Ministers discuss services shake-up

Ministers are discussing whether there should be an overarching
document covering all children, rather than just one focusing on
children at risk, Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said this

Speaking at a Local Government Association conference on antisocial
behaviour, Hughes insisted there was “nothing sinister” in the
delay of the publication of the children at risk green paper but
admitted that the focus of the forthcoming document could be wider
than originally expected.

She said the government had concerns about announcing an
overarching strategy for children and young people – shaped by the
extensive consultation project by the children and young people’s
unit – alongside a separate paper for children at risk.

As a result, ministers were now considering bringing both together
in the format of a children’s green paper, which would contain a
section on children at risk, she said.

Representatives from 12 statutory and voluntary agencies with child
protection responsibilities were due to meet the chairperson of the
Cabinet subcommittee responsible for drawing up the green paper,
Paul Boateng, later this week to discuss their ideas for children’s

In a statement released this week, the agencies – including the
Association of Directors of Social Services, the Metropolitan
Police and several large children’s charities – said schools were
“crucial” to the success of the delivery of services to protect
vulnerable children.

They also reiterated calls for councils to be the accountable
bodies locally, ensuring that the responsibilities of all other
individual agencies involved in the delivery of children’s services
were “absolutely clear”.

Meanwhile, speculation continues to mount over government plans to
set up a single department to provide all children’s services.

Jane Naish, policy adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, told a
children’s services conference last week that the government was
recommending merging social services and education into one
department, with the Department of Health being given the option
over the extent of its involvement.

Naish attributed the delay in the publication of the green paper,
now expected in July, to arguments in government over the shape of
a future children’s department.

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