Today in the House of Lords, Gillian Shephard has a debate on the functioning of Children's Services Departments in local authorities in England and why they seem to be failing vulnerable children. I spoke to her about it a couple of days ago and she told me that since 1997 there have been 69 green and white papers affecting children, nine health service reoganisations and seventeen Acts of Parliament affecting loval government structures. Her point is this. If Directors of Children's Services have taken their collective eye off the ball, is it any wonder when they have this amount of government legislation to wade through? No one knows what effect that has had so far.
Ofsted has reported that the number of local authorities failing to properly protect children has doubled within a year. Thousands more children are therefore being put at risk.
More than 150 local authorities now have Children's Departments. Gillian Shepard points out that in many of these there has been "A reorganisation within a reorganisation" with adult and social services being brought within the same remit. These departments are far too big, with bizarre reporting structures and a lack of oversight.
In 2001 Hazel Blears said in a debate on the circumstances which led to the death of Norfolk child Lauren Wright that on average one child dies a week in this country due to neglect. However, recent evidence to the Children, Schools & Families Select Committee shows that the figure is now three a week. This despite all the reforms which have been implemented since the Climbie case in 2000. They seems to have made matters worse.
In essence children are being failed by politicians who are confusing activity with action. This is happening in too many areas, where ill thought out initiatives are launched to great fanfare, and politicians are seen to be doing something. But doing the wrong thing is often worse than doing nothing at all.