Failure fully to implement the
47. Lord Laming told us that he continued to believe
that the Children Act 1989 was "basically sound legislation".
His recommendations do not argue for a major new legislative framework.
However, he did not believe that the Act was being implemented
in the way that had been envisaged for it, and, in his view, there
was "a yawning gap at the present time between the aspirations
and expectations of Parliament and the certainty of what is delivered
at the front door."
48. In the absence of adequate managerial accountability,
front line workers were obliged to make crucial strategic decisions,
for example about the use of the Children Act, and between using
sections 17 and 47 (relating respectively to a child in need,
and a child in need of protection). The sections of the Act had
been developed with the intention of recognising the different
needs of children. How the sections were being applied on the
ground, Lord Laming told us, was quite different. Far from employing
the section of the Act that would best meet the needs of the particular
child and their circumstances, "what they were actually doing
was using these sections to restrict access to services and to
limit the availability of services to people."
The Children Act, Lord Laming argued to us, "should be about
promoting the well-being of children, not about putting labels
around people's neck." He went on to suggest that front line
workers were being forced into making decisions that should properly
have rested with management and policy decisions. This raised
major questions about the role of public services and the basic
principles that should underpin them, as Lord Laming observed:
We heard evidence that made me think that we need
to stand back and say that we need to discover the basic principle
that the public services are there to serve the public, not just
some of the public and not just some people who can get through
eligibility criteria, who can go over hurdles or who are sufficiently
persistent. Therefore services must be more accessible and they
must be more in tune with their local communities.
49. If, as Lord Laming believes, the Victoria
Climbié case was not unique, but highlighted widespread
and major deficiencies in the implementation of the Children Act,
this raises issues that Government should address. We believe
that the Children Act 1989 remains essentially sound legislation.
However, we are concerned that the provisions of the Act which
sought to ensure an appropriate response to the differing needs
of children are being applied inappropriately, used as a means
of rationing access to services, and have led to section 17 cases
being regarded as having low priority. The Laming Inquiry recommended
that consideration should be given to unifying the Working Together
guidance and the National Assessment Framework guidance into a
single document, setting out clearly how the sections of the Act
should be applied, and giving clear direction on action to be
taken under sections 17 and 47.
We strongly support this recommendation.
50. The Inquiry into Victoria Climbié's case
was charged not only with investigating what happened to Victoria,
but also with making recommendations as to how such an event may,
as far as possible, be avoided in the future. We turn now to consider
15 Q11 Back
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Para 1.17 Back
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Para 1.18 Back
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Para 1.1 Back
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Para 1.26 Back
Para 1.43 Back
Para 1.11 Back
Derek Wanless, Securing our future health: taking a long term
view, April 2002. Back
Working Together, Department of Health and the then Department
for Education and Employment, 1999. "This document sets out
how all agencies and professionals should work together to promote
children's welfare and protect them from abuse and neglect. It
is addressed to those who work in the health and education services,
the police, social services, the probation service, and others
whose work brings them into contact with children and families.
It is relevant to those working in the statutory, voluntary and
independent sectors" (Introduction). Back