Nigel Verrill of the Metropolitan Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Command tells Amy Taylor how co-operation between police and social services has improved
The Metropolitan Police and socialservices both came in for strong criticism in the Victoria Climbié Inquiry. But six and a half years after Victoria’s death, both parties have changed many of their procedures for safeguarding children, and the relationship between them has improved.
Key to this is information sharing, which will be the subject of a speech by detective chief inspector Nigel Verrill at next week’s Community Care Live Children and Families in London.
When social services or the public call the Met with a concern about child abuse, it is passed through to one of the command’s referrals desks where officers carry out a risk assessment on the information and decide how to act on it.
Verrill, the regional manager for west London in the Met’s Child Abuse Investigation Command, says: “The referrals desk is so crucial in everything we do and if we are not going to get caught out again [as with the death of Victoria Climbié] it will be because of the strength of that desk.”
There are currently 19 desks covering the capital’s 32 boroughs – one desk per child abuse investigation team (see Child Abuse Investigation Command)
– but this will soon be reduced to four larger desks, one for each of London’s regions (north, south, east and west).
Some social services leaders have opposed the move, arguing that it could lead to a loss of the personal relationships built up with officers, but Verrill believes these concerns can be overcome. He says the main reason for the move is to ensure more consistent risk analysis and subsequent actions by desks.
Verrill says there are good working relationships between social services and police officers in the capital. He adds:“There’s recognition that we couldn’t achieve the result that we need without the information that social services have and they couldn’t [achieve the result they need] without knowing the information that we hold,” he says.
The Met is also at the forefront of the implementation of measures in the Children Act 2004.
From April 2008, all local safeguarding children boards will be required to have appointed child death review teams, which will be responsible for looking into all child deaths in their area.
Verrill anticipates that the command will play a major role in the creation of the teams in the capital, and its north London team is already doing so with Harrow Council.
Last year, the command took on responsibility for all investigations of sudden infant deaths across London to improve the way it deals with these incidents.
Verrill, who is deputy lead on the initiative (named Project Indigo), says this work has enabled it to build up a wealth of information on sudden infant deaths to feed back to the new teams. Verrill believes the Met’s procedures for tackling child abuse have improved since Victoria’s death but that they need to be constantly reviewed.
“We have got much better systems but that’s not saying that they don’t need frequent change,” he says.
“It’s by no means standing still.”
The Child Abuse Investigation Command
The command was formed in response to recommendations made by the inquiry into Victoria Climbié’s death, and investigates child abuse by family members, professionals and carers across London. It covers all of London’s 32 boroughs and is split into north, south, east and west regions. Each of these regions has child abuse investigation teams.
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