Committee (3rd Day)

Part of Serious Crime Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 15th July 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Howarth of Breckland Baroness Howarth of Breckland Crossbench 4:15 pm, 15th July 2014

My Lords, I briefly want to support—and not support—the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. I support her obvious wish that proper liaison between authorities should take place in terms of safeguarding. All of the codes and practices are already there, but what is not there is the available time. It is not that social workers are not trained, although they could do with more training—certainly around the issues of satanic and witchcraft abuse, although that concerns a tiny proportion of the cases. However, on the matter of broader emotional abuse, social workers are pretty keyed in to what is needed. The problem is that they know that they do not have the time to go in and do the work that is necessary to help families, and they have no wish in these circumstances to end up removing families through the courts.

The real answer—and I speak as a vice-president of the Local Government Association—is to look at how local authorities are using their resources and whether enough of those resources are going towards safeguarding children and their general protection and prevention from abuse. We need to look at whether we are asking the professions—social workers in particular, but also the police—to carry out a totally impossible task. If you are working day to day intervening in cases, you have very little time left to liaise with your colleagues. As a professional who has undertaken this work over many years, I know just how much time it takes to ring round, organise conferences, ensure that the appropriate information is available to everyone and pull all of that together.

So the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is absolutely right. We need to make sure that the safeguarding co-ordination works well. We need to make sure that the local authority designated officers, to whom these situations have to be reported, have enough time to think through what the action should be, and are able to take it.