Council concedes child protection work always carries risk

Risk in child protection social work can never be eliminated,
Edinburgh Council acknowledged, writes Maggie

A council report outlining points of action and key
recommendations for improving child protection, social work
practice and policy was considered by the council following the
damning O’Brien inquiry report into the death of baby Caleb
Ness in 2002.

The report, ‘Protecting Edinburgh’s Children’, said
council policy seeks to minimise risk for children, but recognised
that no matter what steps are taken risk cannot be completely

The council will fully support its staff in child protection
work, providing they have acted professionally and in good faith,
the report said.

The council was also asked to set a target reduction in
caseloads for child protection workers from 19 per worker to 14 in
keeping with recommendations in the Laming inquiry into the death
of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie. The target for achieving this
reduction is March 2006.

Kingsley Thomas, Edinburgh’s executive member for social
work, said: “The main issues in the report were to highlight
the work that has been done following the O’Brien inquiry
report in terms of staff, management practice and quality

“It is very important however, that the council has acknowledged
that there is always an element of risk in child protection
work,” he said.

The establishment of a social work standards committee, which
was also agreed by the council yesterday is, according to Thomas,
crucial at this stage. He said the committee gives elected council
members “more of a role, and acknowledges a collective
responsibility for child protection”.

Edinburgh Council’s plans to significantly restructure the
social work department after the O’ Brien inquiry will be
fully discussed at the next full council meeting on 29 April.

However, a cross party children and family scrutiny panel held
on Monday agreed that there was little evidence that major
structural change was required.


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