Inquiry 2008

By appointing Lord Laming to carry out yet another inquiry, the Government has ensured that the true reason for the latest child protection disaster in Haringey will not be found. Lord Laming is a product of the very system he is supposed to investigate.

His last report (Victoria Climbie, 2003) led to a more complex set of bureaucratic structures, crossing education, social services, and the health service, police etc. It created new tiers of management, committees and IT systems. Social workers now spend up to 70 per cent of their time in front of computer screens rather than with children and families.

The Audit Commission recently found that the new structures get in the way of professionals. But they also spread responsibility even more thinly around the host of departments and staff – so that as in Haringey “no one is to blame”.

During and since the Climbie Inquiry, some of us have been suggesting an alternative: to build the system from the child upwards, through a designated person, an experienced “personal service provider” who gets to know the child, and above all, is responsible for delivering the service. The “system” would then operate as a back-up for the delivery of the service – with accountability going upward from the child rather than downward through a multi-layered command structure. Experienced professionals would be on the front line, not in middle management.

Despite favourable nods towards such an explicit designation of responsibility, in the Climbie inquiry, and the 2003 Green Paper “Every Child Matters”, and in the Lords debate over the Children Act 2004, it has been sidelined.

We need an inquiry by someone who can look critically at Lord Laming’s own reforms