The Conservatives have increased pressure on Lord Laming to insist councils publish serious case reviews after securing an agreement with Birmingham Council to publish full, but anonymised, reports of all its child abuse cases.
Shadow children’s secretary Tim Loughton announced the council’s intention in a House of Commons debate on child protection on 3 February, and has submitted his recommendations for all councils to adopt this approach to Lord Laming’s review.
But children’s secretary Ed Balls maintained that publishing full serious case reviews would put children at risk, despite criticism over a lack of public information on the Baby P case.
The decision to go beyond the government’s guidance – namely, that executive summaries should be published – was made by Birmingham’s cabinet member for children’s services, Les Lawrence.
The Conservative councillor told Loughton that, as long as the reports protected the identities of children involved, they would be published in full.
The council will start with the serious case review of seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq, who was found dead at her home in Handsworth, near Birmingham. The trial of her mother, Angela Gordon, and her partner, Junaid Abuhamza, has been set for 3 June.
Initially, the council told Community Care that it was not planning to publish anything more than executive summaries. But Lawrence later confirmed that it was “committed to publishing comprehensive executive summaries”.
He described these as documents “equivalent to the full report having undergone the appropriate process (redacting) to ensure that all information which would constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act has been removed.
“This is to give the public confidence in children’s social services, in that all lessons have been learned and actions have been taken.”
Loughton said the new reports would be more substantial than executive summaries, which were “highly selective” and subject to “a degree of discretion, for which whole tranches of important stuff could be left out.
“They will be a much truer report than what is currently available.”
He added that other councils would have to decide whether to take the same approach.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman said the government would wait for Lord Laming’s response, due in March, before deciding whether to issue new guidance for more comprehensive reporting.
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