The Protection of Children Act list, or Poca list as it is commonly
known, has an identity problem.
That much was clear last week at the appeal of former Haringey
social worker Angella Mairs against her inclusion on the
Chair of the Care Standards Tribunal John Reddish identified a
“misconception” that the list was only for paedophiles, when in
fact the net falls far wider. The act itself states that referral
to the list is obligatory for anyone working with children who has
been dismissed on the grounds of misconduct “which harmed a child
or placed a child at risk of harm”.
That Mairs, a manager involved in Victoria Climbi”s case, and Lisa
Arthurworrey, Victoria’s allocated social worker, have ended up on
the list should, then, be no surprise. Both were dismissed by
Haringey Council for their part in a case which resulted in the
death of an eight-year-old girl.
But their inclusion should be about protecting children and
ensuring the public has faith in the country’s child protection
services, not about stigmatising individuals or seeing them
vilified in the press.
Being removed from a list of people who are acknowledged for their
acceptable practice would seem a fairer way to deal with
individuals than singling them out for poor performance.
In June, Sir Michael Bichard proposed exactly such a list.
Reporting on his inquiry into the failures that led to Ian
Huntley’s appointment as a school caretaker despite a string of
previous sex allegations, he called for the creation of a central
register for all people working with children. The home secretary
lent his weight to the idea with talk of a workers’ licence.
By September, however, the government’s feet already appeared to
have got cold. Children’s minister Margaret Hodge started referring
to the “huge resource and practical issues” a central register
would present and began to talk about a register of those
unsuitable to work with children instead.
Before abandoning Bichard’s recommendations, perhaps the government
should try a little harder. Afterall, a sector that does not name
and shame its staff while still protecting children must surely be
a more attractive place to work than one where front-line staff are
hung out to dry.