Debate on a national child protection agency

We asked: Do you think there should be a national agency
for child protection services? The government is said to be
considering an agency in response to the Victoria Climbie

These are the responses we received:

A national agency dealing with investigations
of child abuse would be better understood by other agencies and
families and therefore has many advantages, particularly in London.
The creation of such an agency would enable social workers in local
authority children’s teams to focus on the provision of support
services and create a genuine needs-led service.

Splitting the two social work functions (‘policing’ and
‘supporting’) would provide a new opportunity to clarify roles,
develop staff expertise, and provide training which is more focused
on staff need.

I suggest the national agency should carry out section 47
investigations and act as the lead agency in decision-making with
regard to investigations, conferences and legal proceedings. This
would ensure:

– clarity of roles and responsibilities

– consistency in approach e.g. in setting thresholds where a
child is deemed to be at risk

– an understanding of the system that is shared by practitioners
and managers

– a formalised system for separating urgent and non-urgent

– good support for staff so that no-one should feel isolated or

– training for staff through working alongside colleagues with
more experience

Some cases where continuing child maltreatment was suspected
would still be dealt with by the district team if it already knew
the family, and it was felt the assessment should be carried out
over a longer period of time. The new national agency would only
make an initial assessment after consultation with the district
team. It would then determine the action required from other

The notion of splitting functions is not new as many authorities
already have a centralised investigation team. One advantage is
that it gives social workers a real choice about the style of
working they prefer and allows them to opt out of ‘policing’ work
if they feel they are not suited to this. Also, it is more honest
and upfront about the investigative role.

At present, many students completing social work courses do not
have the skills required for child abuse investigations. If child
abuse investigations were recognised as ‘policing’ work the task
might actually be much simpler.

Hilary Searing




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