Children and young people are generally safe and well protected because frontline staff across health and social care services in South Ayrshire work well together, inspectors have said, but the leadership and planning of services is weak and needs to improve.

These are among the key findings of a joint inspection of services for children and young people in the South Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership. 

The inspection was carried out by the Care Inspectorate with Education Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland between 25 April and 10 June 2016.

Inspectors looked at a wide range of services to assess how well they are working together to make a positive difference to the lives of children, young people and their families. They looked at how services are delivered by staff and assessed how well they are led, planned and organised. 

Across nine quality indicators, inspectors found three were “good” while four were “adequate.”

Two indicators, “planning and improving services” and “leadership of improvement and change,” were found to be “weak.” 

In their report, inspectors said the way frontline staff in South Ayrshire responded to child protection concerns was good, expressing confidence that a number of actions taken by individual services in South Ayrshire are leading to effective initial responses to child protection concerns. 

This, along with the quality and consistency of assessment and planning, means that children in need of protection are safer and their needs better met.  

Inspectors found, however, that partnership working by the child protection committee and the chief officers group needs “greater impetus to further improve outcomes for children in need of protection, and identify and respond effectively to emerging risks.”

Inspectors noted that local agencies in South Ayrshire had yet to demonstrate a narrowing of outcome gaps between children and young people who were “growing up with very unequal life chances in the contrasting communities in their area.” 

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “This inspection identified a number of particular strengths that are making a positive difference for children and young people within the South Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership area. 

“But we have also clearly laid out areas which require improvement so that the lives of all children and young people across the area improve, and continue to do so. 

“We expect to see action to strengthen strategic leadership and direction through effective collaborative working and joint management of resources. Leaders must also demonstrate improving trends in closing outcome gaps in the early years for children growing up in communities affected by poverty and deprivation. 

“And they must urgently reduce the number of young people aged 11 to 15 starting to be accommodated away from home by taking a multi-agency approach.”

Inspectors use a variety of techniques to assess service, including interviewing staff, senior officers and young people, and a structured review of individual young people’s care files. 

Specially-trained young inspectors aged 18-24, who have personal experience of using care, met young people in South Ayrshire, listening to what matters to them, and probing agencies about what they were doing to improve the quality of care for other young people.

The full inspection report is available here