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HARD LESSONS LEARNED, GOVT RESPONSE TO WATERHOUSE INQUIRY

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Health minister John Hutton today announced the publication of ...
Health minister John Hutton today announced the publication of

Learning the Lessons - the government's response to Lost in Care, the

Waterhouse Report.

Mr Hutton said:

'The Waterhouse Report catalogued a horrifying account of child abuse

and a failure of the system designed to safeguard vulnerable

children.

'This government is determined to ensure everything that can be done,

is done, to protect children. It is our absolute priority to make

sure no other children are let down by the system in the way that

these children have been.

'I thank Ronald Waterhouse and his team for their report, Lost in

Care, which made 72 recommendations in all. This report must be a

catalyst for change in children's services. Our response, Learning

the Lessons, has been swift yet thorough. It has been guided by the

Ministerial Task Force on Children's Safeguards. Nine of the

recommendations are primarily matters for the national assembly for

Wales. Of the remaining 63, we agree with the spirit of each and

every one.'

Progress has been made in reforming children's services. Quality

Protects, the£375m programme to make sure that children being

looked-after are taken proper care of and get the best possible start

in life, is making a real impact. For example:

- More looked-after children are being adopted

- Improved support being given to children leaving the care system

- Higher priority being given to improving the educational

attainment of looked-after children

- More councils listening to children and young people in their

care

Other actions include: the Care Standards Bill which sets out wide

scale reform of the systems to protect vulnerable children; the

Children Leaving Care Bill which introduces radical new arrangements

to improve the life chances of people aged 16 and over leaving local

authority care; proposals to create a children's rights director in

England and the creation of an independent children's commissioner in

Wales.

Despite these efforts, Learning the Lessons has identified areas

where further work is needed. Key measures being undertaken include:

- Complaints - Listening to People: a Consultation on Improving

Social Services Complaints Procedures has recently been launched

with the aims to speed up the complaints process, make it more

user-friendly and to make sure any child in care who makes a

complaint has the right to advocacy.

- Vetting of Staff - Under the Protection of Children Act 1999 it

will now be a requirement for child care organisations to check

against the Protection of Children Act List and the DfEE's List 99

in every instance where they propose to offer an individual child

care position.

- New Inter-Agency Review - An inter-agency review of best practice

in conducting complex abuse investigations, with a view to issuing

guidance to police forces and social service departments will be

carried out.

- Whistleblowing - In the context of the new Care Standards Bill,

new national standards for children's homes and other services for

children (including foster care) will require providers to

establish clear whistleblowing procedures.

- Training - Once the Care Standards Bill is implemented, all social

care staff will be bound by enforceable codes of conduct and

practice, ensuring the staff get the training and qualifications

they need. Ministers will have a statutory duty to promote

training for social care staff.

At the time of the inquiry, immediate action was also undertaken to

check the whereabouts of certain individuals named in the Waterhouse

report. One of these individuals was subsequently found to be in a

post with potential access to children. This person was suspended

immediately and disciplinary proceedings are ongoing.

Mr Hutton concluded:

'Despite the advances that have clearly been made, we cannot afford

to be complacent and must continue to tackle this issue head-on. We

have listened and have learnt some very hard lessons from the

Waterhouse Inquiry. It has been a bitter pill to swallow but this

government will continue to listen. We owe it to all our children to

make every effort to make sure such a tragedy never happens again.'

Notes

1. Learning the Lessons is published by The Stationery Office,

priced£9.20, ISBN number 010 1477627.

2. The full text of the report can be found on the web site at the

following address www.doh.gov.uk/lostincare

3. The national assembly of Wales' response to the Waterhouse

Inquiry can be found at www.wales.gov.uk

4. There are 72 recommendations detailed in Lost in Care. Nine are

matters for the national assembly for Wales. The remaining 63

recommendations apply directly to England. The vast majority of

these require a lead by the department of health although other

government departments may take the lead on some individual

recommendations.

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