Debate on Lord Laming’s report

We asked whether Lord Laming’s proposals, if implemented
by the government, would prevent more children dying from abuse
because of failings by the agencies.

These are the reponses we received:

We are the witnesses to child abuse. There is
a system in which we are marginalised, isolated, disbelieved and
insulted. We often see, the children that we love, further abused
under the noses of the authorities. We are the people who know the
children well: ‘A REAL VOICE’ for the children.
The child protection people cannot afford to delete our voice. Now
is the time to make it possible for us to be heard.
The child protection system must be made, and seen to be
‘witness friendly’, ‘FOR THE SAKE OF THE

Patricia Benstead

The single most important change would be to
reintroduce specialist social workers for children. These should be
selected from those who are interested and found suitable, having
shown ability and aptitude as generic workers. All the training and
liaison arrangements in the world are no use if the people on the
ground are unsuited by temperament or ability. As with juvenile
magistrates, who have to meet more stringent requirements than
those for adults, so with social workers.

Jacqueline Castles

Lord Laming’s report is very thorough and
damming, and his recommendations need to be
applauded.Unfortunately, I do not think that it will make a long
term difference to the work of the agencies involved, until they
start to work in partnership with each other and start to share
information and concerns. For years this has been social services’
downfall as they have always had the tendency to ‘hold on to
How many children have to be abused/killed before preventative
measures are put into practice?
Agencies continually fail our children e.g.Jasmine Beckford. After
each enquiry, we hear the same rhetoric “It must not happen again”.
But it keeps on happening.

Volda C.Rayside

Many submissions to the Laming Inquiry were
excluded, and I feel that issues surrounding what impacts on
grassroots service delivery were ignored, or minimised at best.
There was insufficient input from first line practitioners and
managers. How much time did the Inquiry team actually spend going
out and seeing what it is like to actually deal with some of the
day-to-day situations social workers, police officers, health
visitors, hospital doctors have to deal with?
There are fundamental operational difficulties such as how to
provide an effective service with a continuing national shortage of
social workers – and especially experienced social workers. Issues
of pay and morale are equally important. It is all well and good
the inquiry recommending that investigations should be undertaken
by qualified and experienced workers when, in reality, they are
just not around.
Increasingly due to performance indicators (PI’s) being set, extra
time and attention go on ensuring that these PI’s are met (i.e.
statutory visiting, reviews, reduction of moves etc) without
looking equally carefully at the QUALITY of the work being
undertaken – we are becoming over-procedural/mechanistic at the
risk of having any time left to undertake direct, creative and
positive social work. I have worked so far this week over 52 hours,
and will be doing further paperwork at home this weekend.
At this time of year especially many authorities are facing
spending restrictions/ freezes – how does the resource limitation
affect good practice? How can we do the best for children and young
people in a climate where budget-led considerations seems to win
over needs-led ones? The billions to go to war against Iraq perhaps
lead to a cynical view as to whether there is any REAL will to
positively help the most vulnerable of our own citizens.
I was pleased to see that senior managers in all agencies did, for
once, not get away with their ‘It’s nothing to do with me Guv’
responses. Perhaps it is past the time that some of them returned
to undertake some real ‘coal face’ work and see what is now like –
many have been out of direct practice for very many years – and
some got where they are today because they weren’t that good
‘Whistleblowing’ seems a good idea, but you only have to look at
some of the consequences experienced by those brave souls who tried
it to realise that perhaps you need to accept that your career may
be ended despite your best and most honest endeavours. My
experience leads me to advise you to be extremely cautious – the
Laming Inquiry needed to look at how SAFELY people can raise issues
and concerns with a GUARANTEE of no reprisals.
Within social work practitioners are significantly over-burdened
and unless and until there is a genuine child-centred determination
from central government downwards to address this it is almost as
certain as night follows day that further tragedies will occur.
They have continued to do so over the past 30 years despite inquiry
after inquiry, and despite procedure after orocedure, and despite
SSI inspection after SSI inspection.
Most of us know what constitutes good, safe and effective practice
but there are too few of us, and we are too overworked.

Philip J Measures

For all the background on the Climbie case
click here

To read Lord Laming’s report
click here


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