Child protection failure

Some good stuff from the Guardian’s David Batty over at CiF. It’s about the recent, dreadful abuse of a young child that led to her parents receiving hefty prison sentences, but he is also looking at the effects on child protection work of the ‘reforms’ in children’s services.

what is particularly worrying about some of these latest reforms is that they could divert professionals’ attention away from children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The much-publicised plan to set up an electronic database on every child in England – replacing the current child protection register – predates the Climbie inquiry by at least a year and was not initially linked to child abuse. It was suggested in a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit at the Cabinet Office, which suggested that such a database would improve information-sharing about, and early identification of, children at risk of offending, antisocial behaviour and exclusion from school.

…If you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack it doesn’t make sense to make the haystack bigger. If we need a database it would be far better to establish one on child homicides that makes public the findings of the hundreds of internal council reports which no one can learn lessons from because they remain secret.

The overload effect of sharing data on children about whom there are no safety concerns is already being felt in some local authorities, where social care staff report that actual contact time with families – vital for good child protection work – has been reduced.

We’ve also been told that it’s becoming far more difficult to get specific child protection training because it is being eclipsed by training for the more generalised Common Assessment Framework.

As Eileen Munro pointed out on ‘The World Tonight’ last Thursday when asked ‘what on earth the social workers were doing’ in failing to spot this particularly nasty abuse case: they were probably stuck in front of a computer screen inputting data.

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