Social workers spurn forum

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 100 homes and schools in Cheshire and Merseyside have been or are now being investigated amid allegations that children in care have been abused.

For the past two years, police forces throughout the United Kingdom have also been investigating allegations of abuse based on information passed to them from the North-west.

Against this background social services in the North-west organised - with police backing - what was to have been a national conference for the country's top social services managers to pass on tips that had been picked up during the four-year inquiry.

Despite this a national conference on combating child abuse had to be cancelled because not enough senior social workers would be attending.

Delegates were to have been given expert advice on how to protect children and track down abusers based on lessons learnt during Britain's biggest investigation into the abuse of children in care.

"I was very disappointed," said Vic Citarella, director of social services in Liverpool. "By the deadline we had set we had only 37 applications, and that included quite a lot of local people, which was not enough to make it worthwhile ...

"We felt it was the sort of experience departments could apply and we had the support of the Social Services Inspectorate. I don't know why people didn't want to come ..."

Co-organiser, David Whitehead, director in Warrington, said: "I was surprised and rather disappointed that we had to cancel it.

"We were not advocating a particular way of doing things. We were not saying our way was the best, we were trying to put together an opportunity for people to exchange experiences, ideas and problems."

Mr Whitehead added: "There needs to be some informed and national debate on what is clearly becoming a widespread national problem."

Allan Levy QC, writing in Whistleblowing in the Social Services, published yesterday, said: "We already have many suggestions and recommendations from exhaustive inquires. Why have these not been put into practice? Why are the same mistakes being made? Why is a great deal of avoidable suffering and damage still occurring?

"It must be a high priority to ensure that the will is found to put the detailed lessons into practice."