The chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on child protection has urged the government to think again over its proposals to permit the outsourcing of children’s services, and to make abuse investigations exempt from the plans.
Speaking at yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on child protection policy, Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said she welcomed the government’s recent assurances that it would restrict delegation of services by councils to non-profit making organisations, and that she recognised the benefits that third-sector involvement can bring.
But Munn went on to warn that “there is a big difference between providing therapeutic services to children and being responsible for the investigation of suspected child abuse”.
Echoing fears voiced by academics and other senior social work professionals, she expressed concerns that outsourcing child protection work, while leaving local authorities with ultimate responsibility for its quality, would “exacerbate risks” to young people by unnecessarily adding “another layer of accountability, monitoring and checking”.
Munn said: “I believe strongly that this sector is the responsibility of local authorities, and that if they are failing, that should be dealt with not by delegation but by [action]… through the offices of the children’s minister.”
Elsewhere in the debate, Munn elaborated on the key recommendations of the APPG’s report on child sexual abuse, published in April. These include a review of information sharing guidelines for professionals involved in child protection, improved specialist sexual abuse training for social workers and teachers, and better support for victims of child sexual abuse.
Responding to the findings, children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “We are taking action not just within my own department, but right across government to learn the lessons from past mistakes, to see how we can improve the services that are there to protect children, and to make sure that professionals have the capability and the space to spot the signs of abuse and that they know how to act on those signs.”