HC Deb 06 November 2002 vol 392 cc433-5W
Dr. Fox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what the recommended thresholds for(a) providing child protection services, (b) instigating child protection inquiries and (c) convening initial child protection conferences are. [78041]

Jacqui Smith

Where a child is suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, local authority social services departments are required by section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries, to enable the local authority to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

Where, following the outcome of section 47 enquiries, the agencies most involved judge that a child may continue to suffer, or to be at risk of suffering significant harm, the social services department should convene an initial child protection conference. The aim of the conference is to enable those professionals most involved with the child and family to assess all relevant information; to make judgements about the likelihood of a child suffering significant harm in future; and to decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes.

If a decision is taken that the child is at continuing risk of significant harm, his or her name will be placed on the child protection register, and it will therefore be the case that safeguarding the child requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal child protection plan. It is also the role of the conference to formulate the outline child protection plan, in as much detail as possible.

A child's name may not be placed on the register, but he or she may nonetheless be in need of help to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the conference should ensure that arrangements are in place to consider with the family, what further help and support might be offered.

Dr. Fox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason the Chief Inspector of Social Services does not publish an annual report into how well children are being protected from harm. [78019]

Jacqui Smith

The Chief Inspect or of Social Services produces an annual report to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State on the general state of social services. This report includes a section on children's services.

The Chief Inspector also produces national reports, covering a five yearly rolling programme of in depth inspections of councils' children's services.

In addition, last Winter the social services inspectorate (SSI) led the first of an ongoing series of three yearly major inter-agency inspections of safeguards for children. The SSI designed and coordinated this inspection, which took place in eight local authority areas, working with the seven other statutory inspectorates who are involved with services to children and families—OFSTED, the HM Inspectorates for Prisons, Probation, Constabulary. Magistrates' Courts Services and the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Commission for Health Improvement—to look at how well local services ensure the safeguarding of children and how well they work in partnership to address child welfare concerns. The SSI drafted the report of the inspection and published it on 14 October 2002.

Dr. Fox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what proportion of children on child protection registers do not have allocated social workers. [78026]

Jacqui Smith

The information requested is not held centrally. However, it is of interest that all children on the child protection register in the councils visited during last winter's children's safeguards inspections had an allocated social worker.

Dr. Fox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many children at residential and boarding schools are on child protection registers. [78040]

Jacqui Smith

The information requested is not held centrally.

Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to(a) establish multi-agency safeguarding teams including social workers, health professionals, police and other child professionals, (b) strengthen area child protection committees by increasing their resources and (c) establish a child safeguarding board to provide greater protection for children. [79688]

Jacqui Smith

[holding answer 5 November 2002]: Area child protection committee (ACPC) expenditure and administrative policy support is a matter for local agreement. As a multi-agency forum, the ACPC should be supported in its work by its main constituent agencies, reflecting the investment of each agency in activities which are of benefit to all, in particular interagency training.

The Joint Chief Inspectors' report Safeguarding Children, published on 14 October 2002, contains a recommendation that the Department should review the current arrangements for ACPCs to determine whether they should be established on a statutory basis to ensure adequate accountability, authority and funding.

The Government has welcomed the publication of this report. The Government recognises that there is still more to be done to ensure that the high standards of child protection are applied in every case. That is why it commissioned the Joint Chief Inspectors' report. It is also why my right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for Health and the Home Secretary set up the statutory Inquiry, chaired by Lord Laming, into the circumstances leading up to, and surrounding, the death of Victoria Climbié. The issues raised by Victoria's case are wide-ranging, in terms of both policy and practice, and it is therefore important that we do not do anything that would pre-empt the outcome of the Inquiry. The recommendations of the Joint Chief Inspectors' report and those of the Victoria Climbie Inquiry will provide us with an authoritative basis for any reforms to child protection that may need to be made, and if radical reform is necessary we will implement it. The Government will respond to both reports after it has carefully considered them.

Back to
Forward to