Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Child protection plans revealed

Ed Balls
The Children's Secretary has made early intervention central to the plans

Every area of England is to be covered by a Children's Trust Board (CTB), the government has announced.

The boards, which aim to prevent abuse by co-ordinating child protection workers, will also be strengthened.

The initiative follows the failure of social workers in Haringey to prevent the abuse and death of Baby P.

Announcing the measures, Children's Secretary Ed Balls acknowledged that protection agencies are failing to intervene early enough in some cases.

Haringey inspection

Some 20 MPs from all parties have so far signed a Commons motion calling for a public inquiry into the running of child protection services at Haringey, following the death of Baby P in August last year.

The government has already announced an independent review, and inspectors who are currently at the local authority are due to report back to the Department for Children, Schools and Families in two weeks.

We must do whatever it takes to strengthen local arrangements to enable children to live and grow up safely
Ed Balls
Children's Secretary

A department spokeswoman said one of the options open to ministers was sending in a new management team to take over the running of social services in the borough, but that would not be decided until the team had concluded its report.

Mr Balls earlier told BBC 1's Breakfast programme he had been shocked by the case of Baby P.

"You look at this and you think, how could a mum, how could adults do this to a child?

"I can't change that, and in the case of Haringey I can't change what seems to have been the mistakes which have happened."

But he said while he could not affect the outcome for Baby P, he could try to "prevent this ever happening again".

When government inspectors reported back to him in two weeks time, he would "act to make sure we have got proper accountability, but also the reforms needed for the future", he said.

Early intervention was crucial from all those involved in child protection services, Mr Balls said, such as the police, GPs, social services and schools.

It was also important to have accountability "if things go wrong" to ensure questions could be asked about why people did not act quickly enough, he added.

Working together

Ministers hope the improved CTBs - which were first set up after the case of Victoria Climbie, killed eight years ago - will guarantee such responsibility.

Many English local authorities already have a CTB but some do not. Other parts of the UK have their own arrangements for child protection.

BBC social policy correspondent Kim Catcheside said ministers wanted to strengthen the role of such children's trusts by ensuring each was run by an accountable board made up of the local authority, health, police, schools and other services.

Under the new plans, each member would be legally required to agree and deliver a Children and Young People's Plan and would set out local strategies for child safety.

Baby P [Pic: Mirrorpix]
Baby P died after suffering sustained abuse [Pic: Mirrorpix]

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has already said individual members would be held to account for delivering their agreed part of the plan and that minimum standards would be introduced.

In a speech delivered to directors of children's services, Mr Balls said: "In some places, there is still too little emphasis on early intervention and prevention.

"Organisational barriers and competing priorities appear to be getting in the way.

"Professionals working with children in this country do a tough job, often in very difficult circumstances.

"But we must do whatever it takes to strengthen local arrangements to enable children to live and grow up safely."

He added: "Our responsibility, working together, is to ensure that children are safe and protected from abuse - and I will not rest until we have the very best possible child protection arrangements to safeguard our most vulnerable children in every part of the country."

In October this year, the Audit Commission concluded the children's trusts created by the government after the death of Victoria Climbie had made little difference to children's services.

It said they often lacked clear direction and had made slow progress.

At the time, the government said the review was out-of-date.

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