Plan to cut guidance increases risk of abuse, say experts

Jonathan Owen
Sunday 25 November 2012 01:00

Government plans to decimate child-protection guidance will place children at increased risk of being preyed upon by paedophiles, according to 60 experts on child protection. Campaigners will meet with Department for Education (DfE) officials this week in an attempt to persuade them to ditch proposals to slash the guidance.

The planned changes – which will cut the "Working Together" guidance from some 700 pages to less than 70 – will "place the most vulnerable abused children at risk of serious harm", according to Liz Davies, an expert on child abuse based at London Metropolitan University.

A formal response to the Government's proposals, co-authored by Dr Davies, will be discussed at the meeting. It describes the plans as "seriously flawed and dangerous" and a "serious risk to vulnerable children". The revised DfE guidance, a draft of which was released earlier this year, is expected to be published next month.

Advice on investigating organised child abuse, and dealing with allegations against people working with children, would be scrapped under the proposals. Guidance on protecting "particularly vulnerable" children, and managing people posing a risk of harm to children would also be lost, warns the paper.

This comes after a report by the Children's Commissioner last week revealed that more than 16,000 children are at risk of serious sexual abuse. "At a time when the protection of children is at the forefront of public concern it is astounding the Government can contemplate such a drastic reduction," said Dr Davies, a former social worker who exposed the Islington child abuse scandal in the 1990s.

The DfE insists the plans will help professionals protect children "without them having to wade through pages of overly bureaucratic structures, procedures and rulebooks".

However, Pete Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: "Scrapping huge swathes of valuable policies and procedures and guidance is to undo all the good work that has gone into trying to make the world safer for our children."

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