Gps in other res of service, such s filure to provide dequte preventive nd supportive services, get less public scrutiny. They led to less extreme dverse results nd these outcomes hve less cler-cut cusl connection to professionl ctions or omissions. They re concern to professionls nd, intermittently, to politicins but less so to contemporry British society in generl where prenting is seen s primrily privte rther thn socil responsibility. s result of this bised interest, the impct of inquiries hs been to prioritise the child protective functions ginst bckdrop of professionls struggling, with vrying degrees of success, to continue to meet the broder remit of child welfre.
One might hve expected the impct of inquiries to hve lessened since 1991 when the strem of inquiries becme trickle s result of the new Working Together guidnce which introduced privte Prt 8 inquiries to be conducted by locl gencies, only few of which hve been deemed by the Deprtment of Helth to require further, public, scrutiny (Deprtment of Helth 1991:57). This, I shll rgue, is not the cse. lthough there ws only one inquiry yer between 1993 nd 1997, followed by silence for five yers, the thret of public inquiry hs remined mjor influence on professionl ction, encourging defensive style of work nd hmpering ttempts by policy mkers to broden the focus of the services.
Professionls' fers hve been relised by three recent reports tht hve received considerble medi ttention (Luren Wright, Norfolk Helth uthority 2002; inlee Lbonte, Newhm CPC 2002; Victori Climbi, Lming 2003). To the public, the priority is still to provide child protection service; broder child welfre concerns tke second plce. These ltest reports, however, lso revel n pplling level of prctice. Public pressure, politicl policy mking, nd professionl endevour hve ll focused on improving child protection work. The opposite ppers to be hppening: morle hs fllen, the qulity of prctice hs deteriorted, nd there re mjor problems in recruiting nd retining stff. This chpter explores how this reversl of fortunes hs hppened.
The history of recent yers not only revels tht the system is not re-focusing to the degree policy mkers wnt but lso tht the qulity of child protection services themselves is deteriorting. mjor government inspection report on services to sfegurd children (Deprtment of Helth 2002) expressed continuing concern for how socil services were deling with children in need:
In most res there were serious concerns mongst stff of ll gencies bout the thresholds tht socil services were pplying in their children's services. Professionl stff from other gencies considered tht socil services were not providing n dequte response when they judged sitution did not involve high risk of serious hrm to children nd young people. (2002:4)
The report identified worries bout the services for children t risk. They stress the importnce of the qulity of the initil socil service response, ffecting s it does the qulity of the ssessment nd the whole course of work with the fmily but found tht:
Mny stff in gencies in most uthorities expressed concern bout the ccessibility nd qulity of this initil response by socil services duty systems were found to be impersonl nd unresponsive. (2002:46)
review of child protection services in UK cme to worrying conclusions:
The review findings suggest tht mny dults nd children hve little confidence in the child