Social care pledge to protect children

PEOPLE working in the various agencies in Suffolk that protect children at risk are determined to prevent a Victoria Climbie case from happening in the county.

PEOPLE working in the various agencies in Suffolk that protect children at risk are determined to prevent a Victoria Climbie case from happening in the county.

Next week councillors from Suffolk's Caring and Protecting Committee will spend virtually a whole day looking at the recommendations from Lord Laming, following his inquiry into the tragic death of the seven year-old.

Roger Belham, chairman of the committee, said: "I am happy to be able to report that we have not faced a Climbie situation in Suffolk, but we are not complacent.

"That is why we are using this day not to judge what happened, but to bring together all local leaders in child protection, to make sure we are taking every single possible measure to protect vulnerable children."

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On May 29, in the council chamber at County Hall, St Helen's Street, councillors will hear presentations from Cliff James, Social Services' head of child protection, from Detective Chief Superindendant Peter Worobec and Detective Chief Inspector Tim Beach, of Suffolk police and from Niki Clemo, director of children's services at the Central Suffolk Patient Care Trust.

There will also be reports on the implications of the recommendations for the education service and on the role of the voluntary sector.

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In the afternoon Anthony Douglas, Suffolk's director of social care, will lead an open discussion to draw the threads together.

Mr Douglas has written extensively in the magazine Community Care on child protection following the Climbie court cases and inquiry.

Having managed a wide variety of council services, he said in one article: "child protection services and cases were the only ones that kept me awake at night. They still do. Child protection work is as tough as it gets in the public sector, however experienced staff are."

He has said child protection services were complicated, expensive and needed detailed documentation of every case to ensure no child slipped through the net but that could not happen where there was a shortage of trained and experienced staff struggling to manage far top heavy caseloads.

He has written: "If there is one public sector budget that should not be cash limited for the next few years until standards are comprehensively raised it is the national budget for children looked after, child protection services and children in need."

Victoria Climbie was born in Ivory Coast in 1991, and came to London with her aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao in November 1998.

Between then and February 2000, when she was declared dead at St Mary's Hospital, West London, she suffered a catalogue of cruelty that led Dr Nathaniel Carey, the Home Office pathologist who examined her body to describe her 128 separate injuries and scars as "the worst case of child abuse I've encountered".

A murder trial in 2000-2001 found Kouao and her partner Carl Manning guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

Lord Laming's inquiry found that the various agencies had missed 12 chances to save Victoria.

In August 2002 one key social worker Carol Baptiste was convicted of failing to attend the inquiry and fined £500. In November 2002 Haringey social worker, Lisa Arthurworrey and her manager Angella Mairs were dismissed for gross misconduct following disciplinary hearings.

The Government has now required agencies to carry out an audit of their services using seven standards for caring and protection agencies recommended by the inquiry.

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