Protests have a point

protesting at the government’s proposals for spending on social
services next year, the Local Government Association and the
Association of Directors of Social Services could easily be accused
of looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.

financial support for local government will go up 7.4 per cent in
2002-3, more than three times the underlying rate of inflation,
and, while the figure specifically committed to social services is
slightly less generous at 6.5 per cent, it is still £684m more
than this year’s settlement.

social services leaders are right to point out that the money will
have little impact on some of the cumulative problems that have as
much to do with the way the system is funded as the extent to which
it is funded. Next year’s £200m bed-blocking grant is supposed
to be a further step towards the government’s goal of solving this
problem by 2004.

Far from
being part of the solution, this money will barely scratch the
surface of what has become a source of enormous resentment between
health and social care at a time when, paradoxically, they are
supposed to be forging partnerships based presumably on mutual
respect. And while Quality Protects, with its £885m budget
over five years, steals the headlines, children’s services as a
whole continue to stagger from one financial crisis to the

The only
hope is to stop the gradual erosion of financial autonomy in local
authorities. Since 1997 alone earmarked funding has grown from 4.5
per cent to around 15 per cent of total local government spending.
The government has promised to reverse the trend. It had better
hurry because, until local authorities are free to spend the money
where it is most needed, clients will continue to suffer. 

– See
news, page 8, and news analysis page 18

Shameful behaviour

Laming has every reason to be both frustrated and furious at the
behaviour of Haringey Council, in London, towards the inquiry into
the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie. The council’s
inability to provide 600 relevant documents to the inquiry team
within the correct time period is unacceptable.

after Haringey’s solicitor inaccurately accused the inquiry of
being too soft on staff from other agencies and treating social
workers too harshly, the council’s chief executive has been forced
to apologise and has admitted his “acute embarrassment”.

north London council’s behaviour has done enormous damage not only
to its own reputation but also to the wider public perception of
social services. The initial stages of the inquiry revealed that
mistakes and misjudgements by other agencies were contributing
factors which led to the failure to protect Victoria. The spotlight
widened its scope to include professionals from other agencies.
However, Haringey’s subsequent behaviour has turned the focus back
solely on to the social services department and its failings.

council has denied trying to cover up further failings, claiming it
did not realise that the documents it withheld were relevant. It is
remarkable that the local authority did not understand the remit
and importance of the inquiry, which could lead to a radical
overhaul of child protection procedures. Haringey must now ensure
that the inquiry receives all the necessary documentation to do its

– See
news, page 10

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