Ed Balls accepts all of Lord Laming’s recommendations

Children’s secretary Ed Balls has accepted all 58 of Lord Laming’s recommendations to transform safeguarding in England.

He said this would include the creation of a cross-government National Safeguarding Delivery Unit to drive improvement in frontline practice across the country.

Balls said the government would produce a more detailed action plan in April in response to Laming’s report, published today.

Singleton to be new safeguarding adviser

Balls also announced that former Barnardo’s chief executive Roger Singleton would be appointed Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children and would report annually on progress against Laming’s recommendations and on safeguarding more generally.

In a letter to Laming, also published today, Balls said Singleton would help establish the unit, which would include “expert staff” from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Department of Health, local agencies and the voluntary sector.

Balls said it would act as a “bridge between national policy development and local implementation” and, as recommended by Laming, would support the development of new national targets on safeguarding. Balls said the government would produce a “new framework for safeguarding targets” this autumn.

Working together to be revised

Balls also accepted Laming’s call to revise the Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance, including on serious case reviews, an issue on which Laming made extensive recommendations.

On training, Balls said he had asked the Children’s Workforce Development Council to develop a programme of intensive support and coaching for social work team leaders and first-line managers, particularly those working in child protection.

Masters level

Balls promised to make social work a Masters level profession. He said CWDC and the General Social Care Council would consult on developing a practice-based Masters degree for children and families practitioners.

He also pledged to establish a new advanced social work professional status for children and families social workers to encourage top practitioners to stay in frontline practice.

Taskforce role

He also responded to Laming’s call for the Social Work Taskforce to produce guidance on maximum caseloads, supervision and recruitment and retention for children’s social workers.

Balls said he had asked the taskforce’s chair, Moira Gibb, to advise him on how Laming’s recommendations would be taken forward, and said this would inform the DCSF’s action plan.

Care fees hike to be reviewed

His ministerial colleague, justice secretary Jack Straw, also accepted Laming’s call to review the massive hike in council care proceedings fees last year. Laming said the fee hike should be reversed unless “incontrovertible evidence” that it was not a deterrent to councils bringing care cases were produced.

Francis Plowden, a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission, will lead the review.

Independent chairs for LSCBs

Following Laming’s recommendation that local safeguarding children boards and children’s trusts should not be chaired by the same person, Balls said there would now be a presumption that LSCBs would be chaired by someone independent of the member agencies.

However, he said the DCSF accepted that this would have to happen over time because of the lack of suitable independent chairs.

Balls also said two members of the general public would be appointed to each LSCB to open up the child protection system to greater public scrutiny.

First duty to protect children

The children’s secretary added: “It is our first duty in government and as a society to do all we can to keep our children safe. And it is our responsibility to act decisively – as we have done in recent months, and as we will do as we implement all of Lord Laming’s recommendations.”

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