Local government chiefs have called the Laming review of child protection published in response to the Baby P tragedy a “missed opportunity” to save children.
A joint response to the report sent to ministers yesterday by the Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) and London Councils outlined a number of serious reservations with Lord Laming’s recommendations.
The response warned that there was not enough detail in the proposals on improving referrals from key bodies such as schools and health services to prevent children slipping through the safety net and criticised the NHS’s “historic lack of commitment” in tackling child abuse.
LGA chair Margaret Eaton said that effective child protection could not be carried out by councils alone. She continued: “Staff in organisations like the NHS and the education system need to report concerns in a consistent and useful way. This is just one of the crucial issues Lord Laming’s review needs to address more explicitly.”
The response also slammed the “simplistic approach” taken by Ofsted in inspecting local authority child protections services and reiterated concerns that Laming had failed to provide a detailed costing of his recommendations. Eaton said: “There is the question of how the watchdog measures the success of the vital work which keeps thousands of children safe from harm, and whether it has a good enough understanding of what it is sitting in judgement on.
“Money is an ugly subject to introduce when talking about the safety of children, but it is a topic that cannot be ignored, as there will be a cost involved with any future reforms.”
SOLACE non-executive director Caroline Tapster added that the review had failed to open up a wider debate about who should be held responsible for child protection. “Councils, social services staff and the emergency services are only part of the answer to protecting children from harm,” she said. “Parents, families, neighbours and people living in the wider community can make a life-saving difference if they observe danger signs and act on them in the appropriate way. Keeping children safe from abuse is everybody’s business.”
The joint response also called for improvements in the co-ordination of child protection across government departments via the proposed new National Safeguarding Delivery Unit and greater clarity to be given regarding serious case reviews in order to help councils and Local Safeguarding Children Boards improve practice.