Top child protection adviser resigns leaving concern over future of independent leadership
Sir Roger Singleton has announced he will step down from his role as the chief adviser to the government on the safety of children following the scrapping of the cross-departmental National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (NSDU).
The move has prompted one charity to question where the independent leadership on child protection will now come from and if the move signals the end of cross-departmental efforts on child protection.
The National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (NSDU), which was set up to ensure the implementation of the Laming Report recommendations following the Baby P case, had representatives from the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.
Sir Roger Singleton was appointed as chief adviser last year and made his first report to parliament in March, which recommended increasing resources to meet rising numbers of referrals.
He said his decision to quit had been made jointly with education secretary Michael Gove following the launch last week of the government’s review into child protection.
“The part-time advisory role was created in response to Lord Laming’s recommendations last year,” he said. “With the announcement of Professor [Eileen] Munro’s review the circumstances have now changed and the secretary of state and I have agreed that I will step down as chief adviser.”
Diana Sutton, head of public affairs and campaigns at the NSPCC, said in the wake of the Baby P case it had recommended a body such as the NSDU be set up to ensure that high profile tragedies would not cause child protection to “rocket up the political agenda and then just as quickly fall off”.
“There are different ways of doing it and this government has proposed a chief social worker which could take on this role,” she said. “We don’t know any of the details yet but we would ask, if that is the case, will it be cross-departmental? Because that is the key.”
Sutton said that both the NSDU and Sir Roger had been in place for too short a time to be able to assess their effectiveness, adding: “I would ask where the independent leadership is going to come from on this issue now?”.
In a report to parliament last week, children’s minister Tim Loughton said the staff of the NSDU would be allocated to new priorities “including supporting the Munro review”.
“The safeguarding group at the Department for Education will retain lead responsibility for the government’s child protection policy and will continue to work closely with other government departments,” Loughton said.
A Department for Education spokesman also added that the role of the chief social worker would form part of the Munro review of child protection.
Meanwhile, as Community Care was going to press the government was due to announce a review of the vetting and barring scheme, affecting all people working with children. The voluntary registration aspect of the scheme, due to start next month, was set to be postponed.