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6 Nov 2002 : Column 432W—continued

Criminal Records Bureau Checks

Annette Brooke: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, what provision is being made for local authorities incurring additional costs from hiring agency staff whilst waiting for checks to be completed by the Criminal Records Bureau on permanent care workers. [77088]

Jacqui Smith: I have been asked to reply.

The National Care Standards Commission has issued guidance about taking on staff while a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check is being undertaken.

Before they could work in a care setting, agency staff would themselves need to undergo CRB checks. For example, under the Care Standards Act, there is an obligation to ensure a criminal records check has been obtained from the CRB in relation to all people beginning work at a care home for adults who have regular contact with the residents of the home. This includes volunteers and agency staff.

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GP Training

Mr. Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what plans his Department has to improve the training provision for GPs in relation to audiology and other ear, nose and throat services. [77109]

Mr. Hutton: The Government are investing significantly in training provision in the National Health Service for all staff including general practitioners (GPs). The Department and the Royal College of General Practitioners are working together to develop guidelines for the appointment of GPs with special interests. A specific guideline for the appointment of a GPs with special interests in ear, nose & throat will be published shortly. Any training implications of this will be determined locally and will depend on local service needs, national priorities and the needs of individual GPs.

Placements (Vulnerable Children)

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what proportion of the cost of specialist residential placements for vulnerable children was contributed by health authorities in (a) Dorset, (b) Somerset and (c) Hampshire in (i) 2000–01 and (ii) 2001–02; [77086]

Jacqui Smith: The Department has not issued guidance to the National Health Service on the cost of specialist residential placements for vulnerable children. Such funding is a matter for local determination.

The information requested for Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire is not held centrally.


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will make a statement on the prevalence of the free supply of splints to disabled people on the NHS (a) nationally and (b) in Gloucestershire. [76960]

Jacqui Smith: Figures are not collected centrally on the numbers of orthotic devices which are supplied through the National Health Service.

Child Protection

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what the recommended thresholds for (a) providing child protection services, (b) instigating child protection inquiries and (c) convening initial child protection conferences are. [78041]

Jacqui Smith: Where a child is suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, local authority social services departments are required by section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries, to enable the local authority to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

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Where, following the outcome of section 47 enquiries, the agencies most involved judge that a child may continue to suffer, or to be at risk of suffering significant harm, the social services department should convene an initial child protection conference. The aim of the conference is to enable those professionals most involved with the child and family to assess all relevant information; to make judgements about the likelihood of a child suffering significant harm in future; and to decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes.

If a decision is taken that the child is at continuing risk of significant harm, his or her name will be placed on the child protection register, and it will therefore be the case that safeguarding the child requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal child protection plan. It is also the role of the conference to formulate the outline child protection plan, in as much detail as possible.

A child's name may not be placed on the register, but he or she may nonetheless be in need of help to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the conference should ensure that arrangements are in place to consider with the family, what further help and support might be offered.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason the Chief Inspector of Social Services does not publish an annual report into how well children are being protected from harm. [78019]

Jacqui Smith: The Chief Inspector of Social Services produces an annual report to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State on the general state of social services. This report includes a section on children's services.

The Chief Inspector also produces national reports, covering a five yearly rolling programme of in depth inspections of councils' children's services.

In addition, last Winter the social services inspectorate (SSI) led the first of an ongoing series of three yearly major inter-agency inspections of safeguards for children. The SSI designed and co-ordinated this inspection, which took place in eight local authority areas, working with the seven other statutory inspectorates who are involved with services to children and families—OFSTED, the HM Inspectorates for Prisons, Probation, Constabulary, Magistrates' Courts Services and the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Commission for Health Improvement—to look at how well local services ensure the safeguarding of children and how well they work in partnership to address child welfare concerns. The SSI drafted the report of the inspection and published it on 14 October 2002.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what proportion of children on child protection registers do not have allocated social workers. [78026]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not held centrally. However, it is of interest that all children on the child protection register in the councils visited during last winter's children's safeguards inspections had an allocated social worker.

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Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many children at residential and boarding schools are on child protection registers. [78040]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not held centrally.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to (a) establish multi-agency safeguarding teams including social workers, health professionals, police and other child professionals, (b) strengthen area child protection committees by increasing their resources and (c) establish a child safeguarding board to provide greater protection for children. [79688]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 5 November 2002]: Area child protection committee (ACPC) expenditure and administrative policy support is a matter for local agreement. As a multi-agency forum, the ACPC should be supported in its work by its main constituent agencies, reflecting the investment of each agency in activities which are of benefit to all, in particular inter-agency training.

The Joint Chief Inspectors' report Safeguarding Children, published on 14 October 2002, contains a recommendation that the Department should review the current arrangements for ACPCs to determine whether they should be established on a statutory basis to ensure adequate accountability, authority and funding.

The Government has welcomed the publication of this report. The Government recognises that there is still more to be done to ensure that the high standards of child protection are applied in every case. That is why it commissioned the Joint Chief Inspectors' report. It is also why my right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for Health and the Home Secretary set up the statutory Inquiry, chaired by Lord Laming, into the circumstances leading up to, and surrounding, the death of Victoria Climbié. The issues raised by Victoria's case are wide-ranging, in terms of both policy and practice, and it is therefore important that we do not do anything that would pre-empt the outcome of the Inquiry. The recommendations of the Joint Chief Inspectors' report and those of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry will provide us with an authoritative basis for any reforms to child protection that may need to be made, and if radical reform is necessary we will implement it. The Government will respond to both reports after it has carefully considered them.

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