Behind the headlines

There, hidden away in the comprehensive spending review, was the
destiny of children’s services. From the end of next year, the
government plans to pilot children’s trusts, which will unify
locally the various agencies involved in providing services to
children. The announcement had not been expected to pre-empt Lord
Laming’s Victoria Climbi’ Inquiry report, but we were left in no
doubt that the new trusts could include child protection services.
There is believed to have been some pressure from the Cabinet for
the involvement of private sector management, but health minister
Jacqui Smith is understood to want children’s trusts to remain
under the control of elected councillors. The trusts could also
include disabled children’s services, children with special
educational needs, speech therapy and mental health. A DoH
spokesperson said: “Children’s trusts will enable local partners to
jointly plan, commission and deliver services for children. We do
not want to dictate what the trusts cover – local partners will
need to look at what works for their communities.”   

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“The expectation was that the major changes would stem from
Laming’s report – his findings would be a critical influence. Yet
now major restructuring is to be piloted almost immediately. Is the
government concerned that Laming will not deliver the
recommendations it wants? The proposals have much to commend them,
but consultation is essential with key participants locally and
nationally. I do wonder why improvement is always seen to be based
on organisational change. Professional competence, confidence and
authority may be the critical factors to get right first.”

Bill Badham, programme manager, Children’s

“How do you make a child’s right to protection everybody’s
business? It’s about carrot and stick. The government guidance
Working Together To Safeguard Children and area child protection
committees are carrots. The Victoria Climbi’ and Lauren Wright
inquiries indicate we need more stick. For children’s trusts to
work they need to replace ACPCs, bringing statutory co-ordination
across social services, health, education and indeed the police,
with liability at chief executive level and greater accountability
of officers and members.”

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social
care, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

“Children’s trusts may have some innovative possibilities and they
may also have all the disadvantages of care trusts. I personally
dislike the notion of private profit in services for children but,
let’s face it, it’s already there. However, I feel outraged that
this announcement is being made before the Climbi’ Inquiry reports.
What’s the explanation? I am deeply concerned that we’ll see
piecemeal developments and that means fragmentation.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner,

“Developments that will engender increased multi-agency
accountability are to be welcomed. It is good to see proposals that
take into account all aspects of child development and I feel that
stronger partnerships will assist in ensuring that the needs of
children are met. I work in a multi-agency setting and feel that it
would be beneficial to create a legal requirement for agencies to
work together as children are often failed because of poor

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds

“This is an example of New Labour at its worst – simplistic ideas
pulled out of a hat with no consultation, and ‘voluntary pilot
schemes’ rolled out regardless of opposition. If this goes ahead,
the role of representative local democracy in social care will be
further weakened, with adult care hived off to the NHS in a
parallel move. Effective partnerships are rooted in skilled and
committed individuals who trust and respect one another. This
cannot be created through structural change imposed by
administrative fiat.”

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