Charity warns over Bill’s weaknesses

Measures contained in the Children Bill may not be enough to
improve the protection of vulnerable children in the future,
children’s charity Barnardo’s has warned.

Director of the charity’s child care operations Chris Hanvey said
he was concerned that plans to set up a database to collate
information on vulnerable children had not been thought through and
would still leave children at risk.

His comments were made as the Children Bill was due to receive its
second hearing in the House of Lords earlier this week.

“We fear that too much is being left to the discretion of
individual professionals and could leave significant gaps in the
safety net for children,” Hanvey said. “It was poor professional
judgement that contributed to the death of Victoria Climbi’, and
there is a risk that this could happen again unless it is clearly
established what kind of concerns should be recorded about a child,
and who is responsible for following them up and when.”

Under the bill’s proposals, professionals from health, social
services and education will be able to flag a child’s name to alert
other professionals to concerns, but will not be able to record
their concerns in detail.

Education officers and teachers have also raised concerns about
plans set out in Every Child Matters: the Next Steps,
published alongside the bill, to support all schools to develop
extended services.

Speaking at a conference on extended and full-service schools in
Leeds last week, delegates questioned whether the children’s
minister’s plans for “every single school to be an extended school”
were realistic under existing funding restraints and within the
current target-driven culture.

But sources close to education secretary Charles Clarke told
Community Care last week that he planned to use the extra
money announced for his department in the budget to fulfil the
commitments of the Children Bill and that the sums involved would
be sufficient to meet the requirements.

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