- Details of every child in England will be kept on an
electronic database as part of an overhaul of children's services in the
wake of the Victoria Climbie murder.
- Professionals such as GPs, social workers, teachers and
the police will be able to log any concerns about the 11 million children
on the electronic record under the £100m plan.
- Outlining plans for new legislation to protect children
yesterday, Margaret Hodge, the Children's minister, stressed: "It
will have the child's name, date of birth, where they go to school and
who their GP is.
- "If, for example, a GP is worried about a low birth
weight, they will be able to log their concern on the record. Then, if,
say, a nursery nurse becomes worried that the child is withdrawn or anxious,
they would be able to log their concern and the two professionals could
talk about it."
- One of the criticisms made in the inquiry by Lord Laming
into the death of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old Haringey girl who
was tortured to death by her aunt and her lover, was the failure of various
branches of children's services to communicate with each other. Mrs Hodge
said yesterday she believed professionals sharing information was essential
to any attempt to avoid a repeat of the Climbie tragedy. She added that
failure to do so was a key element in most of the 50 reports she had read
about the deaths of children because of neglect over the past 25 years.
- But concerns were raised during consultation on the Bill
about client confidentiality and the impact of data protection legislation.
GPs, in particular, were worried about disclosing health information about
children in their care. As a result, the Government is stressing that they
need only register a concern about the child - not details of the complaint
the child was suffering from.
- Other measures announced yesterday include appointing
a Children's Commissioner who will liaise with children to give them a
say in policies and carry out inquiries on the orders of the Government
where faults in services have been uncovered.
- Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education,
said of the move: "This will be an independent appointment. The commissioner
will be able to report publicly."
- The legislation also calls on all local authorities to
appoint by 2008 a Director of Children's Services, who will have responsibility
for education and social services, and to set up a Children's Trust to
run the budgets for all children's services. In addition, Ofsted, the education
standards watchdog, will be given a wider remit to inspect all children's
services. If they are found to be failing, emergency powers would be brought
in to take the service out of the hands of the local council.
- Social workers will also be placed in schools and will
be available for children to visit all year round.
- Children's charities gave a cautious welcome to the Bill
yesterday but said it did not go far enough. Carolyne Willow, national
co-ordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance, said the proposed powers
for the Children's Commissioner did not go as far as in other parts of
- "Without independent powers to access information,
to enter establishments, to subpoena witnesses and to meet children in
private, the commissioner will be indistinguishable from children's charities,"
she said. "England's 11 million children need a powerful body that
is truly independent from government to protect their rights."
- John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary
Heads Association, said: "[We] will want the commissioner to take
into account the needs of the majority as well as those of the individual.
This is especially important in dealing with difficult behaviour issues,
which sometimes lead to exclusion from school, where the head is seeking
to protect the interests of the majority."
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd