Rise to the challenge

It is clear from the draft of the government’s response to the
Victoria Climbie Report and the joint chief inspectors’ report
Safeguarding Children, that this response, and the accompanying
green paper on children’s services, will create a system which
could achieve major improvements for children.

The changes they introduce will pose a significant challenge to all
agencies. But if all agencies are properly equipped to meet it –
with sufficient resources and support, and a massive recruitment
campaign, not just with deadlines, targets and performance
indicators – there will be ample reason for practitioners to
welcome the government’s approach.

For a start, the analysis of the problem is accurate, focusing on
the lack of response to children identified as in need; the
shortage of staff, particularly properly trained professionals; the
fact that agencies other than social services rarely take proper
responsibility for child protection; poor practice exacerbated by
poor management; and the tendency to marginalise the child’s needs.
The government makes clear that the legislative framework in the
Children Act 1989 is basically sound. What is at fault is its
interpretation, resourcing and implementation.

It is clear the green paper will focus on prevention, and that the
government sees child protection as part of the full spectrum of
children’s services. Most importantly, a new statutory structure
will compel all agencies to play their part, ensuring information
is shared.

Most organisations representing social care will probably welcome
the changes. But they must lobby hard for the resources to make
them work, however much this tries the patience of ministers and
officials. We must all push for a realistic understanding of just
how long a journey is being mapped out here. The government must
listen, or take the blame for the unforgivable waste of an

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