Behind the headlines

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge has called for more voluntary
sector involvement in child protection work in a bid to ease the
pressures caused by staff shortages. Larger charities have argued
that the statutory sector should maintain a separate role. But at
least two local authorities are pressing ahead with recruiting
individual volunteers to work with families in child protection

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“It is beginning to look as if New Labour’s big idea for a third
term is to extend the role of welfare charities – a curious
similarity to the Thatcher era. This trend has already transformed
the voluntary sector beyond recognition, but an extension to
statutory child protection work would be problematic. The thrust of
the post-Laming arrangements is to create much tighter relations
between statutory bodies over assessment, information sharing and
intervention. The minister needs to address the causes of the
recruitment crisis in child protection, rather than casting around
for a quick fix.”

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“I have opted for a career in the voluntary sector as it offers me
the opportunity to be creative and not bound by the
responsibilities of statutory services. I enjoy the developmental
nature of my role and the autonomy that I am afforded. The thought
of having to manage a team where child protection becomes a primary
focus does not appeal as I feel the essence of my work and the
focus of the service I manage would be lost.”

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“I have no problem with the voluntary sector having a role in child
protection, as long as it is properly resourced and supported, and
as long as it does not interfere with its role as an the
independent advocate and innovator. One of the roles that the
sector could usefully undertake is to inform the public about the
complex and difficult nature of child protection and give them a
better understanding of the work.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“My motivation in staying in the voluntary sector is to retain the
capacity to speak out and make a difference – usually best achieved
as the government’s ‘critical friend’ rather than as an outright
opponent. When we deliver contracted work to government the rules
are different and we follow them with care, striving to maintain
our integrity while delivering the required results for children.
But if we were mainstream providers we would lose the capacity to
challenge and, for me, the risks would outweigh the

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“A foundation principle of the Children Act 1989, the separation of
statutory duty and voluntary sector provision, is at risk of being
eroded by political expediency. We hoped workforce reform proposals
in Every Child Matters heralded significant and sustained
investment in the statutory social care profession, not undermine
it. The voluntary sector should retain its critical independence
and not take on that which properly remains the responsibility of
the state.”

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