Child protection discussion lasts seconds, but who was there to hear it?

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Stephen Knight: Watching  for complacency Stephen Knight: Watching for complacency

Richmond Council was accused of complacency after a report highlighting child protection failures was not discussed at a 60-second meeting.

It was on the agenda for a cabinet meeting at York House on Thursday, June 19, but the meeting lasted just one minute.

Officers proposed three options for cabinet to consider - receiving a detailed report on the matter, asking the portfolio holder to investigate further or referring the matter to a scrutiny committee.

The cabinet dismissed those options.

Leader of the opposition Councillor Stephen Knight criticised the cabinet for hearing 13 items in 60 seconds - 4.6 seconds per item.

He said: "Richmond had almost twice as many episodes of children in care repeatedly going missing last year compared to the target and the report admits that a review last year found the council to be using an inappropriately high threshold of child protection processes.

"Why was this report not published last year, only to surface now?

"I fear we are entering into a new era of complacency and decision-making behind closed doors."

However, cabinet member for children's services Councillor Paul Hodgins dismissed Coun Knight's claims and said the figures were a result of a new measuring system.

He said: "The reason why the Lib Dems did not do well in the last election is because they are known for taking important issues and trivialising them to try to make sensational headlines.

"This cabinet meeting is there to let the opposition and the public discuss reports - it was so important to them that they didn't turn up.

"The report has been discussed in several meetings at the council and the reason why numbers have gone up is in 2012, we put in place more rigorous measuring system.

"We also put in place a review board and as a result a more centralised way of reporting and more consistency, giving a better service to report incidents that had gone unreported previously.

"The target was based on historical reporting, which was not as rigorous, and we need to adjust that now."

He added the council was focused on the issue and could judge how well it had done from next year's figures.

The council's quarterly performance report revealed it missed its target for reducing the number of repeat incidents of missing children.

The target for 2013/14 was 30 episodes but there were in fact 40 unique children.

There were 20 episodes in quarter one, 16 in quarter two, nine in quarter three and 11 in the final quarter.

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