Whitehall unit to reform child protection systems under a Labour government

By Layla Haidrani

| 23 February 2015

Labour will create a cross-government child protection unit to "revolutionise" safeguarding systems and practice if the party is elected in May.

A Whitehall unit would drive reforms to child protection systems under a Labour government

The Whitehall unit, which would be jointly run by the Home Office and Department for Education, will encourage more collaboration and information-sharing at a local level between police and council child protection services.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “There is a terrible gap between the abuse and harm caused, and the response from government, the authorities and society.

“We need a change in our attitudes, a revolution in our systems of protecting children. It has to become a major priority with leadership from across government, with more support for children, stronger prevention, protection and pursuit of criminals to bring them to justice.

“We will set up a new child protection unit between the Home Office and Department for Education, also drawing on health, communities and local government, and justice to drive changes needed.”

Cooper told an event in London that the unit would prioritise prevention of abuse, tougher sentences for offenders and quicker pursuit of those suspected of committing crimes.

She added that recent abuse cases involving high-profile public figures and the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham had highlighted the need for greater government co-ordination of child protection services.

Responding to the announcement, Action for Children director of policy and campaigns Kate Mulley said: “We know from our work on child neglect that the system needs to improve, as it is failing so many children by reaching them after crisis hits, rather than when concerns for their safety first arise.
“We have called for a national strategy to improve responses to neglected children and ensure a joined-up approach among local services so that families get help when they need it.”

Labour has also pledged to protect police child protection resources by putting money saved by abolishing police and crime commissioners into police safeguarding services.

Cooper has also highlighted the need to respond to the “disturbing” scale of online child abuse.

She said: “The scale of online abuse is deeply disturbing – and no one knows how many of those downloading abusive images of children are also involved in contact abuse.

“Yet far too few of these cases are being investigated, and long delays are putting children at risk.”

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