LETTER: Abuse scandal: when child care is tangled in red tape

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Sir: My memory takes me back to 1948, when following the Curtis Report on the ill-treatment of children in residential care, each local authority set up a children's department, to provide a specialist caring service for children who were deprived of good family life. After 20 years, children's departments were integrated into the enlarged generic social services departments.

As in 1948, we are again faced with the problem of how to organise a service best suited to the needs of children in care. Clearly, better supervision of standards, staff selection and training are required. But is that all?

Larger departments have advantages in co-ordinating services and setting priorities for various client groups. But bureaucratic structures become self perpetuating and remote from the services provided. In social services departments this seems to have reached the stage where the allocation of finance and the time taken by social workers in fulfilling managerial requirements is at the expense of the client.

Vulnerable children, particularly, need above all, warm human relationships and understanding. Perhaps what is also required is an examination of how social workers can be relieved of so much time-consuming paper work and so many meetings to enable them to spend more time with the children for whom they are responsible.

Kenneth Aldous

Banstead, Surrey