Balls appoints child safety adviser

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Indy Politics

Former Barnardo's head, Sir Roger Singleton, has been appointed as the Government's first chief adviser on the safety of children, Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls announced today.

After publication of Lord Laming's report on child protection following the death of Baby P, Mr Balls said the Government was accepting all the inquiry's recommendations in full and taking "immediate action" to implement them.

He promised a detailed response to all 58 recommendations before the end of next month.

The Government will establish a new "cross-government National Safeguarding Delivery unit" to support local authorities in keeping children safe.

It will "strengthen the role of the Local Safeguarding Children Board to make them effective local watchdogs for the protection of children".

Mr Balls had already announced that children's services directors will be sent for compulsory training to make sure they understand the pressures of frontline social work following the death of Baby P.

In the Commons, he also announced moves to expand graduate recruitment and efforts to attract qualified social workers back to the profession, as well as giving newly qualified social workers a year of intensive induction training, supervision and support.

Lord Laming concluded in his report today that child protection issues have not been given the priority they deserve in the six years since the damning public inquiry into the Victoria Climbie tragedy.

The review, commissioned by ministers after the death of Baby P, criticised failings in information sharing between agencies, the poor training and support given to "overstretched" frontline staff and the red tape "hampering" social workers.

In a Commons statement, Mr Balls said the report found there needed to be a "step change" in child protection arrangements.

"None of Lord Laming's proposals alone could have prevented the death of Baby P.

"But all of them together add up to a step change in frontline child protection. No barrier, no bureaucracy, no back-passing should ever get in the way of keeping children safe."

Mr Balls said the new national safeguarding delivery unit would drive improvement in front line practice across all services.

It would be staffed by experts from across central government, local agencies and the voluntary sector.

To guide its work, Sir Roger had today been appointed as the Government's first chief adviser on the safety of children.

He will advise on how to "update and strengthen our statutory guidance for front line staff - to make it absolutely clear to every agency and every practitioner what they need to do to keep children safe".

Local safeguarding children boards will include two members of the public to ensure greater public scrutiny.

The social work task force will push ahead with Lord Laming's recommendations on the training and professional development of social workers.

It will review the effectiveness, procurement and IT used in integrated children's systems so social workers can keep detailed records of their cases and spend more time with vulnerable children.

Mr Balls expressed particular concern over children's services in Doncaster and said he was putting in a new senior management team to take over the leadership and management "as soon as practicable".