Key agencies’ alternative framework puts emphasis on local solutions

The debate over the future shape of children’s services moved up
a gear this week with two major policy developments.

Minister for children and young people John Denham outlined plans
for new local systems to identify, track and refer children at

And in a moved timed to coincide with Denham’s announcement, key
agencies responsible for children’s services have set out their
vision for the future, outlining a new model for a more
co-ordinated, locally based service.

In their new report, Serving Children Well – a New Vision for
Children’s Services, the Local Government Association
, the
Association of Directors of Social Services and the NHS
Confederation reject calls for a national child protection agency.
Instead, they offer an alternative framework, building on existing
structures rather than replacing them.

John Ransford, the LGA head of social affairs, health and housing,
called for a full and open national debate to “smoke out” the

“There seems to be some confusion in the run-up to the publication
of the Laming report. It has been suggested the government is not
going to listen to Laming. I don’t know whether that’s true, but
what I do know is that the government appears to be running an
un-joined-up agenda,” he said.

Jane Held, ADSS children and families joint chairperson and Camden
director of social services, said the proposals were “about making
local circumstances work for local kids rather than imposing
artificial structures and organisations.

“The point is you can never eliminate all risk, but if you support
excellence in practice that can help minimise risk.”

The report warns that when a tragedy occurs there is a tendency to
view it as a systems failure rather than either a unique set of
events or a failure of one component of the system that could be
put right. It adds that major change is often destructive to those
services that are performing well.

Other ideas put forward in the report include:

  • New children’s strategic partnership boards (reporting to local
    strategic partnerships).
  • A unified performance management system based on the National
    Service Framework for Children.
  • A universal child indicator to ensure vulnerable children are
    identified across agencies and essential information is exchanged
  • A single assessment system allowing agencies to share a common
    approach to assessing and recording need.
  • A unified workforce plan.
  • Children’s champions to promote the interests of children and
    “walk the services” to identify weaknesses.

The report, Serving Children Well – A New Vision for Children’s
Services, is at

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