Children’s service providers want to see co-operation enshrined in law

The children at risk green paper should place a legal requirement
on all agencies involved in the delivery of children’s services to
co-operate with social services to safeguard children, according to
local government organisations last week.

The Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of
Social Services, the NHS Confederation, the Association of Chief
Education Officers, and the Confederation of Education Service
Managers, want the long-awaited green paper to include a “series of
interlocking statutory duties and powers” for services

These would include each agency having a statutory duty to
safeguard children and a supporting duty to “make appropriate
arrangements” to discharge that duty. There would also be a duty to
co-operate with one another and a supporting discretionary power to
pool staff and resources as necessary.

Directors of social services have long complained that, without
incentives to ensure health, education and others play an active
part, the safeguarding of children will be left solely to social

Currently, under the Children Act 1989, although social services
can request assistance from education, housing and health partners
in child protection issues, they can not force them to help and
have no power to ask for assistance from other agencies, including
those working in the voluntary and private sectors.

The organisations also believe the green paper should introduce a
new statutory framework for children’s trusts and other
local-authority led service delivery partnerships.

As well as ensuring other agencies co-operate in child protection,
the new framework would give local authorities statutory
recognition as the “accountable body” for all child protection
services in the locality.

It would include a new statutory requirement for local authorities
to designate a “lead member” and “lead officer” ultimately
responsible for child protection within the council, and a similar
requirement for other agencies involved in child protection,
including police authorities and primary care trusts.

The group would also like to see new powers to allow local
authorities to scrutinise the work of any agency or organisation
providing child care and protection, and to require co-operation
with that scrutiny.

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