Headlines: September 9th, 2003

The idea of closer working between health and education professionals, social workers and advisers based in and around schools and Children’s Centres is at the heart of plans to reform children’s services set out in a Green paper – ‘Every Child Matters’. The proposals would also see a Children’s Director in every local authority but the Local Government Association has called for councils to be free to decide for themselves which officer is most appropriate to carry out the duties and UNISON is warning that without proper resources good policies would be useless.The Green Paper proposes steps to end legal, technical and cultural barriers to information sharing to allow effective communication between everyone with a responsibility for children. It also sets out plans for the establishment of a clear framework of accountability at a national and local level with the appointment of a single director in each local council responsible for bringing all children’s services together as Children’s Trusts.

There would also be new duties on police, health and others to safeguard children. Children’s services would be judged on joint working through an integrated inspection framework overseen by Ofsted. At the same time it wants a national campaign to recruit more foster parents. It also wants a workforce reform package to make working with children an attractive career and to improve the skills and effectiveness of the children’s workforce. Finally it envisages the appointment of an independent Children’s Commissioner to champion children’s views.

The reforms set out in the document are a response to Lord Laming’s Inquiry report into the death of Victoria Climbie. Ahead of the publication of the Green Paper UNISON praised the Laming Report for its fairness, but highlighted what it called “one significant weakness”, which was that though many witnesses to his inquiry had made it clear that without adeq uate resources and appropriate staffing levels good policies and procedures were useless, there was no mention of additional funding in the report. Meanwhile the Local Government association has said there must be no central government interference in the choice of appropriate officers to take on the role of Children’s Directors.