Headlines: March 13th, 2009

Heads of children’s services have welcomed Lord Laming’s recommendations to improve measures to protect vulnerable young people and they are stressing the importance of those who have helped to shape the role being involved in future developments.

Lord Laming’s new report follows the case of Baby P, the 17-month-old boy who died as a result of months of abuse in spite of his having been seen by more than 60 times by social workers, doctors and other professionals. Lord Laming, whose original inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie led to reforms including the establishment of Children’s Services departments, said the protection of children was not being given the priority it deserved.

His new report makes a total of 58 recommendations,including targets for child protection, similar to school targets, steps to ensure directors of children’s services with no background in child protection included a senior manager with experience in their teams, a national strategy for recruitment and retention of child social workers and guidelines on social workers’ maximum case loads.

Dr Maggie Atkinson, President of the ADCS, said the recommendations were pragmatic and sensible. “He has had a difficult task in navigating the divide between the public perception of a system that is fundamentally broken and the view of professionals that we are on the right track, even if there is still more work to be done,” she said. The role of the Director of Children’s Services, she said was probably unique. Combining work across agencies as well as managing a large department. “It is important that those individuals who have helped to shape the role in the last four years are at the heart of planning and delivering the development programme,” she added.

The Local Government Association, meanwhile, said the report was both timely and pertinent. While all organisations working to protect vulnerable children needed to raise their game there was no need for a potentially damaging reform of the entire system.