Bichard urges managers not to “defend the indefensible”


Sir Michael Bichard this week urged senior managers who have to
give evidence to inquiries to not “defend the indefensible,”
writes Clare Jerrom in Newcastle.

Speaking at the National Social Services Conference, Bichard,
who chaired the inquiry into how Ian Huntley got the job as a
school caretaker in Soham, said it was vital that managers knew
when to “concede you are only human”.

He stressed that anyone could find themselves having to give
evidence to an inquiry and said it was important to produce useful
information rather then “dumping” inaccessible documents.

“Don’t develop information in a format that is easy for
you to produce but not easy for the chair of the inquiry to
understand,” he told delegates in Newcastle.

“Be succinct and avoid jargon. Try and use language that a lay
person like me can understand,” he said, adding that he had to
produce a five page glossary in his inquiry report into Huntley
explaining all the jargon used.

Bichard told directors of social services at the conference that
they might have either junior or retired staff who need to give
evidence to an inquiry and who may not be au fait with the
procedures. He urged managers to offer support, but warned that it
was essential that they did not put pressure on staff to “toe the
party line”.

He also warned managers to be aware of spin, adding: “Any
attempt to get your side of the story in first is almost certainly
doomed to failure.”

One of Bichard’s main recommendations from the inquiry was
a new vetting registration scheme for people wanting to work with
children and he said he expected the government would be making an
announcement shortly.

He also called for an improved recruitment and selection scheme
following his inquiry but he told delegates he had a “slight
concern” that if there was a new registration scheme, people may be
more complacent about the recruitment and selection process.

Bichard has already announced his intention to reconvene the
inquiry and said this was likely to go-ahead in January or February
and he would be able to report back on the “significant progress

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