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Southend council is among top four in caring for at-risk children
VULNERABLE children in Southend are among the best protected in the country, Government inspectors have ruled.
An Ofsted report has ranked Southend Council in the top four authorities in England for its efforts to ensure youngsters in potentially dangerous households are safe.
The verdict comes just three years after bosses identified a series of blunders surrounding the deaths of two babies, Baby Robert and Chantelle Pilkington.
James Courtenay, the Tory councillor responsible for children’s protection in the town, said that showed how far the authority had come.
He said: “The gratifying thing for me is to see the plans we put into place in the wake of those incidents come to fruition. A lot has changed since 2009, and this report demonstrates how effective those changes have been.”
The investigation into the death of Chantelle, who was just eight weeks old when she was found unconscious at home in Friars Street, Shoebury , in August 2009, claimed organisations involved with the family had not worked together well enough.
The findings were only published earlier this month, after two juries failed to reach a verdict in manslaughter trials against the baby’s father, Tom Smith.
At roughly the same time as the Chantelle investigation, authorities also identified similar problems surrounding the death of Baby Robert, whose lifeless body was found in bed with his alcoholic mother in 2009.
When the council was inspected by Ofsted last month, it had more than 350 youngsters either in care or on its radar as potentially vulnerable.
The final report, published today, said none in the 73 cases examined by inspectors were “at any risk of harm”.
The result was the number of children in care or requiring the council to step in at their homes has dropped. Mr Courtenay said: “This report gives me the assurance that this authority is doing everything it can to prevent problems developing.
“We are in the situation where a 99.9 per cent success rate is never going to be good enough, because the death of any child is a terrible event.
“But what this report does is demonstrate we are doing all we can to stop that from happening.”
There have been several key changes since the deaths of Chantelle and Baby Robert Agencies involved in caring for vulnerable children, such as the council, police and health services, have been encouraged to share more information and senior figures in agencies must give regular reports to the Local Safeguarding Children Board to ensure they are behaving correctly.
Agencies are encouraged to focus on potential problems with men involved with children, as well as their mothers or other female relatives.