20 August 2004
Excluding schools from proposed new child protection duties risks leaving some children vulnerable to abuse, councils and charities are warning.
Organisations from across the public and voluntary sectors, including the Local Government Association and the NSPCC, are concerned that the Children Bill places no statutory demands on schools to set aside cash to fund child welfare programmes and inter-agency co-operation.
Lisa Watch, education and social policy officer at the LGA, said: 'We believe that although some schools will recognise the importance of working in a more co-operative way, the government cannot rely entirely on the excellence and integrity of head teachers. In order to fulfil this vital role, schools need clarity over expectations.'
There is further concern that the Department for Education and Skills' Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners, which removes schools from local authority control, will exacerbate the problem, distancing them still further from other child protection agencies.
'What levers will there be to ensure agencies co-operate?' Watch said. 'The two agendas don't match up.'
The Children Bill takes forward many of the recommendations of the Laming inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié. It will enable better information sharing between services that work with children.
Councils will also be obliged to set up Local Safeguarding Children Boards to encourage children's services to work together and promote child welfare.
The LGA plans to lobby for amendments once the Bill begins its journey through the Commons next month.