In the Norfolk case it seems that professionals put a family through protection processes when the unborn child was “in need” but not “in need of protection”. Inevitably, with the abolition of the child protection register, far more children will be subject to a “protection plan”.
The distinction between child concerns and children suffering significant harm will become increasingly muddled and high-risk children will be lost from view.
Assessment protocols are the wrong tools entirely for making professional judgements about whether or not a mother with mental ill-health poses a risk to her child. Multi-agency investigation, of which assessment of the child’s needs is but one component, requires more complex skills.
As few child protection cases lead to criminal prosecution, to introduce Pace would remove protection from abused children who need procedures implemented at the “balance of probability”, rather than “beyond reasonable doubt” level of proof.
This would be a dangerous development leaving many children unprotected. Instead, there should be challenge to the assessment protocols. ➔ Liz Davies is senior lecturer in children and families social work, London Metropolitan University