Behind the headlines

The government’s Children Bill, which is about to start its
journey through parliament, has provoked a mixed reception. Plans
for a children’s commissioner for England have been welcomed but
there is widespread disappointment that the role has fewer powers
than was hoped.

Other proposals include a new emphasis on schools as a focus for
providing and commissioning services and a new duty on all agencies
to co-operate more.

As for local accountability, the buck will stop with a new director
of children’s services who will oversee education and children’s
social services.

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“A toothless tiger for a commissioner, on a leash held firmly by
the secretary of state? Lots of noise and little bite? Not what we
have campaigned for these past 13 years. Keeping the outrageous
defence of “reasonable chastisement” and failing to afford children
and young people equal legal protection as adults from violence and
assault? For all its strengths, the Children Bill may yet go down
as another milestone in the government’s contradictory and damaging
policy towards children.”

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“It makes sense to use schools as the place to focus services as
they are at the heart of communities and are generally easy for
families to access. The stigma that is attached to going to social
services would be reduced if families could access support through
workers based in schools. Joined up multi-agency input with
children and young people in schools around safety, citizenship and
capacity building is the way forward.”

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“The green paper was widely welcomed last year, and most of the
ensuing disagreements have been about practicality rather than
principle. It is important to remember this, and to keep a focus
upon service outcomes rather than bickering about structure and
process. The bill may not satisfy everyone, but it does provide the
right basis upon which to build. The story is now about effective

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“New duties to safeguard and promote children’s welfare and to
raise awareness of the need to notify private fostering
arrangements cannot be cost-neutral by any stretch of the
imagination. For example, private fostering is widely described as
an ‘underground activity’ and once there is greater notification,
the new responsibilities on councils will kick in. Indeed, the
harder you work to raise awareness the more resources you will
need. This is a bill where effective implementation is dependent on
the chancellor – will he deliver?”

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

“It’s good to see greater flexibility in the bill and I like the
new duty to co-operate. I hope that we will move quickly on
achieving greater integration of front-line services. I am
concerned that there is no stronger imperative to engage health at
an early stage and will be pushing for that to happen locally. I’m
also concerned that we do more work urgently on accountability.
Appointing a director of children’s services is not enough. We are
all accountable – parents, front-line staff, senior managers and
politicians, it’s what that accountability is about and how we
exercise it that matters.”

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