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12 NOV 2008

Ofsted Chief gives evidence to Commons Committee

THURS 11/12/2008 - Following the tragic events in Haringey, Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, gave evidence to the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee yesterday.

Ms Gilbert told the Committee that Ofsted is considering the introduction of a confidential whistleblowers' hotline in 2009 for social workers and other frontline professionals to raise the alarm about any serious concerns they have about practice that fails to ensure the safety and welfare of children.

In answering questions from the Committee, Ms Gilbert revealed that local authorities notified Ofsted of 282 deaths of children between 1 April 2007 and 31 August 2008. An analysis of these figures showed that the vast majority of these tragic deaths, some 210, happened in circumstances where abuse or neglect was a known or suspected factor. Some of these cases will include suicides and cases of anorexia.

The figures equate to around three children a week dying as a result of abuse.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the House of Commons children, schools and families committee, said he feared other local authorities might also be failing to protect abused children. After Ms Gilbert finished giving her evidence, he said: "This session made me less confident rather than more confident that there isn't going to be another Haringey waiting."

On Monday Haringey Council sacked its head of children's services Sharon Shoesmith. Council leader George Meehan and Liz Santry, the cabinet member for children and young people, resigned earlier this month.
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