The Victoria Climbié Foundation (VCF), a prominent organisation dedicated to the support of children, young people, and families, has made the bold decision to abstain from formally responding to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on the proposed new multi-agency safeguarding practice guidance.
The foundation’s decision comes as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by child protection agencies and the families they serve. The VCF has expressed concerns that the draft consultation does not provide a genuine platform for them to voice their concerns, indicating a potential disconnect between policy-making bodies and frontline organisations.
Two decades have passed since the tragic case of Victoria Climbié, which led to a significant inquiry into child protection in the UK. Despite the years, the VCF has highlighted a concerning gap between the proposed “Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023” guidance and the current delivery of services. While the foundation acknowledges the principles stated in the guidance, they have expressed little confidence in their reflection in real-world practices.
The VCF’s concerns are not unfounded. They point to the alarming lack of implementation at the operational level, coupled with the rise of increasingly hostile policies and practices across children’s statutory services. The introduction of safeguarding in the Children Act 2004, which was initially hailed as a progressive move, has over time become a tool for blame, with a noted increase in cases linked to neglect and emotional harm.
The foundation’s concerns extend beyond just the guidance. They have observed a trend of preventable child deaths, frontline teams being disempowered under management directives, and senior managers failing to support or protect their staff. This has led to a culture of blame, with even senior managers facing the consequences.
The VCF has also highlighted the importance of the “Every Child Matters” framework, which was widely acknowledged and understood by professionals before 2010. They argue that without significant funding and a return to these guiding principles, it will be challenging to remedy the damage done to children and families.
Furthermore, the foundation has raised eyebrows at the DfE’s approach to the consultation. While the department seeks a wide range of perspectives on the “Working Together to Safeguard Children” guidance, another consultation titled ‘Draft Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners’ appears to offer limited viewpoints. The VCF is particularly concerned about the exclusion of children, young people, and parents/carers from this consultation, as they are arguably the most affected by any proposed changes.
The proposed changes, according to the VCF, seem to limit statutory roles and responsibilities. This raises questions about who will provide the necessary support in line with children’s rights and how individuals will seek redress when obligations are not met. The foundation is particularly concerned about the extension of information sharing beyond the ‘risk of significant harm’ and how professional services can share information without parental or informed consent.
The VCF’s decision to opt out of the consultation is a clear indication of their concerns about the direction of child protection policies in the UK. They believe that a rights-based system set up for the education, care, and protection of children is being replaced by a more punitive approach, formalising the poor practices observed in recent years.
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