Caution urged over Green Paper reforms

The government’s proposals for wide-ranging changes to
children’s services in England have led to concerns about the
implementation of closer working with health, education and
criminal justice services, writes David

The proposals, outlined in the Green Paper “Every Child
Matters”, will see much closer working and information
sharing between agencies. Every child will be given a unique
identifying number attached to a file of personal information about
their lives including contact with police, social services,
education welfare and youth offending team.

When a child is known to more than one agency, the file will
give details of  a professional who must take overall
responsibility for their protection.

Local authority education and children’s social services are to
be merged into new children’s departments. By 2006 they will be
expected to set up children’s trusts to link up with the NHS and
other agencies.

Once the children’s services have been integrated they
will be overseen by Ofsted, the education watchdog.
Chief inspector David Bell said: “Inspection will reflect and
support the integration of local services for children and young
people which the Green Paper wants to promote.”

However, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of
Teachers, said  there needed to be clear roles for different
agencies. “In education what is essential is that roles are not
blurred,” said McAvoy. “It is the responsibility of
social workers to follow up potential cases of abuse.”

“Teachers are responsible for children’s learning, but the
teacher may spot a potential case of abuse because a child’s
approach to school alters. “That is when a range of other
services must swing into action. But all agencies must work
together and exchange information.”

“The government must remember that teachers are already

Louise Silverton, deputy general of the Royal College of
Midwives, said it wanted the proposed changes subject to a full
evaluation before they are implemented.

“The Government must ensure that all parts of the health
sector are fully integrated in all child protection plans, after
all babies are children too,” she said.

“There are big implications for midwives in a community
role in fully understanding child protection issues and knowing
what action to take if they have concerns.

There has also been concern about the proposals in the Green
Paper to make it easier to lock up 12 to 14-year olds.
Sharon Moore, policy manager for the Children’s Society, warned:
“This plan appears to ignore that between 1998 and 2002, 12 boys
aged 16-17 killed themselves while in custody.”

The Home Office denied that the proposal would increase the
number of children in custody. A spokesperson said: “The proposals
would amalgamate the existing detention and training order and the
intensive supervision and surveillance order into a new intensive
supervision or detention order.

“This new order will not include the persistence criteria in the
DTO, but the judge will have discretion to decide whether a
custodial or community based sentence is more

A spokesperson for the Solicitors Family Law Association said:
‘Lawyers work to protect the interests of individual children, but
children as a whole need an advocate. The new role of a
commissioner for children should prove a useful part of the
strategy to help prevent situations which often end with children
involved in court proceedings.”

Tom Wylie, chief executive of the National Youth Agency, said
that it was disappointed that the Green Paper does not adequately
reflect the particular vulnerabilities of young people, as opposed
to children.

Nevertheless, he continued, “there are opportunities for
youth work to gain further recognition for its key role in
promoting the best opportunities for young people whether by
enhancing learning in schools or by working in other settings with
those most excluded from mainstream education and

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