Laming warns social services may lose child protection role if reforms fail

Social services departments risk losing responsibility for children
and families to a national agency unless they improve, Lord Laming
warned last week.

The chairperson of the Victoria Climbi’ Inquiry told delegates at
the annual National Social Services Conference in Brighton that the
range and quality of services to children and families was
“seriously inadequate”.

He was not surprised that some had hoped the inquiry would
recommend a “major organisational change such as the creation of a
national child protection agency”.

Although he had opted for “a much tougher course”, he confirmed
that he believed a national agency remained an option if there were
no improvements.

“In my view the position is clear,” Laming said. “If local
authorities do not fundamentally change their responses to children
and families, and other children suffer as Victoria did, then there
can be no complaint if their functions are transferred

Laming said services needed to “break free” once and for all from
the “vice-like grip” of child protection, which had resulted in
services being organised around crises.

He rejected the notion that social services were the lead agency in
promoting the development of children.

“Children in need no more belong to social services than they do to
the other services,” he said. “Each service must discharge its
different and unique responsibilities.”

Laming said children’s social services needed resourceful managers
who could inspire staff and were intolerant of bad practice. He
called for less bureaucracy, more efficiency and greater
involvement of managers in day-to-day practice.

“I suspect we need fewer levels of management but more clarity of
role and responsibilities. Above all, we need managers and leaders
who accept and demonstrate the accountability of their role,” he

Pleas for more resources to implement the children’s green paper,
Every Child Matters, would stand more chance of being met
if the government was persuaded that current resources were being
used efficiently, he added.

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