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EDITIONS
 Friday, 15 March, 2002, 08:03 GMT
Climbie inquiry moves to second phase
Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie died despite contact with social services
Five seminars debating changes to the UK's child protection system will launch the second stage of the inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

More than 20 frontline medical staff, senior managers and MPs are taking part in the seminars, which will continue until the end of the month.

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria
They include Tottenham MP David Lammy, whose constituency covered Victoria's home, Ratna Dutt, director of the Race Equality Unit, Rosemarie McQuarrie, a practice nurse, and Dr Yomi McEwan, a GP.

Victoria died in February 2000 after months of abuse by her carers - her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning.

Her death came despite regular contact with four local authorities, two police child protection teams, two hospitals and social workers.

Public's role

The second phase of the inquiry is designed to gather views as to how another case like Victoria's can best be avoided.

The public's role in the protection of youngsters who are difficult to keep track of, such as those newly arrived in Britain, will be examined in the first meeting.

Participants will consider what the community can do to help protect children like Victoria, who was brought to Britain from the Ivory Coast, and draw them to the attention of local agencies so they can receive services.

The discussion group will also look at how all the different agencies can better work with each other.

Radical recommendations

On Thursday social service leaders called for a "colour-blind" protection system which applied definitions of significant harm to all children, irrespective of their ethnicity or culture.

They said the fact that Victoria and both her carers were black had played a part in the failure of professionals to protect her.

Staff were concerned about the complexity of the racial and cultural issues, and the implications of "getting it wrong".

The inquiry is expected to make radical recommendations to reform the system when it reports in September.

The first stage of the inquiry, which looked specifically at Victoria's case, heard from both Kouao and Manning, who are serving life for Victoria's murder.


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