Government accepts 58-point "Baby P" report

LONDON (Reuters) - Overstretched children’s social workers will be given extra training to address nationwide failures in child protection, the government said on Thursday following a review ordered in the wake of the death of Baby P.

Children, Schools and Families Secretary, Ed Balls, addresses the annual Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, September 26, 2007. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said he was accepting all 58 recommendations made in the report published by social services expert Lord Laming.

“No barrier, no bureaucracy, no buck-passing should ever get in the way of keeping children safe,” Balls said.

Laming identified inadequate training, overstretched staff, over-complicated computer systems and a lack of communication amongst child care officials as failures in the system.

He said social work students should be required to get experience of working with families before they can start working on children’s cases.

More health workers must also be recruited to relieve excessive caseloads that have seen many dealing with more than 500 families each.

“It is essential that action is taken now so that as far as humanly possible children at risk of harm are properly protected,” Laming said.

Last year, 55 children were killed by parents or someone they knew while 200,000 children in England are believed to live in homes where there is a high risk of domestic abuse and violence.

“It has been put to me that it is inevitable that some adults, for whatever reason, will deliberately harm children,” Laming said.

“That may well be so. Nevertheless it cannot be beyond our wit to put in place ways of identifying early those children at risk of deliberate harm, and to put in place the means of securing their safety and proper development.”

Laming said all children’s social workers should be retrained on a new postgraduate course focussing on child protection, and called on the government to devise and fund the qualification.

He said the status of social work needed to be improved to tackle shortages and high turnover. Social work had missed out on the boost in investment and recruitment that teaching had enjoyed over the past decade, he added.

Balls asked Laming in November to conduct the review following the case of 17-month-old Baby P, who died at the hands of his mother, her partner and their lodger despite being on the “at risk” register of the London borough of Haringey.

Laming had also carried out the inquiry into the death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie, also under Haringey’s watch, who was murdered by her guardians in 2000.

That review led to wide-ranging national changes to child protection but Baby P’s death has put the issue back to the top of the political agenda.

Balls said the government would publish a detailed plan to address all Laming’s recommendations by the end of April.

Editing by Steve Addison