Children Bill 2004

The Government’s Children Bill is a grotesque offering, which will create an ever more complex set of bureaucratic structures, crossing education, social services and the National Health Service (News, Mar 5). It will create new tiers of management, and co-ordination committees, which will do nothing to help the front-line worker deliver the service to the individual child.

Victoria Climbié died despite 12 opportunities when she could have been saved by professionals in different services who had contact with her. None of the professionals in the Climbié case actually knew the child, or had a relationship with her. They had information, but they did not know her. This Bill does nothing to ensure that someone will get to know and be responsible for the individual child.

The Bill represents a victory for institutionalised service providers – their professional organisations and the bureaucracy – over the service users – the children.

Social workers, teachers, welfare officers, managers, team leaders, division heads, section heads, will be jockeying for position in the new reorganised hierarchies. Layered above this will be the manoeuvring for the hundred or so (£100,000 plus?) “Directors of Children’s Services” posts. Who can vouch that there won’t still be education directors and social services directors in all but name?

The only glimmer of hope in last year’s Green Paper, Every Child Matters, that there should be a single “trusted professional” to provide continuity of support for each child, seems to have disappeared completely underneath the welter of institutional reorganisation.

The crucial concept of a “Personal Service Provider”, an experienced person operating at the front line, had some support during the discussions at the Laming inquiry and has not even been examined since. Clearly neither the Government nor the child protection industry can contemplate a system driven from the front line, rather than from the top down.