Headlines: November 17th, 2008

An evaluation of care services by the New Local Government Network says services for adults need to be more effectively joined up to protect children at risk. The organisation says the revelations surrounding the ‘Baby P’ case in Haringey have highlighted concerns over procedures and whether care systems are able to take action on child abuse.

The NLGN paper argues that while the reforms introduced after the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie have made children’s services more effective, integration within single services is not enough. It says children’s and adult services are still too disjointed and suggests case workers should have access to information about a child’s entire household to ensure they are not at risk from any relevant adult.

The report says existing frameworks are not flexible enough to embrace a “family” approach and people can still slip under the radar of preventive services, particularly as some families most at risk are hard to reach. It goes on, “A culture of brokering, passing cases on to other agencies rather than directly providing support to families, has been identified as contributing to the continuing deficits in responding to families in need”.

It recommends an extension of the Common Assessment Framework for children at risk to the wider family so a fuller picture of all the factors influencing a child’s situation can be gained. It also calls for more information sharing to establish “flags” or “triggers” of a child who is at risk. It suggests, for example, the admission of an adult to Accident and Emergency services for alcohol abuse should automatically require information to be shared with children’s services. It also urges better data sharing between different local authority offices and other public agencies and says schools and family doctors often fail to share important information about a child with other agencies. In other cases, it says, information between local charities and the local council is not always joined up.

The paper also points to barriers between adult and children’s services and says these are caused by a lack of understanding of each other’s roles and priorities. The Network is calling on the Government to press ahead with its ContactPoint software, which will share information on adults who work with children. Some critics have labelled the system an unnecessary expenditure.