who won’t and they will still be spending money they don’t have on takeaway pizzas and getting into debt.”
She said it was ‘frustrating’ as there was little that safeguarding agencies could do to change levels of deprivation in a community.
But added that child protection plans could work where parents could be helped to make a difference.
She said: “We are talking about cases where it’s a lack of parental skill or willingness, or a lack of capacity to understand the needs of their child.
“They might not have had good role models themselves, or be living in quite isolated communities without a grandparent or friendly neighbour to support them.”
The committee was also told that many neglect cases involved issues around drug and alcohol abuse and mental health problems, creating a ‘complex picture’.
The borough’s strategy for tackling neglect has recently been overhauled and the safeguarding boards will monitor the progress being made.
●●Rochdale’s child poverty levels are worse than the national average. Picture posed by model.