THURS 12/03/2009 - Lord Laming today called for 'a step change' in leadership and practice to help protect children from harm as he published his report into the progress of the implementation of reforms introduced after the Victoria Climbié Inquiry in 2003, with proposals for further improvement to accelerate systematic improvement across the country.
His far-reaching report, The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report, was commissioned by the Children's Secretary Ed Balls in November 2008 following the death of Baby P.
Lord Laming calls on the Government to set explicit priorities for the protection of children and young people and reflect these in the targets for each of the key frontline services, and ensure sufficient resources are in place to deliver these priorities.
He goes on to recommend the Government establish a powerful National Safeguarding Delivery Unit to inject greater energy and drive into the implementation of change and to support local improvement.
He also recommends:
A major change in the training and professional development of social workers including a greater focus on practical skills and specialist training at the end of the first year of study; Department of Health prioritise recruiting and training more health visitors to support very young children. The staffing, training and status of police child protection teams should be addressed by the Home Office; and Ministry of Justice take action to reduce the length of time taken to complete court processes in care cases and review the increases in court fees made last year.
Speaking at the publication of his report, Lord Laming said: "Keeping children safe and promoting their wellbeing is a responsibility of us all, but more needs to be done to inject energy and drive into safeguarding and child protection across all frontline services.
"Throughout this task it has been clear that the vast majority of people working in this area aspire to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people.
"I am convinced that with vision and ambition more can be done. That is why the recommendations I am making today herald the need for step change in expertise and leadership for front line workers, backed up with commitments from Government and other national bodies to drive this change forward."
Other recommendations include:
More is done to ensure children and young people get support as early as possible to prevent problems escalating and creating a risk of serious harm; A programme of management training for key personnel in all of the main services in order to ensure that these organisations are led by strong, confident and able managers with a clear understanding of their responsibilities towards vulnerable children; Steps are taken to ensure that all professionals involved in keeping a child safe share information, assess risk, and make decisions effectively together to keep children safe; Systems are put in place to ensure that GPs and Accident and Emergency staff have the right information and training to identify and protect a child they fear may be at risk, especially across organisational boundaries; A greater focus on the skills and experience of inspectors who evaluate frontline services which aim to keep children safe; and The Serious Case Review process is revised so that it supports swift, effective learning of lessons when a child suffers serious harm, and Ofsted inspect Serious Case Reviews on how well they learn these lessons.
Responding to Lord Laming's report, Chief Executive of Barnardo's Martin Narey said:
"The establishment of a National Safeguarding Delivery Unit, strengthening of local government safeguarding boards and emphasis on continued joint working must be welcomed. We all have a responsibility in ensuring that children are safe and tragedies like those of Baby P are avoided.
"The Government's focus on education and training of social workers is important but rather than focus on ensuring that every social worker has a Masters degree we should not lose sight of the value of experience.
"Most of all we need to stop vilifying social workers for doing their jobs. 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."