national standards-setting body to monitor the performance of child protection
services was proposed last week at the fourth seminar of phase two of the
Victoria Climbie Inquiry.
John Ransford, head of education and social
policy at the Local Government Association, said such a body would do away with
the need for public inquiries into child deaths.
The proposed body would set and monitor
standards. Agencies would explicitly contract with the new body, agreeing to
deliver on the standards for the local area. "That would mean that
agencies then have to deliver the resources – which is the key point to make it
work," said Ransford. The local authority chief executive would be the
right person to ensure it was done in the way the locality wanted.
The group of experts favoured such a body
over a central agency running child protection services.
Commenting on the impact of structural
change, June Thoburn, professor of social work at the University of East
Anglia, said: "On the whole, people do not leave because they are
underpaid or overworked. They leave because they keep being moved around, they
keep losing their relationships."
Former chief social services inspector Sir
William Utting warned that child protection must not be split off from wider
services. "Child protection services are an integral part of child welfare
services generally and no system that separates them is going to operate
successfully." Such services also need to be open to public scrutiny and
accountable to directly elected representatives, he said.
Children’s charity the NSPCC proposed new
multi-disciplinary teams, but others warned that that could lead to the
blurring of roles between police officers and social workers, and yet more
Experts agreed that strengthening area child
protection committees could help improve closer working between agencies and
could be one way to help prevent a repeat of the catastrophic agency failings
in Victoria’s case.
NSPCC policy adviser Rhian Stone said ACPCs
lacked teeth and needed to be put on a statutory footing.
Rob Hutchinson, chairperson of the
Association of Directors of Social Services children and families committee,
suggested local authority chief executives be made responsible for their local
ACPC in order to make the committee accountable to local politicians. But he
said there also had to be a way of ensuring health agencies felt equally