Child protection standards published by Royal College

Children’s social workers should have immediate access to paediatricians when they have child protection concerns, according to the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

The RCPCH has published a set of ten standards that set out how social workers, police and health departments should have round-the-clock access to a paediatrician with child protection skills and experience to provide immediate advice and assessment on children and young people aged under 18 in circumstances where there are child protection concerns.

The RCPCH document says an initial strategy discussion should take place in accordance with local policies within two hours and then, depending on the needs of the young person, the child should be assessed and an opinion provided within 12 hours where there is evidence of recent injuries.

‘Specialist paediatric and forensic opinion should be available to all units within four hours for all acute sexual assaults and all unexpected child deaths,’ the document states, adding: ‘Paediatricians should act as the “single point of contact” for children’s social care departments to articulate the concerns of the medical professionals involved with the family.’

The standards address the timeliness of care, the grade of doctors that can review and discharge children, the availability of consultant input, the minimum number of doctors required for safe rotas as well as doctor’s responsibilities in respect of child protection services.

BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri “wholeheartedly welcomed” the RCPCH’s move but said a sea-change in political attitudes is needed to build “a child protection service that we can all be proud of and where children’s interests are at the heart of it”.

She said: “It is a sad indictment of this country’s commitment to the most vulnerable children that so many critical services needed to protect children have been scaled back over the years. As well as a shortage of paediatricians, we do not have enough health visitors, police officers and of course social workers to carry out the extremely important task of protecting vulnerable children, which in the most extreme cases saves lives.”

Publishing the document, RCPCH president professor Terence Stephenson said: “At this time of difficulty in many paediatric services, I am proud of the fact that paediatricians are laying down a marker and setting the standards by which all children and young people should be treated.

“I have no doubt that these standards will help improve the medical care of children.”