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FURTHER ACTION TO END ABUSE IN CARE - DEPT OF HEALTH TO CARRY OUT URGENT NATIONWIDE CHECKS

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Further safeguards to protect children in care have been outlined by ...
Further safeguards to protect children in care have been outlined by

health secretary Alan Milburn following the publication of the inquiry

in to allegations of abuse at children's homes in North Wales.

Welcoming publication of Ronald Waterhouse's report, 'Lost in

Care, The Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the abuse of

children in care in the former county council areas of Gwynedd and

Clwyd since 1974', Mr Milburn confirmed the establishment of a

national children's rights director.

Mr Milburn said:

'This is a harrowing report. It reveals a systematic failure to care

for some of the most vulnerable children in society. It is

unacceptable and must not happen again. The government already has in

place a major programme of work to improve and strengthen children's

services, including the£375m programme for children, 'Quality

Protects', to ensure that children in care are properly looked after

and get a decent start in life. But we cannot sit back at this point;

there needs to be constant vigilance.'

'That is why I am pleased to be able to confirm an important

development for children's welfare. The appointment of a national

children's rights director, as part of the National Care Commission,

will ensure that the issue of children's rights and safeguards are

given the highest priority.'

The specific role of this post still requires further consultation,

but key roles will be to:

- police the independent regulation and inspection of children's

homes

- make sure that the views of children in various settings,

including children's homes, fostering agencies, voluntary adoption

agencies, residential family centres and welfare arrangements in

boarding schools, are given proper consideration

- gather, and act on, any significant evidence which might help

local authorities or other providers to improve the services and

support they give to children

60 out of the 72 recommendations in the Waterhouse Report apply to

the department of health. The department is currently acting on 43 of

the recommendations and is urgently reviewing the remaining 17.

Key measures being undertaken include:

- Training

Following introduction of the Care Standards Bill, all social care

staff will be bound by enforceable codes of conduct and practice,

ensuring that staff get the training and qualifications they need.

(recommendation 26/27)

- Vetting of Staff

The Protection of Children Act 1999 will put the Consultancy Index -

the list of adults who are unsuitable to work with children - on a

statutory basis. This means that employers will be obliged to check

the names of anyone seeking employment, who may be in regular

contact with children against this list, and the list - held by

department for education and employment.

- Independent representation

The development of an independent advocacy service for any child in

care who wishes to have it, is being put together under the Quality

Protects programme.

- Complaints

Every social services authority should have a children's complaints

officer, who is not a line manager of residential staff.

Mr Milburn continued:

'Protecting children from dangerous individuals is the top priority

for social care services. We expect excellence, not excuses, for

children in care. We must satisfy ourselves that those people who

have abused children, are not in a position to do so now.

'That is why I have today instructed each local authority and NHS

trust in England to check their employment records. I am determined

to ensure that any of the individuals named in the Waterhouse report,

who have been convicted of offences against children, or against whom

a finding of having harmed children or of being unsuitable to work

with children has been made, and whose whereabouts are currently

unknown, are stopped from working with children and other vulnerable

groups. The authorities will be required to let the department of

health know the result of inquiries and what action they intend to

take to protect children if a positive match is found, by 5pm on

Thursday 17 February 2000. I expect nothing less than a full report

from every local and health authority.

'I am also extending the the list maintained by the department of

health of individuals unsuitable to work with children - the

Consultancy Index - to include people who have not been referred by

an employer. I have also taken steps immediately to include in the

Consultancy Index, on a temporary basis, those named in the report

who have been convicted for offences against children, or against

whom the tribunal has made a finding of harm against children.'

'We are determined to take all action necessary to protect and

safeguard children.'

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