Climbie inquiry chairman slates 'patchy' ECM drive

4th April 2008 at 01:00
The man whose inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie led to the biggest reform of children's services for three decades has expressed concern about the "patchy" implementation of the changes.

Lord Laming told The TES that more work was needed on the Every Child Matters (ECM) programme, which is meant to integrate the work of schools, social workers and other public services.

"I have yet to be convinced there is uniformly good practice across the country," he said. "The implementation is rather patchy."

Lord Laming said there had been "good things and bad things" about the changes sparked by his 2003 report into the 8-year-old's death. The benefits had included improvements in safeguarding young people, a matter that was no longer seen as the sole preserve of child protection officers, he said.

"Schools are immensely important," he said. "The best arrangements I have seen at a local level are where there is a formalised arrangement between local schools and local children's services and local health and local police."

The Government expected all local authorities to have children's trusts - partnerships between education and other children's services - in place by the start of this month. But there has been flexibility over how this was done. Ministers were due to launch a consultation yesterday on whether the regulations should be tightened up.

Beverley Hughes, the children's minister, told The TES that she would expect it to take another two or three years for the ECM programme to be fully implemented.

She said it was "misguided" to think that structural changes, such as the introduction of children's trusts, were enough. "In terms of making this vision work for every child, it's the front line that counts - it's the class teacher, the social worker, the health visitor," she said.

Responsibility for maintaining List 99 - a register of adults barred from working in schools - and two other blacklists was this week handed over to the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). But the authority announced it would delay its work vetting 11.3 million people - including school staff who work with children and vulnerable adults - until next year.

Adrian McAllister, the former police officer appointed chief executive of the ISA, told The TES that the delay was a result of the extra work needed to ensure its database was "robust", following concerns about data security.

Parliament heard this week that the one-off ISA registration fee, to be paid by individuals or their schools, will be set at pound;28 - more then the pound;20 originally proposed. School staff will also be required to have regular pound;36 Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Completing the jigsaw, page 17.

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