professionals. They must be listened to intently when they speak about
their lives. And they must be given as much attention and credibility by
all professionals and agencies concerned with their welfare as is given
According to a wide range of statutory and voluntary organisations who
have given evidence to the Victoria Climbie inquiry, 'the whole child
care system must pull together much more effectively to prioritise child
care and child protection. A clear message to this effect must be given
from top and senior management in all relevant organisations. Every
agency must commit itself to meeting children's needs, and protecting
them when necessary.
'Police services must maintain the high profile which they now afford
child protection, regardless of competing priorities. The welfare needs
of children must be as important to education departments as their
attainment in SATs and GCSEs. And social services need to ensure that
designated senior managers liaise effectively with chief executives and
councillors in order to keep child protection high on the departments'
'Meanwhile, throughout all local authorities, children must have as high
a profile as balancing budgets and setting the council tax, while the
health service must devote as much attention to child protection as it
gives to reducing waiting lists, delayed discharges and cancer care.
'It is totally unacceptable for any profession or agency to do anything
less than make their services so sensitive to the realities of childhood
and child care that child protection is given the highest importance,'
the groups says.
In addition, the group is also calling on the government to provide
child protection services with the resources they require in order to
keep all children safe from harm.
The list of agencies and professional associations includes The
Metropolitan Police, The Association of Directors of Social Services,
the Local Government Association, Barnardo's, The NHS Confederation, The
NSPCC, the Society of Education Officers, NCH, and the National
Other areas in which the signatories agree include:
- ALL participants should insist that staff should listen to children
and encourage them to have the confidence to talk about the reality of
their day to day lives. 'This must be at the heart of any assessment
undertaken by those working with children and their families.'
- STRONG, universal services are the best means of providing protection
to children and supporting their families. Government initiatives to
combat child poverty and to launch new preventative initiatives
(Children's Fund, Sure Start, Connexions) are welcomed and supported.
But 'ensuring that children have ready access to universal and
preventative services from birth throughout their childhood will be a
more effective means of protection than any system of identification and
intervention when things go wrong,' the group says.
- THE role of Area Child Protection Committees (ACPCs) should be
strengthened, and they should be placed on a statutory footing, jointly
funded, which will help oversee national policies for protecting
There should be also be:
- SHARED outcomes for children which are developed nationally with
linked performance indicators to which each agency will contribute,
- INSPECTIONS to determine how well all the agencies are working
together to safeguard children in a local area, carried out jointly by
the inspectorates of all the relevant agencies,
- ROBUST emphasis on enabling groups of staff 'to work alongside each
other, share workplaces when necessary or create virtual teams to share
information and work as a unit. Professional accountability, though,
should be retained by individual agencies.'
All the agencies concentrated on closer integration of professionals on
the front line, more effective joint training, the need for clearer
guidance on when information can and should be shared between agencies
as well as more efficient sharing of information as vital ingredients of
rigorous child protection procedures. Equally, agencies need compatible
information technology which will allow the secure and rapid transfer
of information when families and children move.
They argued that 'this will require renewed priority to be given to the
levels of knowledge, skill and supervision of some front line workers.
It will require them to receive discerning support and supervision from
experienced and confident managers, and it will require local systems
of communication and arrangements for collaborative work to operate
They did not recommend wholesale, potentially destabilising, large scale
reorganisation of departments as a solution to child protection
The group was particularly keen on recommending a national curriculum
for the training of all professionals in all relevant agencies involved
in child protection and child welfare. They stressed the importance of
increased opportunities for multi disciplinary training, and the need to
offer effective support and supervision to staff undertaking this
difficult, demanding and complex work.
According to ADSS president Mike Leadbetter: 'All of the organisations
who have agreed this statement have done so fully aware of the
importance of Victoria's life, and the significance of her death. We
shall all await Lord Laming's report. But meanwhile, the vital task goes
ahead of making sure that the protection of children is so important to
all our agencies that we will minimise the risk of such a tragedy ever
'We must recognise the impact this tragedy has had on staff, and
agencies must act robustly to ensure that they stay engaged with the
pain and turmoil that working with children and families in distress can
John Ransford, LGA education and social policy director said:
'We must ensure that our entire service
response really meets children's needs and protects them where
necessary. This is best achieved by having clear standards and giving
frontline staff the support and resources they require. Widespread
organisational change would simply make this more difficult.'
Deputy assistant commissioner Carole Howlett, Metropolitan Police
Service, said: 'The MPS is totally committed to ensuring as far as
possible, that such an appalling tragedy cannot happen again. Even
before Victoria Climbie's tragic death we recognised that changes in our
child protection structures and procedures were necessary.
'An enormous amount of work has since been done in order to improve our
systems, including a major review of our child protection teams. We
continue to develop and improve to ensure that with our partners we make
the most of every opportunity to intervene at the earliest opportunity
to protect all our children in London.'
Mary Marsh, chief executive for the NSPCC said: 'Children must be at the
centre of every agency's contribution to child protection. I welcome our
joint recognition of the need for us to work effectively together,
including sharing access to multi-disciplinary
training in child protection.'
Roger Singleton, chief executive, Barnardo's said: 'Equipping front line
staff with the necessary knowledge, skills and supervision is the only
effective way to improve the safety of children at risk'
Paul Ennals, chief executive, National Children's Bureau, said: 'The
Victoria Climbie inquiry confirms once again that the most effective way
of protecting children is by listening to what they have to say. We need
to strengthen this principle, not only within the child protection
system, but within the culture of all service providers if we are to
ensure that a tragedy of this kind can never happen again.'
Deborah Lightfoot, assistant director of operations at NCH, said: 'The
voluntary sector plays a massive role in all aspects of family support,
child protection, education and adoption and fostering. Our joint
experience, knowledge and expertise lead us to these conclusions and our
final sixth submission to the Laming Inquiry into the death of Victoria
David Hall, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and
Child Health, said: 'our aim must be to prevent the abuse of children
in every way we can and, when we fail in prevention, to recognise the
warning signs early and intervene promptly. The college is working
closely with the NSPCC to improve the training in child protection of
all doctors who work with children.'
Chris Waterman, general secretary of the Society of Education Officers
said: 'The Society of Education Officers is committed to the holistic
welfare of children and young people. We welcome any opportunity for
multi-agency working. The education service has a crucial role to play
in meeting children's needs, protecting them where necessary and sharing
information where appropriate with other agencies working in the complex
arena of child protection.'