Tories highlight gaps in green paper

The government’s failure to focus on private fostering in the
children’s green paper came under attack at the Conservative Party
conference last week.

Shadow health minister Tim Loughton said the omission of private
fostering from the document was “a great deficit”.

He was speaking at a fringe meeting on children at risk organised
by the NSPCC. He said the 1997 proposals made by the former chief
inspector of social services, Sir William Utting, should be
implemented so that private foster placements were registered and

The green paper is the government’s response to Lord Laming’s
inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbi’. Victoria
was brought to England from the Ivory Coast by her great aunt,
Marie-TherŠse Kouao, under an informal arrangement with the
girl’s parents.

While supporting the green paper, Loughton said the delay in
publication was “quite unforgivable”. After Laming’s report, local
government had wanted to “get on with it” but had been held back
because of uncertainty over which direction it should take, he

He warned that none of the paper’s proposals would be realised
until resources were provided and good professionals recruited. “We
have been haemorrhaging social workers, especially in child
protection and especially in the South East. The government has to
take the role of social workers seriously.”

Loughton added that “the jury was still out” over the plans to
appoint a children’s commissioner, as it was essential that the
post had independent reporting mechanisms.

He welcomed the appointment of a dedicated children’s minister,
particularly as the previous children’s minister, John Denham, also
had ministerial responsibility for prisons. However, Loughton said
there were still questions over what the new children’s minister
actually did.

He also used the session to voice fears about the number of parents
who were literally “getting away with murder” in cases where they
blamed each other for the murder of their child. This made it
difficult for juries to determine who was responsible and often
resulted in the defendants being prosecuted for the lesser offence
of child cruelty. “We need to fill this loophole,” Loughton said.

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