Baby P Tragedy Sparks Merseyside Child Safety Review

MERSEYSIDE is reviewing social services cases jointly held by councils, police and health authorities following the death of Baby P. At the suggestion of Merseyside Police’s chief constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, the force along with councils’ children services and PCTs are reviewing all jointly held cases.

The announcement came as a children’s charity claimed a massive hike in court fees for child protection cases has put youngsters at greater risk of abuse.

The NSPCC and opposition MPs yesterday united to condemn a 32-fold increase – from £150 to £4,825 – in the cost of care proceedings brought by local authorities.

Liverpool City Council was among four authorities that challenged the hike in the High Court, only to be defeated two weeks ago.

The NSPCC – alarmed by the Baby P scandal which has dominated headlines recently – has linked the fee rise to 600 fewer court applications made by councils across the country since it came into force.

But Lib Dem-run Liverpool City Council – while pledging to continue the fight to reverse the fee increase – insisted it was wrong to suggest that a single child was now at greater risk.

A spokesman said: “The welfare of vulnerable young people is paramount and there is absolutely no question of the council not using the courts to keep them safe.”

Earlier this week, Stuart Smith, director of children, family and adult services at Liverpool City Council, met Mr Hogan-Howe, Paula Gray, the director of public health for Liverpool PCT, and representatives from other boroughs to discuss joint reviews of cases.

Cllr Ron Gould, executive member for health, care and safeguarding at the city council, said: “We are putting in place this extra process after what happened to Baby P. He was visited 60 times and he slipped through a very big net, I don’t have these concerns about Liverpool but we wanted to react to what happened.”

Assistant Chief Constable Patricia Gallan said: “The purpose of the group is to review existing cases and processes in place and to ensure cohesion between the partner agencies.

“This will ensure everything that can possibly be done to protect children, especially those deemed to be at risk and vulnerable, is done.”