Child protection to be examined in revised health reforms

The government has promised it will examine how child protection experts in the NHS can be protected from proposed reforms.

The government has promised, for the first time, to examine how child protection experts in the NHS can be protected from proposed reforms.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s original proposals made no mention of who would be accountable for child protection processess under plans to scrap primary care trusts and hand over commissioning responsibilities to GPs. Despite failing to mention child protection in their response to how the NHS Refom Bill would be changed earlier this week, the pledge was made later, following questions from Community Care.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said ministers would ensure clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board “are required to make arrangements to safeguard and promote children’s welfare, and maintain providers’ responsibilities for safeguarding.

“Further, we will explore with key partners how to best ensure that professional leadership and expertise for safeguarding children is retained in the new system, including the continuing key role of named and designated safeguarding professionals whose critical importance was recently highlighted in the Munro Review of Child Protection.”

Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Matt Dunkley said: “This is the best that we have seen so far, and it expresses the intention to further develop thinking about how safeguarding responsibilities should be retained and strengthened in the new arrangements for health. We will look forward to working with the Department on this.

“This work should be taken forward as part of a cross-government response to Professor Munro’s recommendations. As well as ensuring that clinical commissioning groups have a duty to consider child protection issues and to take professional advice from experienced social workers when forming and delivering their commissioning plans, we believe that there is a role for the health and wellbeing boards in promoting the role of designated safeguarding leads and to consider how child protection responsibilities are fulfilled in a multi-agency context.”

The government’s changes to the bill follow an independent review of the reforms by the NHS Future Forum which mentioned the need to ensure designated child protection professionals were maintained in the system, but it stopped short of making any actual recommendations on the topic.

Health managers and directors of children’s services have previously tried to lobby for child protection responsibilities to be shifted to the proposed council-controlled health and wellbeing boards.

The government’s amendments to its NHS Reform Bill will now go back to the committee stage in the House of Commons.

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