§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he proposes to issue a consultative paper setting out new guidelines on the role of local authorities in detecting and handling child abuse cases; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
[pursuant to his reply, 3 July 1985]: I have today placed in the Library copies of a consultative paper which outlined the follow-up action to be taken where serious child abuse has occurred. Such cases are very distressing for all those concerned with the care of the child. A great deal of care is and must be taken by people who face the conflicting demands of the need for children to be with their parents and the need to protect some children from the minority of parents who may harm them.
All cases that do occur must be thoroughly investigated. The most immediate need is for management locally quickly to review its services to the family and the paper suggests joint action between the authorities concerned. This should not be delayed until any criminal proceedings are concluded. Follow-up action is equally important to assess the wider implications coming out of the review. 250W We expect the authorities involved to inform the public of the outcome of this action. Subsequently, authorities will be able to describe to the court, if necessary, the action they have taken in terms both of inquiries and of changes to procedures and services.
In most instances, further inquiries will then be unnecessary. There will, however, be a few cases where the authorities consider a further review, involving people from outside their areas, would be appropriate.
The paper describes the arrangements which might be appropriate for such independent inquiries and suggests that, where the initial reviews have been properly carried out and the outcome published, the subsequent inquiries would normally be in private, although public inquiries are not ruled out. Whichever course is chosen, a report of the inquiry should be published.
Comments on the consultative paper are invited by November 1985.