Saturday, 13 February 2016

At Long Last

I was very happy to read on the BBC’s website this morning about the NSPCC’s child abuse whistle-blowing helpline.

The helpline, operated by the NSPCC and funded by the Home Office, will take confidential calls or emails from members of staff from any agency who have concerns about how their organisations are dealing with cases of child abuse and neglect and who feel afraid or unable to raise these concerns with their employers.

At long last: that’s what I say. This is a big step forward, a means of capturing vital information about shortfalls in services and circumstances in which things have gone wrong; and a way of taking these concerns forward for the benefit of children.

Of course a lot will depend on the detail of how the scheme will operate – not least how the confidentiality of informants will be protected – but this scheme really does have great promise. It may not be a critical incident or near miss reporting scheme (which I have been advocating since 1990) but it is a big step in the right direction.

One small concern or question: I wonder why the Department for Education (which is the government department with responsibility for local authority children’s services) is not mentioned as being involved in the scheme? And the Department of Health should also give its endorsement to the scheme, to make it clear that it should be used by healthcare professionals and practitioners.

And one ‘small’ suggestion: the NSPCC must find a way of publishing (perhaps annually), in a suitably anonymised format, an aggregate summary of reports to the helpline so that the general lessons can be learned.