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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Children promised more protection
Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie suffered horrendous abuse from her carers
An independent children's commissioner, who will act as a "champion" for young people in England, has been proposed by the government.

And there will be improved tracking and sharing of information between child care services, with every child being given an identity number.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the changes would be "the most far-reaching reform of children's services for 30 years".

Education Secretary Charles Clarke announced the package of child protection measures in a green paper, which followed the report into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

Mr Clarke said that the "shameful failings" that had surrounded the case must never be repeated - and he promised much clearer accountability and greater integration of child protection services.

We now hope to see a clear system of accountability established - leading up to the prime minister - to ensure all concerned with child welfare accept their responsibilities
Francis and Berthe Climbie

This will include the creation of "children's trusts" which will bring together local education authorities, health and social services.

Victoria Climbie's parents, Francis and Berthe, welcomed the announcement, saying that it showed "considerable progress in ensuring that children's welfare is given greater prominence".

Details of the green paper, Every Child Matters, were personally outlined to the parents on Monday by the Minister for Children, Margaret Hodge.

The minister telephoned Mr and Mrs Climbie in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. And the Climbie's translator in England, Moor Juham, said Mrs Hodge apologised to them for the mistakes that had been made in Victoria's case.

Independent voice

The idea of a children's commissioner post for England was supported by Lord Laming in his report into the death of Victoria Climbie.

Victoria died in north London in 2000, after prolonged neglect and cruelty by her carers. Lord Laming's report said that she had been seen by various professionals who did not share information and failed to save her.

Wales already has a children's commissioner, and Scotland and Northern Ireland are about to appoint commissioners.

'Milestone'

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children welcomed the announcement of a commissioner as a "milestone in helping to inspire a culture in which all children have a voice".

The green paper also promised to improve the the co-ordination of different professions and services working with children.

HAVE YOUR SAY
How will one more manager help when the whole structure of child support agencies is so undermined?
Megan, UK

Mr Clarke said that "too many children fall through the net" and that too often "warning signs are missed warning, with children passed from professional to professional, with no-one in overall charge".

As such, he announced the setting up of local children's trusts, with directors of children's services who will co-ordinate child protection measures across professions.

There will be a local database of all children within the area, showing information such as date of birth, the name of GPs and schools, and whether there had been problems, such as school exclusions, involvement with social services or trouble with the police.

This is intended to act as an early warning system, so welfare services can be more quickly made aware of emerging difficulties.

There will also be "safeguarding children boards", which will include the police, alongside services such as health and education.

Barnardo's welcomed the intentions behind the green paper, but expressed concern that proposals for children's trusts were too "vague".

It also said that chidren's services within national government remained split across departments.

"While there will be a single director for children┐ services within each local authority and a single named lead professional for each child, there still appears to be a lack of coherence at central government level," said Chris Hanvey, UK director of operations at Barnardo┐s .

The Conservatives said that the measures in the green paper would have to be backed up with sufficient staff and resources.

"All the welcome intentions will come to nothing if we do not have enough well trained social workers in the field and if we do not establish clear lines of accountability so that every local authority knows where the buck stops," said Conservative education spokesperson, Damian Green.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The Government is proposing nothing short of a revolution in childrens services"


Moor Juham, Victoria Climbie's family spokesman
"What is lacking is a clear role and responsibility of this commissioner"



SEE ALSO:
Schools' wider child safety role
08 Sep 03  |  Education
Climbie tragedy 'not the last'
27 Mar 03  |  England
'Children's champion' appointed
26 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
Create children's champion, MPs say
14 May 03  |  Politics


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