Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Fears of 'rash' Baby P reaction

Baby P
Baby P died after suffering sustained abuse

A "knee-jerk" reaction to the Baby P tragedy could harm children in the long-run, local authorities in England and Wales have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says it is concerned children may be taken into care unnecessarily.

Chairwoman Margaret Eaton fears a "witch hunt" in the Baby P case could cause a shortage of social workers.

Court services say they have seen a sharp rise in care applications since details of the Baby P case emerged.

'Seriously counter-productive'

In a speech to a child protection summit in London, Ms Eaton said she had written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown explaining how the LGA would support councils to strengthen child protection work.

The whole system is not broken. A lot has been achieved
Ann Baxter
Camden Council

She said it was backing a five-point action plan, which included greater emphasis on "early intervention in families that are obviously failing to thrive" and more effort to co-ordinate all the services dealing with children.

"Let us be clear, poor performance at the front line in any of our services must be effectively challenged, in this area above all, and where good support does not result in improvement it has to be dealt with very firmly," she said.

"But that's no excuse for a witch hunt, which is not only unreasonable, but also threatens to be seriously counter-productive."

She warned the system could become "unreasonably risk-averse".

"If we're not careful, we will create a climate in which the costs of entering this area of public service so massively outweigh the benefits that we will force good potential entrants to the children's workforce to think again," she said.

'Not broken'

The head of children's services in Camden - which adjoins Haringey, the London borough where Baby P and Victoria Climbie died - told the summit lessons had been learned.

Ann Baxter said: "We must learn what we can do better. But we must understand that we are not starting from Ground Zero here.

"The whole system is not broken. A lot has been achieved."

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Eaton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the Baby P case was "horrendous", but there was now a need to "move on" with practical improvements.


"We need to look at continuous improvement, not just 'Oh, we must design a new system because there's been a problem'," she said.

"We have to look at positive practical things on a daily basis... that all people dealing with children can work to."

"Making sure that we develop and invest in the staff who are on this very lonely frontline service" was also vital, she added.

More investment would be needed in children's social work, she said, but money must be spent in the most effective way.

"I think we need to hear from people actually doing the job, to hear what they say about the things that get in the way of them feeling confident that they're doing the job for these vulnerable children as well as they could," she said.

Baby P died in 2007 after suffering a catalogue of abuse at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and a lodger, despite being on the child protection register of Haringey social services in north London.

The case shocked the country and Children's Minister Ed Balls has ordered an inquiry into the role of the local authority, the health authority and the police in the case.

Mr Balls has unveiled plans for every area of England to be covered by a Children's Trust Board (CTB), which will aim to prevent abuse by co-ordinating child protection work between various agencies.

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