Edinburgh admits eliminating risk in child protection work is impossible

Risk in child protection social work can never be eliminated,
Edinburgh Council acknowledged last week.

A report outlining points of action and recommendations for
improving child protection, social work practice and policy was
considered by the council following the damning O’Brien inquiry
report into the death of baby Caleb Ness in 2002.

It states that council policy seeks to minimise risk for children.
But, crucially, it recognises that no matter what steps are taken,
risk cannot be eliminated.

It goes on to say the council will fully support its staff in child
protection work providing they have acted professionally and in
good faith.

The council was also asked to reduce the caseloads of child
protection workers from 19 per worker to 14, in keeping with
recommendations in Lord Laming’s report into the death of
eight-year-old Victoria Climbi’. The target for achieving this
reduction is March 2006.

Edinburgh’s executive member for social work, Kingsley Thomas,
said: “The main issues in the report were to highlight the work
that has been done since the O’Brien inquiry report in terms of
staff, management practice and quality assurance.

“It is important, however, that the council has acknowledged that
there is always an element of risk in child protection work.”

Councillors agreed to establish a social work standards committee.
Thomas said the committee would give council members more of a
role, and acknowledged a collective responsibility for child

Edinburgh Council’s plans to restructure the social work department
after the O’Brien inquiry are due to be discussed at the next full
council meeting at the end of April.

But a cross-party children and family’s scrutiny panel last week
agreed there was little evidence that major structural change was

The four options are maintaining the status quo, creating a
children’s services department comprising education and social
work, creating an education and children’s services department
while maintaining a department of social work, and combining the
third option with a department of community services. 

Protecting Edinburgh’s Children from www.edinburgh.gov.uk/swreports/swreports.html 

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