Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Reaction: child protection report

Baby P
Baby P died despite being seen more than 60 times by professionals

Lord Laming's review into child protection in England has called for a step change in the social work profession.

Its 58 recommendations on how to protect children from harm include the introduction of targets for child protection, guidelines setting out maximum case loads for social workers and a strategy to address recruitment and retention problems in children's social work.

Experts and commentators have given their reaction to the report.

MICHAEL GOVE, SHADOW CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES SECRETARY
We are very grateful to Lord Laming for his report. It contains a great deal of useful testimony and evidence.

But it is stronger in analysis than in recommendation - better at explaining what's gone wrong than in spelling out how to put it right.

It exposes problems with the current levels of bureaucracy, but far too often falls back on demanding more bureaucracy as the answer.

CHRISTINE BLOWER, ACTING GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS
Lord Laming's criticisms of children's services cannot be met by simply increasing the training requirements of the directors of those services.

The solutions to preventing future tragedies such as Baby P lie not in top-down bureaucracy but in the provision of proper resources, back-up and training for frontline services such as social work, and in enabling local authorities to construct effective co-ordinated services in the knowledge that they will face tough action if they fail.

PROF ANDREW COOPER, THE TAVISTOCK CLINIC

I'm encouraged that Lord Laming sounded supportive of the workforce and that he's saying encouraging things about the need for more training.

[But] when he said that he didn't really believe the system had become more cumbersome on the ground - all my experience talking to practitioners and line managers, is that it has become very, very cumbersome, over-preoccupied with form-filling and computer-based systems.

I think this is all about learning from experience. We will make slow steady improvements and that will be the best that we can do. I think three to five years to really re-evaluate whether we have moved forward or not is realistic.

DR MAGGIE ATKINSON, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF DIRECTORS OF CHILDREN'S' SERVICES

He has had a difficult task in navigating the divide between the public perception of a system that is fundamentally broken and the view of professionals that we are on the right track, even if there is still more work to be done.

He provides a clear direction for immediate action to further strengthen the system, increase accountability and openness and has endorsed the work of the Social Work Taskforce who will deal with the detailed measures for supporting this key element of the children's workforce.

MARTIN NAREY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BARNARDO'S

As our memories of Baby P fade, the default option for the public will be to assume that social workers routinely and uncaringly tear families apart.

We need to accept that we can only try so hard and for so long to fix families, and for some children care and fostering will be a better option.

HELGA PILE, UNISON

We are pleased that Laming has recognised the enormous pressures put on social workers with too much red tape and targets.

They are spending too much time at their desks dealing with red tape instead of being out there at the door.

MIKE WARDLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, GENERAL SOCIAL CARE COUNCIL

We know that there are some difficulties in some areas, and Lord Laming's report and the proposals in it, we think, are a very positive step in supporting social workers and all the rest of the people involved in child protection to ensure that many more children are kept safe in the future.

CLARE TICKELL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ACTION FOR CHILDREN

It is the people, not the system, who play the most important role in protecting our children. That is why Lord Laming's emphasis on support for frontline workers is so vital.

MARGARET EATON, CHAIR, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASOCIATION
We are not here to make excuses. One of the things that's very important is that we are here to root out bad performers.

But a lot of social workers who are doing an amazingly difficult job are being vilified. We know most authorities are struggling to recruit social workers.

We need to recognise how hard the job of a social worker is on the front line.

ANDY SAWFORD, LOCAL GOVERNMENT INFORMATION UNIT THINK TANK

We know that there is a long way to go.

But what won't help is to vilify the social work profession, to say that they are, as some in the media have done, lazy and useless.

You have to bear in mind that the law says that you have to avoid, if at at all possible, putting a child into care.

And that's because even if a child is raised in a difficult family, their life chances are much better than if they go into care.

JO WEBBER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF POLICY, NHS CONFEDERATION

We are pleased that Lord Laming has not suggested major changes in the existing system put in place as a result of the Climbie Inquiry.

While we must tackle the flaws that still exist in the system, implementing structural solutions does not always bring about improvements in the short term - we do not want to have processes that reduce children to a bureaucratic parcel to be passed between organisations.

TRICIA PRITCHARD, VOICE EDUCATION UNION

We must ensure that the whole workforce is adequately trained not only in safeguarding children but in communicating with, and working alongside, all other professionals.

There is a long way to go before we have a fully integrated workforce.

SUE BERELOWITZ, DEPUTY CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONER FOR ENGLAND

We are delighted that the views of young people have been placed at the heart of this debate.

We must support professionals to exercise good judgement and focus on the views and best interests of children.

The implementation of Lord Laming's report will take us another significant step forward.


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