Child Protection Must be Given Priority, Says New UK Report

by Gopalan on  March 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM Child Health News
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Child Protection Must be Given Priority, Says New UK Report
Child protection has not received the priority it should have, says Lord Laming in his report to the UK government.

The issue has been under the microscope in the country since details of Baby P's case came to light last year.

The 17-month-old died in August 2007 in the London borough of Haringey having suffered months of abuse, despite being seen 60 times by various professionals, including doctors and social workers.

Lord Laming had previously made 108 recommendations after his inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, also in Haringey, who was abused by her aunt for months before she died in February 2000. The child had suffered horrific abuse by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend, sparking a huge review into social services.

Most of the recommendations were adopted in the 2004 Children's Act and Every Child Matters policies.

But following the death of Baby P, Children's Secretary Ed Balls asked Lord Laming to examine whether his recommendations had been properly implemented.

Damningly, Lord Laming claims child protection issues have not been prioritised as they should in the intervening six years since the Climbie recommendations and highlights a catalogue of similar failings.

Social workers were struggling due to an 'overemphasis on process and targets' and an 'over-complicated, lengthy and tick-box assessment and recording system', he said.

A 16-year-old quoted by the report said: 'It seems like they have to do all this form filling. Their bosses' bosses make them do it, but it makes them forget about us.'

Frontline staff in social services, healthcare and the police were 'often overstretched' and inadequately trained, 'undermining' their attempts to protect children.

Many social workers believed their training failed to prepare them for working with families in crisis and have 'low morale'.

They also work with only 'poor supervision' and battle 'high caseloads and under-resourcing.'

Child protection work in particular was felt to be a 'Cinderella service', the report concludes.

Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove told the Commons the events that had led to the publication of Lord Laming's latest report were "horrific" and haunted the nation's conscience.

He said the peer's "scathing" report into the bureaucratic burden on social workers and its description of child protection as a Cinderella service was "a remarkable indictment of the state of child protection in this country."

The new report said many of the reforms brought in after Victoria Climbie's death in 2000 had not been properly implemented.

However, some accused Lord Laming's initial reforms themselves of adding to social workers' bureaucratic burden.

Dr Eileen Munro, reader in social policy at the London School of Economics, said social workers spent 80% of their time in front of their computers and "hardly had time to talk to the parents, let alone the children."

"The reforms aren't putting children at the centre of it, they're putting the targets at the centre," she said.

Social worker Joanna Nicolas told the BBC although a lot had changed since Lord Laming's first report, processes were not being followed because of the workload of social workers.

"The emphasis from senior managers is on filling in forms... The performance indicators that each local authority are measured on and therefore their funding is affected are what counts and not spending time with families," she said.

But Sue Berelowitz, deputy children's commissioner for England, insisted the reforms were the right way forward.

"I travel around the country, I also talk to directors of children's services. I've come out of local authority work myself and I know that the reforms are making a real difference," she said.

Source: Medindia

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