Accountability is key to protection

The green paper on children at risk represents a major
opportunity to agree a new deal for children’s services at
local level. Widespread good practice is easily undermined by
“service silos”, fragmentation and a lack of leadership and
co-ordination between local authorities, the health and police
services and the voluntary and community sectors.

The case of Victoria Climbié illustrates where this can
lead. Lord Laming’s key recommendation was for a “clear line
of accountability…without doubt or ambiguity about who is
responsible at every level for the well-being of vulnerable

For children and families there is often a bewildering range of
organisations or services available, including GPs, health
visitors, school nurses, Sure Start, Connexions, youth offending
teams, drug action teams, child and adolescent mental health
services, specialist child protection services, as well as their

The Local Government Association and NHS Confederation, along
with the Association of Directors of Social Services, Association
of Chief Education Officers and the Confederation of Education
Service Managers, have developed Serving Children Well. This is a
model that seeks to ensure effective co-ordination of the agencies
involved in delivering children’s services and advocates that
local councils, providing accountable community leadership, should
be at the heart of services.

Building on this approach, we have developed a paper framed as a
set of proposals for the green paper. Key proposals include a
statutory duty for agencies to “safeguard and promote the
well-being of children” and a supporting duty to form partnerships
to this end; local authorities to be identified as the statutory
“accountable bodies” for the partnerships established under the new
duty; and a lead member and senior officer for children accountable
for child protection to be appointed by each local authority and
partner agency.

We believe that councillors have a crucial role to play. They
are responsible for setting the strategic direction for the local
authority and determining priorities on behalf of local people.
They also serve as community representatives and advocates, holding
services to account and scrutinising their performance.

We believe the changes we are proposing would reduce the risk of
cases like that of Victoria Climbié.

Alison King is chairperson of the LGA social affairs and
health executive and Gillian Morgan is chief executive of the NHS

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