01 February 2022

It takes a village: "If you come into contact with children and families... you can make a difference."

An annual report on the progress of Aberdeenshire’s Child Protection Committee was presented to the local authority’s Education and Children’s Services Committee last week, underlining efforts to ensure anyone coming into contact with children and young people through their work is clued up on how to play a role in safeguarding.


Five online modules are now available to anyone works with children and young people or families – that work doesn’t have to be direct and could include anyone from school crossing patrollers, library assistants and sports coaches to bus drivers, housing officers and police officers.


The online training courses cover children’s rights and participation, information sharing, and information about the approach to supporting vulnerable children with a named person, lead professional and the ‘team around the child’. If you require an account to be created to access these ALDO courses for a limited period of time, please send an email stating your name and the name of the organisation you work/volunteer with.


There are also modules on assessment and chronologies, and multi-agency meetings and the child’s plan for practitioners such as teachers and social workers or support workers who have a more direct role in supporting children and young people and may form part of a ‘team around the child’. It is recommended that those with a named person or lead professional role complete all five modules.


All modules are based on Aberdeenshire’s current GIRFEC Guidance which can be viewed online: https://www.girfec-aberdeenshire.org/documents/


Child Protection Committee Chair Susan Maclaren explains: “We’re trying to encourage as many practitioners as possible to come forward and make the best use of these great new resources. You don’t necessarily have to be directly caring for children but it is incredibly important we collectively improve our knowledge of these areas in order to best support children and young people.


“If you come into contact with children and families at your work, and that could be a paid or voluntary role, you can make a difference. It’s about understanding our responsibilities to support them, knowing who to turn to if you have a question or concern, and understanding how you can help vulnerable children and young people.”


Aberdeenshire’s Child Protection Committee is a multi-agency group with members from the police, health, local authority and third sector organisations. They have a quality assurance and leadership role and continue to lead a number of projects on data and self-evaluation, improvement and supporting the workforce.


They’ve also put together a Neglect Toolkit drawing on the expertise of all partner agencies to help colleagues ensure families get the support they need. View the Neglect Toolkit: https://www.girfec-aberdeenshire.org/category/neglect-toolkit/


Susan adds: “As we look to the long term, we are just beginning to understand the impact of the pandemic on our most vulnerable in terms of mental health, exploitation and poverty amongst many other challenges.


“This work is about us all pulling together to help address those challenges. Social workers and a range of other professionals are here to help if you need it so please don’t be afraid to get in touch.”


As detailed in the annual report, the committee has completed analysis of re-registrations on the child protection register, they have set up a group to improve child protection practice for children with disabilities, they continue to raise awareness about the common forms and signs of child sexual abuse and are extending this to criminal exploitation of children in all its’ forms, focusing at the moment on county lines drug dealing. They are also supporting services with improvements to processes evidencing efficient response to child protection concerns, and the evolving range of training opportunities available is part of this work.


Councillors on the Education and Children’s Services Committee welcomed the report and asked what they could do to support the team.


Committee Chair Cllr Gillian Owen commented: “This is about us all working together. When it comes to supporting children and young people and families, the earlier the better. Working more proactively with children and families decreases risk, allows us to understand the needs of communities and enables us re-align services to ensure the right support is in the right places.


“As councillors we recognise the extensive, detailed and complex nature of the Child Protection Committee’s work and would like to commend Susan and the wider team across Aberdeenshire for all of their efforts to help those who need it most.”


Vice Chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce added: “We can all be eyes and ears to help children and young people. And there are many, many organisations out there across Aberdeenshire, including volunteer groups and others that provide vital support to children and families, such as support groups, emotional support services, those offering befriending or local volunteers addressing rural poverty through transport projects.


“I’d like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone making a difference out there, no matter how big or small your role is, whether it’s part of paid or voluntary work. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea or a friendly smile that makes a huge difference to a struggling parent or carer, or a young person whose home life is difficult.”


Anyone struggling with their mental health or looking for tips on self-care can find a range of resources signposted on Aberdeenshire Council’s website. This includes free access to online tools Kooth and Togetherall, which are available to support anyone in Aberdeenshire aged 10 and up:  https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/community-care/living-independently/mental-health-wellbeing-services/mental-health-wellbeing-support/


You can also turn to school leaders, health visitors and friendly children and families social work teams who are based across Aberdeenshire if you as a parent or carer are struggling to cope or you know someone who is. There is no question too big or too small and it’s important we all remember ‘it’s ok to ask’. You can find all the details for local children and families teams, including an out of hours phone number, online: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/children-and-families/children-and-families-team-offices/