Continual improvement is needed to protect children

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Children 1st is not surprised that the Government has announced a review of guidance on child protection practices in Scotland. Public confidence is always shaken by child deaths and by the exposure of organisational failure or deficiency.

However, child protection systems have been regularly reviewed in the wake of tragedies and of critical reports, and new systems and processes developed. Yet, a few years later, the systems and process are revisited following other tragedies.

The last few years have seen a significant expansion of child protection policies and procedures, and of the numbers of children who are dealt with through child protection investigations, rather than supported and helped as children and families in need.

If the child protection system is overloaded with risk-assessing every case of a child in need, then it becomes much harder to identify those children at real risk of deliberate and avoidable harm.

We would argue for a stronger emphasis on prevention and support services, while at the same time refocusing skilled, supported and well-trained child protection resources on children who are at most risk of harm.

The sad case of Baby P in Haringey highlights the need continually to improve how we work together to protect children. But systems on their own do not keep children safe: it requires continual improvement of training, resourcing and communication between agencies, professionals and the public.

Maggie Mellon, director of children and family services, Children 1st, Edinburgh.

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