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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas