Hit squads to tackle child abuse

Government sets up task forces after '20 years of failure' by council social service departments

The government is ready to take new powers to send "hit squads" into under-performing council social services departments, following a series of high-profile child-abuse cases.

The move follows concerns over the lack of action in Cambridgeshire, two years after the death of Rikki Neave, and well-publicised failings in Sefton social services.

The Government already has the power to issue directions to social services departments, but ministers are considering asking Parliament for wider powers.

These would include sending social care task forces into departments deemed to be failing. Ministers already have powers to send teams into failing local education authorities and the new social services powers - which would require legislation - would be modelled on this.

Evidence has emerged of a crisis in child care. Allegations of child abuse in residential care homes, heard at the North Wales tribunal, and a series of high-profile inquiries into the deaths of abused children have undermined public confidence in the care system.

More than 60 investigations have been held over the past year into the deaths or serious injury of children who had been suspected of being abused. The Department of Health said yesterday it had been notified of 85 deaths and serious injuries during the 12 months ending in March where concern about abuse was either "suggested or suspected". Under government guidelines, the most serious cases - of death or life threatening injuries - have to be investigated.

But there is concern that the lessons of major inquires into abuse are still not being learnt.

There have now been more than 30 large inquiries, among them the investigation into the death in 1974 of Maria Colwell, the Frank Beck inquiry in Leicestershire, Staffordshire Pindown, Cleveland, and the Clyde report on Orkney. With more than a dozen police forces investigating abuse, further inquiries are likely.

In many cases the recommendations of published reports have a familiar ring, but have not always been universally adopted. The leading child- care lawyer Allan Levy QC, who chaired the Pindown Inquiry in Staffordshire, said yesterday, "There have been at least 30 significant inquiries in the last 20 years or so if not more.

"It is the same scenario over and over again and it has been going on for years. We are just not following up on these recommendations. When you look through the various reports you are reading the same material, the same recommendations, the same failings, and I find it very very disturbing.

Paul Boateng, the junior health minister who will visit Sefton, Merseyside, where the Social Services Inspectorate reported that almost 200 children needing help or protection had not been allocated a social worker, warned the Government would clamp down sharply on poor services.

"There will be zero tolerance of councils who fail to protect vulnerable people in their care," he said. "The Government will, if necessary, use its power to intervene. I will not hesistate to seek new powers from Parliament if they are needed."

Peter Bibby, former deputy director of child care for Barnardo's in London and author of Organised Abuse, says one problem is action is crisis-led and sometimes sidetracked, as in the hunt for evidence of "satanic" abuse.

"Many developments in social policy are a response to the latest crisis. Maria Colwell fulfilled this trigger function in 1974 as did the incidence of allegations in Cleveland," he said.

"The issues were not properly recognised. Great public pressure was generated because people wanted to say that satanic abuse was not taking place. This diverted attention from the questions of whether any abuse had taken place."

Children still at risk, page 5

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Urgently looking for Qualified Teachers and NQT's

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Urgently looking for Quali...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried