New work to prevent infant deaths

A Unison demonstration outside County Hall.
A Unison demonstration outside County Hall.

An overhaul of children’s services will take place in Northamptonshire after a damning report earlier this year found the county lacking in a number of areas.

Ofsted criticised the county council in the spring report saying the partnership looking after children’s interests was “inadequate”.

Are our child protection services in crisis?

Are our child protection services in crisis?

Among the areas the county was failing children in was infant deaths, which were far above the regional and national averages.

Last week, county councillors were presented with the Local Safeguarding Children Board annual report – the first since the Ofsted inspection earlier this year.

Among several new measures being introduced are reviews into unexpected infant deaths in the coming months.

The annual report detailed 10 unexpected deaths which have been reviewed, including cases of drowning, homicide and suicide.

Chairman of the Local Childrens Safeguarding Board Kevin Crompton

Chairman of the Local Childrens Safeguarding Board Kevin Crompton

Speaking at the full council meeting, Kevin Crompton, the chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Over the next few months, there will be more serious case reviews published.

“My job will be to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes identified in other serious case reviews.

“This is not a quick fix situation. It is a two-year programme of improvement. A critical area is how the council attracts, recruits and keeps experienced social workers.”

In February, Ofsted inspectors rated every aspect of children’s services in Northamptonshire as inadequate.

Then in August, the county council said the inadequate rating would probably remain for at least the next two years.

But Mr Compton said he was more optimistic about the year ahead.

He said: “This year is critical for the future of safeguarding in our county.

“It is, of course, very easy to be critical of the service. But in a lot of cases, even here, they do get it right, and we need to remember that.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that this time next year, I will bring a more positive report.”

In a bid to tackle infant deaths, the council will share unsafe sleeping advice with breastfeeding groups, who are developing guidance for midwives and health visitors.

The lead paediatrician on the committee reviewed all deaths over the last three years, and found the number was above the most recent regional and national levels.

The figure was 0.67 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to the regional figure of 0.55 and the national figure of 0.39.

Ten reviews into unexpected deaths were carried out.

Of these, three were from infections and two were from sudden infant death syndrome, while there were single deaths from accidents, drowning, fire, homicide and suicide.