Inquiries 2002

Two-year-old Ainlee Walker dead, another inquiry, another recommendation for “better communication”, better “working together”, better “pooling of information”. Why have all 30 child protection inquiries sounded so familiar since the Maria Caldwell inquiry 30 years ago?

The recommendations are always the same and “better communication” has still not been achieved. In a complex multi-agency world, where up to a hundred of professionals can become involved with a particular child, “better communication” is unobtainable. To communicate between so many professionals may require thousands of separate communications, a problem that has no feasible solution.

A more fruitful approach is to organise the system around the child by designating an experienced “personal service provider”, who would be personally engaged with the child, and responsible for the delivery of the complete service and for holding all the information.

There is resistance to such a suggestion within the system, which is much happier where no individual is accountable, and “management failures” diffuse the responsibility. The call for “better working together” continues to validate fragmentation and provides no measurable way of accountability.

If the Climbie inquiry recommends yet more bureaucracy, this may make the communication and accountability problem worse. Most of the input to the inquiry is from members of the failing system.

We did manage to get the panel to discuss the personal service provider model for a few minutes, when the comment was favourable. But despite several requests, the inquiry has not been prepared to accept the personal provider model as a formal submission for consideration – no reason given.