Utting warns against major change

Child care expert Sir William Utting has endorsed the proposals for
cultural change outlined in the Victoria Climbie Report but warned
against making other fundamental reforms.

The former chief inspector of social services said that Laming was
“right to make recommendations that would fundamentally change the
culture of child protection”.

But he added that it would be “a considerable error of judgment,
however, for fundamental changes to be made in child protection
nationally on the basis of the Victoria Climbi’ Inquiry”.

Speaking in London at a seminar on the future of child protection,
Utting said: “Major reorganisations inevitably produce both
turbulence and unforeseen outcomes, and it is not unknown for them
to fall short of even their primary objectives.”

The organisations and individuals involved in Victoria’s case came
under attack from Utting for their “unprecedented”

“It is as if these agencies had expunged the entire history of
working with children from their memories – as if children’s
departments and social services departments had not existed,” he

He “fully supported” Laming’s emphasis on accountability, pointing
out that while councils carried the statutory responsibility for
child protection services, other agencies with different
constitutions, managements and functions were involved in actual
service delivery.

“Establishing a clear line of accountability in which all the
agencies participate should establish a corporate culture and
national focus for child protection and a genuine sharing of
responsibility,” he said.

But, during a debate, delegates said they felt the government’s
response to Laming’s 400-page report, published in January, had
been muted.

There were fears that by tackling its recommendations within the
long-overdue children at risk green paper, children’s issues would
end up being dealt with by the Home Office, with its more punitive
stance on children’s policies, rather than the Department of

Social work professionals at the seminar reported feeling swamped
by the work of implementing the three-month recommendations to the
point where they were no longer able to concentrate on their

The consensus among delegates appeared to be that the procedures
they worked by were adequate but the judgments they made often left
them feeling anxious about the possibility of making a mistake.

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