Author: By David Hughes and Emily Ashton, PA
Labour’s Barry Sheerman delivered the stark message during a Commons debate on
his committee’s report on children in care.
He said it was important that there was an appropriate response when such
Opening an estimates day debate on the Department for Children, Schools and
Families, he said: “It is only the most thoughtless politicians that would
tell you that there would never be another child death.
“I think anyone who serves on our committee and anyone who knows anything
about this, with the level of mental illness and alcohol abuse and drug
abuse, there will be other child murders and child deaths and they will be
“And we will have to be aware that that will happen and react in the right way
when those tragedies happen, find out what went wrong and how you minimise
“What I would suspect, and what my colleagues suspect, is that you will never
be able to eradicate them, you will not.”
Even in Denmark, which the committee visited to learn from its well-regarded
child protection and care system, there was still a “fairly serious”
He said it was important not to have a knee-jerk reaction following a case
like Baby P.
Mr Sheerman told MPs: “There is sometimes a danger that all the resources,
after a tragic death, are rushed into child protection and can actually
starve the resources for the support of families and good quality social
In Denmark, Mr Sheerman said the committee found children taken into care were
often housed in small residential units where their parents could still
visit, whereas in the UK there was a greater reliance on foster families,
adoption or larger care homes.
He said care for children should be “absolutely fantastic” but this could mean
more pay and better training for social workers.
“If this is a litmus test of how civilised we are as a society, we have got to
persuade our constituents that pay the money to make that level of sacrifice
in this sector,” he said.
Shadow children’s minister Tim Loughton said that while extra money did go
into training and childcare in Denmark the cost of housing children in a
residential home was around £56,000 a year.
“That is actually half the average cost of a residential home per child in the
UK. So it needn’t actually be more expensive,” he said.
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