Child Neglect: Practice Issues for Health and Social Care

By Julie Taylor; Brigid Daniel | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
Working Together in Cases of Neglect
Key Issues

Olive Stevenson


Introduction

It is beyond dispute that working together across disciplines and agencies is a prerequisite for effective assessment and intervention in cases of serious neglect (see Chapter Nine). It is also clear that many serious case reviews, including those in which neglect was a factor, have revealed major flaws in communication and co-ordination. However, we must beware of extrapolating from these tragic examples and assuming that they represent a general failure in 'working together'. Despite certain negative findings, the major research reports by Birchall and Hallett (1995) and Hallett (1995) on this topic do not suggest widespread failures. Admittedly, this work is now nearly a decade old, but there is no reason to suppose that there has been a general decline in the UK, even though, in certain localities, pervasive staff shortages have created major problems. Gross deficits in practice revealed in the Laming report (Lord Laming 2003) should not be taken as typical of the UK as a whole.

However, there had been sufficient evidence of failures in interagency working in certain high-profile cases to have made it more or less inevitable that there would be political pressure for change when the harrowing Victoria Climbié case became the focus for media attention. Indeed, the breakdown of communication between agencies was a key criticism of the report. It seems likely that most of the recommendations for structural change in the Green Paper Every Child Matters (Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2003) will be generally welcomed. These likely changes in England have a bearing on some of the issues raised in this chapter, and will be discussed later.

Despite legitimate criticism of poor 'working together' in certain particularly difficult cases, my own experience as Chair of five area child protection

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