Reduced police powers on child abuse prompt call for 24-hour social workers

Child protection social workers will need to begin offering a
24-hour service because police powers to remove children from
carers suspected of abuse will be significantly reduced later this
year, a senior police officer has warned, writes Sally

John Fox, a Detective Superintendent at Hampshire constabulary,
one of a panel of experts who sat alongside Lord Laming during the
inquiry into Victoria Climbie’s death, said that the Home
Office would be issuing new guidance to the police, reducing their

Speaking at the first multi-agency conference since
Laming’s report was published in January, Fox said it would
be necessary for social workers to introduce new working

He told an audience of 1,000 social work, police and health
professionals that children were often at most risk from abuse
after 5pm – the time that social workers finished work.

“It will be an upheaval but social workers will need to provide
a service 24 hours, which will require working shifts for which
there should be proper remuneration.”

He added that at the moment social workers, unlike police, were
not entitled to extra pay if they worked longer than their
contracted hours. This should change, he said.

Referrals that arrived late in the day were likely to be passed
to the police, who were either able to remove children or make them
a subject of a police protection order, said Fox.

Victoria had been placed under a police protection order as a
“holding measure” by Brent social services because they received a
referral about her admittance to Central Middlesex Hospital with
suspected non-accidental injuries just after 5pm.

The social worker responsible for the decision, Michelle Hines
– who did not speak to Victoria -told the Laming inquiry that the
case would have been handled differently if the referral had been
received earlier on in the day.

In his report, Laming criticised this action and recommended
that children who are the subject of allegations of deliberate harm
should be spoken to within 24 hours.

 He also recommended that local authorities must ensure that
legal advice is available round the clock. This would mean that
social workers seeking advice on the use of an emergency protection
order would be able to do so, rather than relying on the

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.