Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600-619)


17 DECEMBER 2008

  Q600  Chairman: Does it meet regularly?

  Dr Proops: Yes.

  Q601  Chairman: How regularly?

  Dr Proops: My local one meets every month. It meets the designated professionals and has to provide reports up to the board, which expects particular pieces of information from the child protection team.

  Q602  Chairman: This has been so interesting that I kept asking questions; it has served the Committee. One last question before an introduction to the other members of the team: what about the role of the school nurse?

  Dr Proops: The role of the school nurse is very important. In a sense, my comments relating to school nursing would be similar to those on health visiting. Again, the caveat is that this is not my professional area, but school nursing has changed. It rather depends whether we are looking for a public health service for schools or a safeguarding service, and whether we can ask our nurses to do both. Many school nurses find that their time is directed too much down one line rather than the other, but they are certainly in a good position to support the safeguarding of children in the broadest sense. I say that on the basis of research that demonstrates that it is within the education sphere that most child protection concerns are identified, and not within health. Therefore, school nurses should be and are in a good position to support that particular part of the process.

  Q603  Chairman: Thank you very much. Judith, you know why we are on this learning curve. How can your research and background help us?

  Professor Masson: There are a number of different areas that we can look at, such as the individual decision to take a specific child into the care system. The research that I have done has been on care proceedings and emergency intervention. If we are looking at, for example, children on the child protection register, quite a lot of children who come into care proceedings or are removed in an emergency are not on the child protection register at the point when the decision to remove them is made.

  Q604  Chairman: Why not?

  Professor Masson: There is a small proportion, perhaps 10% of care cases, where the family is not previously known to social services, or they are not known to social services in the area and they have moved. There are the sudden cases, injury cases, but far more of the cases involve neglect or neglect and injuries. There may have been some social services or children's services involvement from time to time, but the case has not reached the level at which it is case-conferenced and an entry is made on the child protection register. It may have been case-conferenced but there has not been a decision to put the child on the register, and then there is a catapulting incident that leads to the child coming into the system. That incident might be: coming to the notice of the police, being found unattended, or a domestic violence incident; it may be part of an assessment process where concerns are suddenly raised sufficiently high as to lead to the child coming into the system. Quite often, the incident that precipitates the child into the system is no worse than things that have happened in the past, but it is significant because there has been another incident. A key factor in children coming into the system through the compulsory means is lack of parental co-operation. There may have been some work with the family but the family are not seeming to co-operate; they are missing meetings and appointments and are apparently out when the social worker attends. That leads to increasing concern and then gives a trigger.

  Q605  Chairman: Thank you. Colin, you are very experienced in this field. Tell us a little bit about the relationship between the children who are seen as at risk and are on a particular register, and those who are in care or not in care. When we went to Denmark they told us that they take twice as many children into care as we do in the UK, although that has been disputed more recently in the light of the Baby P discussions. We were impressed by the quality of the care situations into which they were taken. The fostering—certainly what we could see—was of a high order, whether it was institutional care in small numbers or foster families. Do you see it as a problem in the UK that our quality of care has no kitemark or standard that we can all rely on so we can say, "This child's going into care, but it will be good quality care"? Is that a problem?

  Colin Green: May I start with your original question?

  Chairman: Start with anything you like. I am just warming you up.

  Colin Green: First of all, the relationship between children at risk and children who come into care is very close. In the statistics for the end of 2008 on the reasons why children are looked after, 62% were due to abuse or neglect, and a further 11% were due to family dysfunction. That is absolutely dominant in why children come into care. It is also a key reason why children in care may not do very well. It is about what happened to them before they came into care. It is a very close relationship. Having said that, I absolutely recognise the experience that Judith described. The children are a mix. Yes, they may have child protection plans, but there is a large group of children who do not, who are known and who have been bumping along, possibly with a just acceptable level of care, until some precipitating incident leads the Local Authority, in consultation with the partners, to say, "We need to act to initiate care proceedings." The second thing is that, of all the children in care, there is a group of stayers, but there is also a lot of movement in and out. The movement in and out concerns a lot of children and young people with significant issues with abuse or, more often, neglect. For adolescents, the product of neglect can lead to the breakdown of their life at home or to unacceptable behaviour at home. The relationship is very close. On the quality of care, I think that since the initiation of the Quality Protects programme, a huge amount has been done to raise the quality of care and care placements. The Care Matters programme is a further step. The quality of care has improved significantly in both foster care and the various kinds of residential care. I have not had the benefit of going to Denmark, so I do not know what you saw, but it may well be that standards there are still significantly higher than ours. There is clearly a view about how good the outcomes are for young people in care, and that certainly influences people's view of the best way to make a difference to a child's life. You are balancing what may not be a very satisfactory standard of life at home with what can feel like quite a risky journey in care. You also need to distinguish between the benefits of care for very young children and for those entering during adolescence. Overall, the research shows that generally, the longer children are in care, the better they do, but it can take quite a long time for children to recover and make progress within the care system.

  Chairman: Thank you for that, Colin. Henrietta, last but not least.

  Henrietta Heawood: From the point of view of social workers, who actually carry out the work, they are key professionals in terms of identifying children, but the multi-agency process is also absolutely crucial. I do not know whether you want me to tell you about the multi-agency processes from the social worker's point of view or comment on what the other speakers have said.

  Q606  Chairman: Do either. Start with the first, and then go on to the others.

  Henrietta Heawood: Okay. Identifying children at risk is something that happens—the targeted part of the child population. When referrals come in to Local Authority children's social care services, they come in in vast numbers, which is something that Local Authority social workers have to deal with. I have been told that there might be half a million referrals a year in England. From that, a process filters out the ones who are most acutely in need of detailed services.

  Q607  Chairman: If you are a social worker, how is that flagged up to you? Where does it come from?

  Henrietta Heawood: Do you mean where does the referral come from?

  Chairman: Yes.

  Henrietta Heawood: Referrals come to social work teams from other professionals, members of the public and other family members—mostly, occasionally a child will disclose themselves. They can ring a helpline or turn up at the office. Professionals who make referrals include the police, people from education and health services and occasionally the ambulance service. Referrals from the general public will include neighbours—we get quite a lot of referrals from concerned neighbours—and extended family members. Grandparents and other such people will say, "We are worried about these children, can you have a look?" From then on, the system kicks in. There are detailed processes that would take me ages to explain. I can explain them all if you want, but it would take some time.

  Chairman: The rest of the team are eager to start their questioning. I will hand over to Fiona to look at identifying children at risk.

  Q608  Fiona Mactaggart: A number of you have referred to the proportion of children who are at risk from harm whom you do not know about. That is obviously something that we need to consider, to see if there is a better way of finding out about them. I have also looked at a series of articles in The Lancet. I was profoundly shocked by the suggestion that between 5 and 10% of girls and up to 5% of boys are exposed to penetrative sexual abuse. I do not know how well founded such figures are. One of the compelling things about this series of articles was the conclusion that, in the long term, neglect is at least as damaging as physical or sexual abuse. It occurred to me that in some of these discussions, we are not looking carefully enough at neglect and how to identify it. A child is not likely to know that they are neglected in quite the same way that they know if they are hit. Judith described cases that come to the notice of the authorities after domestic violence incidents. That is not an uncommon way for cases to come into the system. I wonder whether there are good systems for identifying neglectful families.

  Henrietta Heawood: May I just tell you about a couple of early identification models that I happen to know exist in a couple of hospitals in Sheffield and Grimsby? Protocols were set up to identify pregnant women who were drug users. When they delivered their babies, a protocol was set up to establish whether they were co-operating with A, B and C. It is a multi-agency plan with social workers and the hospital staff. Therefore, that is a proactive rather than reactive scheme. In Sheffield, such a scheme resulted in a lot of care proceedings because the level of risk was judged to be still very great. At least it was a system, rather than waiting for something dreadful to happen. Professionals might say, "This is what we have got and we will assess it now because we recognise that these are risk factors."

  Fiona Mactaggart: But you sound as though that is an exception.

  Henrietta Heawood: I hope that it is across the country. There are things in place. People are trying to say, "We know that this is going to be a risk."

  Dr Proops: May I try to answer the question in two parts? First, let me look at the figures and, secondly, at the consequences of neglect. I have some copies of The Lancet article with me that I would be delighted to give to the Committee. The reason why the figures appear both discrepant and worrying is that we have to understand how they are measured,[2] and it is not straightforward. There are three types of studies. Two of the studies are retrospective. One group asks the children themselves, if they are old enough and another group asks the parents. The third type is drawn from official statistics, which is why one gets these apparently rather discrepant and worrying figures. If one asks retrospectively, the number who say that they have been harmed in a variety of ways is much greater than the numbers collected prospectively from official statistics. For example, physical abuse ranges between 4% and 16%, and neglect ranges between 1% and 15% depending on which study one looks at. The other point about the Lancet series and where those data come from is that that looked only at high-income countries. The figures will be rather different if one looks at much broader, worldwide research. It is not entirely fair to give the figure of one in 10 children, because that merges all the different types of study together. One has to have some sense of where the figures come from and whether it was a retrospective or prospective study. Nevertheless, whichever way one looks at it, the numbers are rather large. The second point about neglect is that in its full picture, it is profoundly harmful to babies, pre-school children and older children. There are some clear physiological consequences—it harms the brain, as it fails to grow properly and nerve cells do not connect properly, and permanent damage can ensue. You will read in all sorts of papers about the importance of protecting children under the age of two in particular, and certainly those under the age of three. After that, one's chances of making good are much less. Colin made the point earlier about the different approaches and actions that may be needed for the very young child and for the older child. As a practitioner, I would say that other than a child who is severely physically abused, a chronically neglected child is the saddest child. Neglect affects all aspects of their being, from their physical growth to their emotional and psychological development and their educational attainment—everything. Neglect is a very severe insult to all children. As I said, we have good physiological evidence. You can compare the brain scans of a neglected 18-month-old with those of a healthy, sociable 18-month-old, and they look different.

  Q609 Fiona Mactaggart: This seems to point out that we should focus more comprehensively on the families that are at risk of neglecting their children, and that we should do so through intervention. We should be prepared to be more active about putting in place protective services around their children. Too often, our care system seems to be triggered by an episode, an event, or a drama. What Rosalyn is saying, and what the Lancet research seems to be saying, is that if we could focus more effectively on the continuing appallingness, we would protect children better.

  Colin Green: I absolutely agree with that, and I think that it is true to say that neglect is quite corrosive, which I think is what Rosalyn is saying. At the heart of identifying that is the quality of assessment and people having time to spend with families, potentially as a multidisciplinary team, to understand what is happening in a family and the relationship between the child and the parents and to get underneath the child's experience of living in that family. We are then in a much better position to make a decision. Without that depth, we end up responding to an incident that is evidentially much easier to present in court than trying to describe the impact of neglect over a period of time. In some ways, it is a more skilled job to describe the impact of that on a child's development than to present an injury of some kind. The other thing that I would say is that in the case of many of the children who are physically injured, and certainly those who are sexually abused, there is inherently neglect and those injuries occur within very neglectful circumstances.

  Henrietta Heawood: I challenge a little bit the idea that the courts cannot deal with chronic neglect, because there have been a lot of conferences for judges and so on about research on brain development. It is widely known, and experts speak about it in court quite a lot, so courts should be able to deal with the effects of chronic neglect. However, the research is new.

  Colin Green: I think that, with regard to dealing with it in court, is about the confidence of Local Authorities to present this somewhat more difficult evidence and gather those kind of chronologies, and their ability to present the child's experience of living there in a way that has a sharpness in court. It is just that that it somewhat more difficult. What do you think, Judith?

  Professor Masson: There are a lot of neglect cases in court, and the evidence presented is very rarely this sort of brain information. It is much more likely that there will be a psychiatric assessment of the child and various sorts of evidence about the state of the home, the presence of the parents and what the parents have done, such as whether they have visited the child when he or she was in foster care. Neglect cases are neglected in court, but there is a lot of this attitude of expecting the parents to do better while the proceedings are going on and suggesting, "Let us see if the parents can do better" or "It is only neglect, and the parents are trying very hard. What more would you expect of them in these circumstances?" There is a kind of rule of optimism. Many people in the system have low expectations and take the view that taking children into care is so draconian an intervention that merely neglecting children is insufficient to justify—I use the phrase I hear around the system—taking the children away. The suggestion is that parents have been shown not to be bad, but to be rather feckless. That is about recognition in the community, the legal community and elsewhere that neglect is what might be expected from families in those circumstances. That means that those families do not get triggered into the legal system at an early stage, and when they eventually do, they spend quite a long time in the system before people realise that the parents cannot do any better. Therefore, those cases might go on for more than a year, even though an expert who deals with this work all the time may, from their point of view, question why the order cannot be made within three or five months.

  Q610  Fiona Mactaggart: As Dr Proops has pointed out, that really makes a difference to the child's future.

  Professor Masson: Yes, and what is more, the courts have recently become very concerned about removing children during the course of proceedings. Five or 10 years ago, proceedings would generally have started with the children being separated from their parents under an interim care order, which was often not contested. If the parents improved, they might get their child back at the end of the proceedings. Now, following various decisions by the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the courts are saying that to remove the child we really need to have proof and a proper hearing for finding the facts. Therefore, there is an emphasis on Local Authorities not applying for an interim care order and more of an incentive on parents to contest an interim care application if one is made, and children may stay at home with their parents until the end of the hearing when all the assessments have taken place. As those proceedings take about a year, there is potentially an extra year of damage. Or, one could say, "That is how the system should work, because otherwise these cases are being pre-judged." The judiciary have taken the view that removing children at the start of proceedings is pre-judging.

  Q611  Fiona Mactaggart: One of the things that has struck the Committee is the evidence about the number of child deaths. Initially it looked as if there was about one child death a week connected with abuse, maltreatment or neglect, or a little more than that, but more recent figures from Ofsted suggest that that number is more like four a week. Having listened to the issue about neglect, it sounds to me that, if the court procedure is so complicated and laborious, perhaps we ought to put in place other interventions at an early stage, perhaps while those proceedings are ongoing. I was looking at The Lancet articles that assessed various programmes and said that lots of them did not have a research basis. One said that "the effectiveness of most of the programmes is unknown. Two specific home-visiting programmes—the Nurse-Family Partnership (best evidence) and Early Start—have been shown to prevent child maltreatment." While trying to bring those children into public care, should we not be putting in place programmes to protect them more effectively during the proceedings? It sounds to me as if these things operate on different planets and do not coalesce enough. Am I right?

  Dr Proops: There are a couple of points. When looking at interventions, as the paper described, we must be clear about which programmes are set up to prevent occurrence, and which are set up to prevent reoccurrence. You are talking about the latter. There is some evidence that some of those programmes work, but from the point of view of an everyday practitioner, I wholeheartedly agree with you. There could be a family that is struggling and has three school-age children. Evidence might suggest that the children are not functioning well, have behavioural problems at school, and that their educational attainment is poor and limited. The pre-school child might not be developing properly, and although the parents are trying within their means, perhaps their means are not good enough. In those circumstances we must provide support. I have seen evidence of very good support, but it must be provided for more than an hour three times a week and sadly, sometimes that is all that is available. Without wishing to say that we need more resources, in some areas we do. We need clarity about what types of support are more likely to produce a positive outcome and be effective. We must carry out research in that area and put those programmes into place. Removing many of those children might not be the right answer, yet they are living in an impoverished home, not achieving their potential and so harm accrues. There is plenty of room for further research to look at the evidential value of certain programmes, and we would then need the resources to implement them. It is resource heavy, but not as resource heavy as removing children.

  Colin Green: I just want to ask about the figures. I was interested in the figures that Ofsted gave the Committee last week, and I hope that we can have a full breakdown so that we can fully understand what is being counted. The figures are much higher than the figures from the NSPCC, which I would generally regard as the most authoritative, given that it has tracked this issue for a long time. I hope that we will get full information from Ofsted. There are good programmes, particularly the family-nurse partnership which looks very promising. I return to the discussion about health visiting, which shows a way forward for that kind of intensive programme. We need more evidence-based interventions that are focused with clarity of plan. There is too much monitoring. People talk about monitoring and support, but those things can be empty vessels. The issue is about what people can do in a more programmed way. Some of that could involve setting targets against which to measure progress, whether for the child or the adults in the family, and carrying that through properly. As part of the social work role, the practitioner must be able to lead all the people working with that family—including the family—in their journey of change. They must find out whether people can actually change. We need a more active approach based on mobilising change and finding out what we need to do to make life better for that child.

  Professor Masson: We have to bear in mind the fact that a key factor in the cases that come to proceedings is parental non-co-operation. Although evidence suggests that services are often not offered, sometimes those that have been offered are not accepted. There is non-compliance and non-acceptance of services, and there is false compliance where people appear to comply with services, but in reality do not do so. In that context, we have to take account of the very high levels of domestic violence and drug and alcohol misuse in such families. The mother may wish to comply, for example, but she may not be a free agent. She may be a depleted person because of the violent atmosphere in which she lives. That domestic violence may be known—there is much more recognition of domestic violence than there was 10 or 15 years ago—but she may well not be disclosing what is going on. She might appear to be complying, or trying her best, but a picture of what is going on in that family might be completely different from the one that the professionals appear to acknowledge at the beginning. I would question the idea that we can provide a service, even an evaluated service, that will make a difference in many of those families. I would focus on the cases that go to court. There is a greater group of children on the edge of care. There may be more opportunity to make a positive difference for that group, but once we set the thresholds very high, as we have done for care proceedings, it is less easy to see that change can be achieved easily for that very difficult group.

  Q612  Fiona Mactaggart: Even now, Judith, your final remark made me want to ask whether you think the threshold is too high. I also wonder whether we have a good enough risk assessment at an early enough stage to ensure that we are focusing preventive services as effectively as possible. As far as I can see from what you have been saying to me, the characteristics of a large proportion of the families with children at risk include mental ill-health, drug abuse, domestic violence. Can we tell who is most at risk, and can we target what we do more effectively to protect their children and prevent abuse? Can we intervene earlier to protect those children?

  Professor Masson: That is not a question for me.

  Q613  Fiona Mactaggart: No, my question for you is how high we should put the threshold.

  Chairman: We will start with Colin, then go to Judith.

  Colin Green: Certainly we can. The tools that we have are reasonably good. The assessment framework is a good tool; the issue is being able to use it effectively, which requires very sophisticated training, understanding and competence. That relates to the work force issues that you have previously considered. We have some good tools, but we need to apply them much better. They should help us identify the families that need earlier intervention. We are talking about going to court, but that is not very early. There is quite a lot of confusion about early intervention. Does it mean focusing on nought to threes? Is it early in that sense, or early in the development of difficulties? We might need to do both. There has been a lot of investment in universal services of various kinds. Schools are much stronger, and children's centres provide a lot more support for under-fives. We need more investment in the bit in the middle between those and the very high-threshold services characterised primarily as social care, in order to work with those families, who are quite resistant and need an assertive approach. To make that more concrete, I read a number of serious case reviews when I was a civil servant, and I would always ask, "Where was SureStart?" One would find that the families may have been in a SureStart area, but they did not engage. An assertive enough approach was not taken with them. Some of the disengagement may have been due to lack of motivation, but some of it may have resulted from the fact that someone with four children under five found that the sheer logistics of getting out of the house defeated them.

  Professor Masson: There are two issues, really. In relation to assertive engagement, there is a whole issue about what people are expected to do. Children's services such as SureStart are all voluntary. There is quite a negative approach among some sections of the community about children's social care—"the social are coming to take your children away"—and there is a rejection of the service, rather than seeing it as a positive, helpful service. I think that the demonisation of children's social care that we see through Baby P, etc., does not help that at all. Children's social care is not viewed within our community in a positive light. That is another distinction between ourselves and some countries in mainland Europe. I want to move on to the issue of thresholds. Thresholds are very high, in that it is not just a question of, "Can we satisfy the `significant harm' element?" It is also a question of what is being offered and what is the alternative plan if a child comes into the care system. We view children's social care negatively and we view what being looked after means for children and the outcomes of being looked after as poor, this tends to push the threshold up. Then there is the notion that intervention must be proportional. So if something can be done through compulsory services without using a care intervention, or through encouraging the use of services in any way, whether it is through a supervision order or just getting the parents to engage, then obviously getting the parents to engage is the right response. In many cases, that leads to a delayed intervention, because there is an attempt to get the parents on board before you go through the legal process. So you get this period of neglect before cases can enter the system.

  Henrietta Heawood: I do not know if we will go on to talk about the public law outline and the changes in care proceedings at some later point this morning.

  Chairman: We are going to come on to that in a little while.

  Henrietta Heawood: I brought you a copy of the flow chart of the public law outline, which explains all the stages that must be gone through before people[3] can go to court. As you can see I also have the complete guidance to the Public Law Outline and the whole document is enormous.

  Chairman: Excellent. We will drill down on it in a moment.

  Q614  Mrs Hodgson: I just want to give you my analysis of what we are talking about, to see if you agree with it. We now know—there is evidence, as Rosalyn pointed out, and I have seen evidence myself—about the impact of what happens between nought to three on the brain, emotional development and empathy, and how damaging that impact can be later in life. If we know that to be true, why are we not quicker to remove children in the first three years than we are later? There should be no benefit of the doubt. I wrote down what Judith said about "just neglect", or "merely neglect". We know how damaging that neglect is. I think that the peak in the number of children in care is normally around the adolescent age range—that is, later down the time line of the child's life. With what we know, should that peak not be a lot sooner: between nought and three, on the basis that, when those children go back to their parents, the neglect that they might then suffer will not be as damaging? In the short term, we might end up with two peaks, but in the long term, if this evidence is right, that later peak will drop. You would have the earlier peak and then there would be just a trailing-off, because we would not have all these damaged children later on.

  Dr Proops: May I answer part of that? Then perhaps Judith could talk about the numbers. I say that because I think that that question links with an earlier one. In a sense, two of the pieces that are missing, or certainly not as complete as they should be, are related to the inter-agency analysis of a problem. Colin hinted at that. So the information and the tools might be there, but we are not as good as we could and should be at analysing the information in front of us. That is partly to do with training and partly to do with the methodology. So I think that that is something that we ought to look at. The other point comes back to the evidence base. We are at the very beginning of having the research to give us the evidence base of what might or might not be the better outcome. When I say the beginning, I mean the beginning for both health and social care. We rarely get together seriously, as health and social care, with any research to look at the evidence base for some of these things. So the point that you made is absolutely spot on. However, we would come at the issue in different ways to explain why we think something should happen. One of the things that we do need is a serious, joint health and social care research programme that truly looks at the evidence for some of the things that you suggested.

  Professor Masson: As far as the numbers are concerned, over 50% of the children who come into the care system compulsorily come in before the age of five. There is little use of care proceedings for children over the age of 12. It used to be the case that many teenagers were brought into the care system compulsorily, but that hardly happens at all now, for a variety of reasons that we could go into. Many children are removed at birth. They are often removed using compulsory measures—emergency protection orders or police protection—or their mothers are encouraged to have them accommodated under section 20 and then care proceedings are brought. Probably between one fifth and one quarter of care proceedings relate to children who are removed within the first three months of birth. So the peak, if we look at the care data, is to do with what happens to the children in the care system. By and large, children who are removed at birth are adopted. Children removed under the age of three are most likely to leave care by being adopted. Children who come into the care system at five and above are likely to stay in it until 16 or older, and children who come in in their teens stay until adulthood.

  Q615  Mrs Hodgson: Those are the children Colin was referring to when he said that it is a question not of what happens to them from age five to 16 in the care system but what happened to them in the first few years of life. Can we not rescue such children sooner, for those important years, and then perhaps they could go back to their families for the years when they would normally be in the care system?

  Colin Green: You could take that approach. We could take what I would call a more ruthless approach. Even for the children Judith talked about, where a second child or a first child is removed on a care order, the court process can still be substantial. Parents will often say, "Things have changed. I have a new partner. It will be different this time. I am no longer on drugs," and so on, so there is still quite an elaborate and rigorous court process. The recent judgments—Judith has expertise on this—made it clear that the judiciary sees removal of a child at birth as a truly draconian step, even on a second application. Considerable weight is given to that. We need to look at each case carefully—we should always do that—but we are still expected to go through a rigorous process. Doing otherwise would require sanctioning a shift in what society is able to tolerate. Of course, the other side of that is that then there will be increased concern that children are being removed from their parents unnecessarily—parents who could have succeeded—and that there is permanent removal into adoption, which severs the legal ties. That is one of the most, if not the most, draconian things that the state can do to an individual. Getting a balance requires a much wider debate. We must think about that.

  Q616  Mrs Hodgson: It almost seems that we need to change how we think about the whole process of taking children into care at birth and having them adopted, so that in those early years the parents do not get the child back. Instead, parents could be given help during the stage when it is so important that the child is not neglected, but with a view to their getting the child back when he or she is older.

  Colin Green: I do not take that view. Children need parents who are absolutely committed to them for their lifetime. If you are removing children at that age, it is for adoption or some permanent solution away from the parents. The parent does not get a second chance if you do that, if I have understood you correctly.

  Q617  Mrs Hodgson: No, but the parents might be totally capable of looking after a child from three onwards. They just need help earlier.

  Professor Masson: They will not have a relationship with the child. There will be none of the development, bonding and all those things. Neglect is about a failure of bonding, to put it crudely. Children cannot be put like books back on the shelf in the library. It is a different child when it is three. It is not the same book.

  Q618  Chairman: Just a quick question for you, Colin. Where does the common assessment framework come from? Who wrote it?

  Colin Green: It came from the DCSF. But it was developed as a cross-Government programme.

  Q619  Chairman: How long has it been in existence?

  Colin Green: It was being developed from 2005.

  Professor Masson: The original assessment came from the Department of Health in 2000.

  Colin Green: That is the assessment framework. But the common assessment was in 2005. It was in development.

2   Note by witness: It is necessary to understand how the figures are collected. Back

3   Note by witness: The Local Authority. Back

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