Councils criticise Laming’s report

By Jonathan Moore

Council leaders today embraced the spirit of Lord Laming’s recommendations for the protection of vulnerable children but warned of areas of concern which still needed addressing.

The response was signed by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), and London Councils.

While supporting many of Lord Laming’s proposals, concerns were raised over the burden of responsibility placed on councils to deal with child protection issues and the lack of support received by other public bodies.

“Keeping vulnerable children safe from harm is one of the most important jobs done by local councils,” said LGA chairman Margaret Eaton.

“Councils cannot do this difficult work alone. Staff in organisations like the NHS and the education system need to report concerns in a consistent and useful way.

“This is just one of the crucial issues Lord Laming’s review needs to address more explicitly.”

Lord Laming’s recommendations were made in a report commissioned by schools secretary Ed Balls in the wake of the Baby P case and were published last month.

He was selected to produce the report following his landmark inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie in 2003.

“There is a missed opportunity in Lord Laming’s review, to open up the debate about the importance of parents, families and the wider community in creating safe and positive places for children to live and flourish,” said Caroline Tapster from Solace.

“Councils, social services staff and the emergency services are only part of the answer to protecting children from harm.

“Parents, families, neighbours and people living in the wider community can make a life-saving difference if they observe danger signs and act on them in the appropriate way. Keeping children safe from abuse is everybody’s business.”

Among the key criticisms in the response were the “historic lack of commitment” by the NHS to tackle child abuse, the “simplistic approach” by Ofsted in inspecting child protection and the prohibitive cost it would take to implement the changes during a recession.

London Council’s children spokesman James Kempton said: “Safeguarding children is not something councils can do on their own – it is everyone’s business.

“Local authorities are working hard to improve the protection of children by reviewing and improving relationships with the NHS and other organisations.”

One of the other concerns raised by the response was the unreasonable expectations of the public over the handling of child abuse cases. It said it was a problem that the public believed “that it is possible to save every child on every occasion”.