Laming's report is a wake-up call

Ravi Chandiramani
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lord Laming's report into the state of child protection has been hotly anticipated since the Baby P storm erupted in November.

At the time of writing however, it did not look as if his report, out on 12 March, would transform the structures for safeguarding children ushered in by Every Child Matters. And nor should it. The system as a whole isn't broken.

So many safeguarding practitioners day-in, day-out, save children from abuse and worse. But mistakes - big ones with tragic consequences - have been made and social workers have tended to take the most flak.

Last week's Local Government Association report Respect and Protect on the recruitment crisis in children's social work, likened child protection to football, in which teachers, police, health visitors and GPs are all on the team, with the social worker as the goalkeeper - the last line of defence with whom the buck stops.

Laming's report leaves us with a number of recommendations. Hopefully, they have addressed shortcomings in child protection across the team, not just social workers, whose confidence needs a tonic. Social workers' training and development is high on the agenda. One solution, proposed by National Children's Bureau chief executive Paul Ennals, is to give the General Social Care Council more teeth in funding courses (see p9).

Laming's report was expected to criticise middle and senior managers for leaving inexperienced frontline practitioners isolated and overworked, and express concern over a creeping obsession with performance indicators. His observations should be a wake-up call for all children's and youth services - not just those at the hard end of child protection - that they mustn't lose the art and science of managing good practice. Otherwise they risk taking their eye off the ball of the real prize, to improve outcomes for the young.

Keep up Myplace momentum

Congratulations to the 62 projects that have secured a slice of Myplace funding (see pp10-11). The developments will change the face of youth provision across England. But we must keep up this momentum. A further £30m of Myplace funding is handed out this year, while the Dormant Bank Act promises to release an inestimable amount from untouched accounts to fund projects from early 2010. Future developments are likely to be less flashy but the golden rule must be that they are accessible to the young people who need them most.

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