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Havering’s children protection team adopts new approach after rise in serious cases

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 August 2016

Dave Tapsell, director of children services Tim Aldridge and Robert South outside Havering town hall

Dave Tapsell, director of children services Tim Aldridge and Robert South outside Havering town hall

Archant

With a booming number of young people in the borough, the council’s children’s team has been prompted to adapt its services to meet increasing demands and more complex family situations.

Sexual Exploitation

As the number of cases reported to the children’s protection team grows, staff have set their priority as identifying children at risk of sexual exploitation.

Tim Aldridge, acting director of children’s services, said this reflected a growing national trend: “A lot of that exploitation begins on the internet, where the grooming process takes place.”

Children’s services is working with health services and the police to identify anyone at risk.

The number of children in contact with Havering’s child protection team is on the rise, fuelled by the increase of large families moving into the borough – bringing with them a diversity of cultures and family behaviour.

“We need to respond to the new demand in a different way,” explained Tim Aldridge, acting director for children’s services.

The department is aiming to recruit 40 social workers this year and four family therapists to work alongside them.

“Havering is investing in families living in the borough. We are taking a more positive approach and building on families’ strength and trying to support them in a more inclusive way,” said Mr Aldridge.

Dave Tapsell, who is heading a new team working to include therapy work in day-to-day meetings between social workers and families, told the Recorder child protection cases are becoming more complex and more serious.

Mr Tapsell referred to a recent case where parents allegedly physically assaulted their young son, who suffers from severe learning difficulties and disorders.

“More difficult families with more needs are being moved into outer London. Families are stressed and under pressure because they are being relocated, which increases the risk of harm against children, so it is important that we get to the families quick enough,” he added.

Inside the department, radical changes are being made to adapt to the new demands.

Face-to-face time between social workers and families is being increased, while dialogue with carers focuses on the positive aspects of their parenting in order to find better ways to tackle their problems.

“Families need to find their own solutions,” said Mr Aldridge.

He added that initiatives such as the family coaching programme allow trained groups of volunteers to help families in their communities face problems head-on.

But Mr Aldridge also praised the increasing numbers of young people who are ringing the service to share concerns about their friends.

“Communities are working to protect each other,” he added.

Havering Council’s cabinet member for children and learning, Cllr Robert Benham, welcomed the team’s new approach and the use of holistic solutions to combat complex issues.

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