Minister plans to ensure senior staff are accountable for service failings

Front-line staff will no longer have to bear the brunt of child
protection under government plans to spread accountability across
all levels.

Health minister Jacqui Smith announced the change at an NSPCC
fringe meeting at Labour’s spring conference in Glasgow last week
when she said “under-fire, under-pressure front-line staff” would
no longer have to cope alone.

She said Lord Laming’s report into Victoria Climbie’s death had
identified failings at every level.

Smith said Laming rightly described as “breathtaking” the
unwillingness of “some of the most senior people in the agencies
that worked with Victoria” to accept they were in any way

She said the government would be “looking in detail at the new
national structures needed and how they relate to the issue of
accountability” and link recommendations to the Children at
green paper.

“We will consider whether we have the right professional structures
in place, whether we need a different sort of staff and new ways of
enabling professionals to work together,” she said.

She revealed that chief executives had already been asked to ensure
that the basic elements of good practice referred to by Laming were
in place within three months.

The moves were backed by the Society of Local Authority Chief
Executives and Senior Managers.

In its response to the Laming report, Solace said chief executives
should intervene when services failed to reach acceptable standards
and be prepared to share the blame for failings.

Tim Byles, secretary of Solace and chief executive of Norfolk
Council, said chief executives should ensure that quality assurance
and monitoring systems were in place to highlight problems early

Laming criticised Gurbux Singh, who was chief executive of Haringey
Council when Victoria died, for being “able to distance himself”
from failures in the case.

Local Government Association chairperson Sir Jeremy Beecham also
emphasised the need for accountability.

He said: “Lead responsibility should be given to one of three
people: the chief executive, the leader of the council or the
council cabinet member with the relevant portfolio.”

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