Behind the headlines

The children’s green paper, Every Child Matters, was
published to general acclaim earlier this month.

In the plus column are the plans for an independent commissioner,
the creation of children’s trusts and the setting up of
multidisciplinary teams co-located around schools and Sure Start
children’s centres. Plans to establish directors of children’s
services and to replace area child protection committees with more
powerful local safeguarding children boards have also been widely
welcomed. But there are concerns among some social services
professionals about the government’s cavalier attitude to resources
with children’s minister Margaret Hodge claiming that fresh money
is not necessarily needed. There are also worries about the civil
liberties implications of the identification, referral and tracking
initiative, accompanied by criticism of the planned sector skills
council for children and young people on the grounds that it is
unclear how it will fit with the social care training council
Topss, whose remit currently includes children and young

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Stop. Take it in. Celebrate. There will be an independent
commissioner for the 11.3 million children and young people in
England, perhaps reflecting the changed attitude to children and
childhood the green paper promotes. But why no mention of
children’s rights or use of the UN convention on the rights of the
child as the strategic framework? Why no equal protection against
assault under the law, no positive duty of care on parents, and no
statutory framework for the regulation of private fostering? The
commissioner will have a lot to do.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute
for Health, University of Leeds

“This is the biggest shake-up of children’s services since 1948 and
overall it is welcome. The new directors of children’s services
should be powerful local leaders and children’s trusts have the
potential to pull together agencies with a poor track record of
partnership. Effectively the green paper signals the end of the
Seebohm settlement and the danger is that social care interests
become marginalised in education and health care settings

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“I often engage with families where there are high levels of
concern about child protection. It is not unusual for families to
be simultaneously involved with social services, the child and
adolescent mental health team, the youth offending team, the
education support team and possibly other voluntary sector
agencies. I find that information is not shared appropriately and
professionals are often confused about the boundaries of
confidentiality. A single lead professional supported by changes in
legislation will begin to make improvements.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“All the right ingredients are there and this is an exciting
opportunity to rethink our partnerships. What we need to be sure of
is that through the consultation there is real local flexibility
and this is not just another structural change. Absolute clarity
over the statutory function for social services is a must and early
on this needs to be very clear.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“The government’s proposals for children’s services are very
ambitious and set out to change structures, services and attitudes.
It was clear from Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria
Climbi’ that there was an urgent need for change and these
proposals are a step in the right direction. But child protection
is a very complex area that requires staff to manage serious
factors and I hope that the structural changes proposed will be
accompanied by programmes that develop staff capacity and offer
practitioners appropriate support.”

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