Lord Laming warns over social services' failings

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The Independent Online

The man who carried out a review into social services after the death of Baby P has warned that services are still too reluctant to intervene in cases where children are at risk of abuse.

Lord Laming - who also carried out the investigation into the death of Victoria Climbie in 2000 - said that not enough vulnerable children were being taken into care.

His comments come the day after the man who was convicted of murdering Baby P, in August 2007, was found guilty of raping a two-year-old girl.

The girl was also on the at-risk register of the London borough of Haringey, where Victoria Climbie.

Talking on the Today programme on Radio 4, Lord Laming said that it was "dispiriting" that tragedies like this were still being allowed to take place, nine years on from his public inquiry.

He said that local authorities and other agencies were still not sufficiently implementing the policy, called Every Child Counts, developed in the wake of his report.

"We really need to do better, especially for the children that have already been identified as living in circumstances where the risk factors are very high," he said.

"It surprised me how not just social workers but health visitors, police child protection workers, paediatricians, GPs - how uncertain they were, how wary they were about becoming involved in anything to do with the protection of children.

"It is possible to identify children who are living in circumstances in which there are considerable risks, to identify them early and to intervene much more swiftly with confidence and determination. Drift is the enemy of good practice in this work."

"I believe that the state should become a responsible and effective parent to more children," he said.

"That doesn't mean that children have got to be snatched away - let's not go from one extreme to the other. But I do think that there has been a reluctance in some authorities to bring these cases in front of the court."

Lord Laming pointed out that many social workers still a lacked proper, practical training. Often they would complete courses without having had even a practice placement in a local authority, and then go on to start a job where they inherited a caseload full of difficult and demanding cases.

"It is very demanding work, it is tough work and therefore the staff need to be specially trained to do that work," he said. "This is unacceptable."

Lord Laming called for the creation of a national delivery unit, overseen by a Cabinet sub-committee and reporting annually to Parliament, to make sure the changes that were needed happened.

"We must judge the senior managers on how well their services deliver at the front door, not on glossy brochures and not on brave words," he said.