Senior police officer wants social workers to offer 24-hour services

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 child protection police officer has warned.

Detective superintendent John Fox, of Hampshire police, who sat
with Lord Laming during the Victoria Climbi’ Inquiry, said Home
Office guidance would probably remove some of the responsibility
police have for protecting children and place extra emphasis on the
front-line role of social workers.

Victoria was herself placed under a police protection order as a
“holding measure” by Brent social services in London because a
referral about her following her admittance to hospital with
suspected non-accidental injuries was received at about 5pm.

The social worker responsible for the referral, Michelle Hines, who
did not speak to the eight-year-old, admitted to the inquiry that
she would have acted differently if she had received it earlier in
the day.

In his report, Laming criticises the lack of action taken and
recommends that children who are the subject of abuse allegations
should be spoken to within 24 hours.

He also says legal advice should be available around the clock so
that social workers would be able to seek advice on the use of
emergency protection orders at any hour, which would reduce their
reliance on police intervention.

Fox told the first multi-agency conference since Laming’s report
was published that social workers would have to introduce new
working patterns.

He told an audience of 1,000 social work, police and health
professionals that children were often at most risk from abuse
outside normal social services working hours.

“It will be an upheaval but social workers will need to provide a
service 24 hours, which will require them to work 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, which should change.

Consequently, 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.

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