Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 18:13 UK

58m for social work after Baby P

Ed Balls: 'We need social workers'

An extra £58m is to be put into the recruitment and retention of social workers after the death of Baby P, Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said.

Members of the public will also sit on child protection boards, which will have to report on their effectiveness.

But the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) said it was disappointing the basic funding of frontline agencies had not increased.

The changes follow Lord Laming's report into child protection in England.

'Absolute mayhem'

ADCS president Kim Bromley-Derry said the extra cash for developing the workforce was welcome, but the real difference will be made by improving frontline practice.

"We need a sustained commitment to proper resourcing over five or 10 years... to have a real impact on our ability to keep children safe," she said.

Mr Balls said the reforms were particularly aimed at "backing" the good work done in social work and attracting good candidates to the profession.

From this month, a recruitment campaign will attempt to persuade 500 former social workers to return to the profession.

The government will also sponsor 200 university places from September, create a new masters degree by 2011 and take steps to improve on-the-job training.

Kim Bromley-Derry: 'Managers don't always know what is happening on the front line'

It says the extra funding will bring total investment in the workforce to £109m over the next two years.

Social work bodies have welcomed the reforms but say they do not go far enough.

Liz Davies, a social worker and senior lecturer in child protection, has criticised Lord Laming himself.

She said: "He's not a guru at all. He told me in person he wasn't an expert in child protection. I don't know why he keeps getting chosen.

"His recommendations from the Climbie inquiry have caused absolute mayhem out there for social workers."

Lord Laming's report found that too many child protection agencies failed to adopt reforms following the death in 2000 of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old who suffered horrific abuse by her great-aunt and the aunt's boyfriend.

'Reform failure'

It followed the death of Baby P, who a court said can now be named as Peter, from more than 50 injuries.

Last week one of the men responsible for that death - the 32-year-old boyfriend of Baby Peter's mother - was found guilty of raping a girl aged two.

Like Baby Peter, she was also on the child protection list of Haringey Council in north London.

Mr Balls' announcement includes:

• Requiring child protection boards to appoint two lay members from the local community.

• Appointing former head of the Barnado's charity Sir Roger Singleton as chief adviser on child safety to report annually to Parliament on how to effectively implement child protection across Britain.

• Using a group of senior children's professionals to support Sir Roger, including those from the NSPCC, National Health Service, Ofsted, Association of Directors Services and police; and

• Launching a new cross-government "safeguarding delivery unit" to drive improvements across frontline services and support and challenge local authorities and Children's Trusts.

Mr Balls said: "Keeping children safe is everyone's responsibility. It is not just the job of social workers or the government.

"Enabling members of the public to be part of the local safeguarding children boards will mean that child protection arrangements will no longer be behind closed doors."

Baby P
The child protection changes are a direct response to Baby Peter's death

BBC News social affairs correspondent James Westhead says more controversial may be new targets for child protection.

The government said it would consult on the measure but the Conservatives believe it may lead to more bureaucracy for frontline social workers - a claim denied by Mr Balls.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the successes of social workers were not well enough celebrated.

A key aim of the changes was support and train social workers to make decisions without feeling someone "breathing down their neck".

But he said: "We must do more to make sure when children go into care they get better support."

Training

Tory Tim Loughton told the Commons during a debate on Tuesday paperwork prevented carers from doing work on the ground and the latest changes were thin on detail.

"We are being expected here... to impose a series of new targets, the number of which, the nature of which, the questions of which we do not know," he said.

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Annette Brook said she wanted the government to bring in changes that would put a duty on care workers to visit children alone without their parents.

Lord Laming's report, which made 58 recommendations, criticised Haringey Council's children's services department for its role in Baby Peter's death.

Baby Peter was found dead with a broken back and fractured ribs despite being visited 60 times by social workers, doctors and police over eight months.



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