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Child Protection

Statement made on 26 May 2022

Statement UIN HCWS64

Statement

Today, the independent National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (the Panel) published its National Review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

The murders of Arthur and Star shocked the nation. It is incomprehensible that anyone could harm a child in this way.

I want to thank Annie Hudson, the chair of the Panel, and her team for their hard work and commitment in setting out the learning from these horrific incidents. Arthur and Star’s extended families did as much as they could to protect them. Being involved in this process and reflecting on what happened must have been incredibly difficult. I want to thank the children's families for their contributions to today’s Review and the insights they have provided whilst grieving for their huge loss. I am also grateful to professionals across Bradford and Solihull for their engagement with the Review. It is only through these open and honest conversations that we can truly learn from what has happened.

No Government can legislate for evil, but the Panel's recommendations look to address the problems that they have seen across child protection services, and to make such terrible incidents as rare as possible.

The National Review pays tribute to the many professionals across our country who carry out effective child protection every day, whilst recognising that the child protection system needs to be strengthened. To this end, the Panel has made local recommendations for safeguarding partners in Solihull and Bradford as well as eight national recommendations to strengthen delivery of child protection services.

I am committed, with colleagues across this House, to acting on these recommendations. No time can be wasted in learning from these tragedies, and I assure the House that we will do all we can to deliver significant improvements to child protection services.

We have already taken strong action in both Solihull and Bradford to drive up the quality of services. In Solihull, I commissioned a Joint Targeted Area Inspection, served an Improvement Notice, provided additional funding, and deployed an expert Improvement Adviser. Alongside this, the Local Authority has established an Improvement Board to drive progress and ensure multi-agency working between the police, health and the local authority to keep local children as safe as possible.

In Bradford, we are establishing a new Children’s Services Trust. Evidence shows trusts can turn around failing services, delivering the care that every child deserves. This approach has worked well elsewhere, notably in Sunderland which improved from Inadequate to Outstanding in three years. Today I am delighted to announce the appointment of Eileen Milner as the Chair of the new Trust. Eileen is an experienced leader with a strong track record and will be working alongside our Commissioner in Bradford, Steve Walker, and the council, to improve these critical services for children and families in Bradford as quickly as possible.

My department’s broader investment in local authority intervention and improvement is already paying off: 53% of authorities are now rated good or outstanding, up from 36% five years ago. 42% more children in need are now living in local authorities which are rated Good or Outstanding than in 2017.

Yet system change on a national scale is needed. On Monday, we announced the publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, led by Josh MacAlister. The recommendations align with those outlined in the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care and look to address the problems that they have seen across Child Protection services and make such terrible incidents as rare as possible.

As the Panel's National Review states, data and information sharing are essential to keeping children safe, and sadly weaknesses in information sharing hindered professionals’ understanding of what was happening to Arthur and Star. This is why we will take action to drive forward the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care three data and digital priority areas, ensuring local government and partners are in the driving seat of reform. Following the review’s recommendation for a data and technology taskforce, we will introduce a new Digital and Data Solutions Fund to help local authorities improve delivery for children and families through technology. More detail will follow later this year on joining up data from across the public sector so that we can increase transparency – both between safeguarding partners and the wider public.

My Ministerial colleagues and I are fully committed to improving the national coordination of child protection. Today we have written to all safeguarding partners to emphasise the important messages contained in the National Review and put out a call to action to take forward these important recommendations. Together with my colleagues across Whitehall, we will also form a new Child Protection Ministerial group, to ensure that safeguarding is championed at the very highest levels. We are also developing further our offer of support to safeguarding partners and will clarify roles and responsibilities through guidance.

This is challenging and complex work and I am sure colleagues across the House will agree with me that the vast majority of those working in child protection go to work each day to try to make things better. No one deserves to be the subject of abuse and harassment, let alone such conscientious, committed and capable professionals doing all they can to protect children from harm.

I will consider the recommendations from the Panel’s National Review and those from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and respond in full before the end of this year when we will publish a bold implementation strategy incorporating the recommendations.

I am committed to driving forward progress with those across all safeguarding agencies to protect children, and with colleagues across Parliament as well as those with lived experience of the care system, to deliver reform.

I know that people in Solihull, Bradford and far beyond are deeply troubled by the findings of these Reviews. I want to assure people across the country that this Government will not shirk our duty of keeping children safe, that the lines written in these Reviews will be poured over, and steps will be taken to make sure lessons are learned so that we do not find ourselves here again.

Linked statements

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords

Department for Education
Child Protection
Baroness Barran
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System
Conservative, Life peer
Statement made 26 May 2022
HLWS64
Lords