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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 15:31 GMT
Trusts to take over child care
Mr Milburn pledged action to protect children
The government is to set up new bodies to take control of health and social care services for children.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn told MPs these children's trusts were aimed at preventing a repeat of the Victoria Climbie tragedy.

The trusts - originally proposed last year - will be responsible for coordinating children's care at a local level.

There were failures at every level and by every organisation which came into contact with Victoria Climbie

Alan Milburn,
Health Secretary
They will be expected to ensure that health and social services have the interest of children at heart at all times.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Milburn also said the government would publish proposals for further reforming children's services in a green paper in the spring.

New guidelines

He also pledged new national standards for the care of children. Guidelines for hospitals will be published next month with information for other service providers due before the end of the year.

Mr Milburn told MPs the new children's trusts would break down barriers between health and social services and other key organisations.

Lord Laming
Lord Laming's report is described as 'hard-hitting'
"There were failures at every level and by every organisation which came into contact with Victoria Climbie," he said.

"Victoria needed services that worked together. Instead the report says there was confusion and conflict."

He added: "The only sure-fire way to breakdown the barriers between these services is to break down these barriers altogether."

Mr Milburn said the trusts would bring health and social services together for the first time.

"We will be inviting health and social services and other local services like education to become the first generation children's trusts.

"This will ensure local services for children are run through a single model."

He added: "They will be run by local authorities, drawing in expertise of community, private and voluntary sector."

"In future, services for children must be centred not around the interest of any organisation but around the interest of the child."

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox urged ministers to ensure that lessons are learnt.

"Every report says something must be done. Why will this one be different?" he said.

"Communication is the main problem between different agencies. How will this improve in practice beyond just setting up new structures?"

Liberal Democrat social services spokesman Paul Burstow said: "There is a terrible sense of deja vu in the Laming Report. The same weaknesses have led to the same mistakes, with the same missed opportunities to save a tortured child's life."

He added: "The law must now be changed so that all agencies involved in child protection have to take a pro-active part in the work of the Area Child Protection Committees, and support the local authority in delivering an integrated children and family service."

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents health service managers, said: "We welcome the piloting of children's trusts as one way of promoting change in the integration of children's services.

"However, we do not think that there is a one-size fits all solution. The key issue is to ensure cultural change across all local services to ensure children's needs are top of the agenda and that real collaboration takes place across the services."


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