April 6, 2009
More abused children need to be taken into care, says NSPCC head
Andrew Flanagan, the new chief executive of the NSPCC, says care
provision must be improved
Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent
Too many children at risk of serious neglect or abuse are being left
with their parents because the care system is considered such a poor
alternative, the head of the NSPCC has said.
Andrew Flanagan, the new chief executive of the charity, said that
after the Baby P tragedy the debate should shift to why foster and
residential care were considered “not a good option” and the steps
needed to improve the system so that it was not used as an excuse to
leave children in danger.
His intervention is a serious challenge to the prevailing attitude in
Government and among local authorities that children should almost
always stay with their parents, even if the families are violent or
highly dysfunctional. Fewer children are taken into care in England
than almost anywhere in the developed world.
Mr Flanagan, in his first interview since taking on the job in
January, also admitted that the NSPCC’s controversial eight-year Full
Stop campaign, which raised £250 million with the aim of ending child
cruelty, had failed to meet the charity’s own expectations. “We may
have tried to advance on too broad a front,” he said of this and other
During the recession the charity will focus on its services to
vulnerable children instead of campaigning.
For many years, government policy has been to try to keep children at
home if possible while monitoring them and helping parents to mend
their ways. But that policy has come under scrutiny after the death of
Baby P, who was known to be at risk. Sixty visits from social workers
and other professionals failed to save him.
Asked whether too many children at risk were being left with their
parents, Mr Flanagan agreed. “If a child dies, we have to say, ‘Yes,
they are’. The cut-off point is wrong.
“There is a long-standing view that publicly provided care is not as
good as care in the home. There is a presupposition that leaving a
child in the home must be better. We need to open up that debate. Why
is care not a good option? If it isn’t, that is the thing that needs
to be addressed,” he said.
Many social workers privately admit that the scarcity of good foster
and residential care is often a factor in keeping children in
dysfunctional families. One recently told The Times: “We always have
to bear in mind what we are removing them to.”
The outcomes for children in foster and residential care are poor.
Three quarters of those leaving care have no qualifications and within
two years half will be unemployed and one in six homeless. Half of
those in jail aged 25 or under have been in care, as has a third of
the whole prison population.
At the time of the outcry over the death of Baby P, Ed Balls, the
Children’s Secretary, denied that too many children were being left in
danger from their families. He said that the current balance was
Mr Flanagan took up the reins at the NSPCC shortly after the charity
completed the most successful fundraising campaign in British history.
Full Stop met its target of raising £250 million between 1999 and
However, the campaign has been criticised for spending too much of the
proceeds on further fundraising and campaigning, and for failing to
produce evidence that it made progress on its goal of ending child
Mr Flanagan calls Full Stop “a tremendous success”, but admitted that
it was not wholly successful. “People thought the charity was off its
head when it set the target. But we raised the money, and spent it
wisely on good things, and people’s lives changed as a result. But I
don’t think it advanced us towards the goal of ending child cruelty in
terms of the expectations at the beginning,” he said.
The recession has already hit the charity, which is making
redundancies and has cut some services.
* Have your say
The NSPCC adverts used to scare my kids as they were so brutal, I
complained but thye said they were about to end, that was child abuse.
Use the money for children not to give alturistic people safe jobs1
james, Sway, England
Finally! A tacit admission that it's better to spend resources
focussing on children who are facing terrrible abuse than using
donations to campaign to outlaw smacking.
How sad that only a recession has changed the NSPCC perspective.
rather than realising the absurdity of their original stance.
KThompson, High Wycome, UK
The NSPCC do very little, if any, direct work with children who are at
risk. Some time ago they ran a campaign urging people to pay for "
that first visit" In fact, when a child believed to be at risk is
reported to the NSPCC they simply pass on the information to the Local
authority who investigate
Paul Mather, Northampton, UK
The only way to resolve the problems in the care system is to begin
viewing each and every child in the system as an individual rather
than a statistical part of a problem. No two children need the same
support or resolution to the difficulties they face; they are
children, not numbers.
Suzanne, Istanbul, Turkey
Sounds like a cynical ploy to drum up more custom, so they can then
claim more money from the government to me.
Paul, Milton Keynes, UK
Care is the worst alternative. Yes it is required in some cases as a
better alternative than home, but then why does the NSPCC not focus on
improving those services and instead of calling for more children to
be placed in care, how about families better supported and monitored
Yasmin , London. ,
Enough with the campaigning, use the money that has been raised and
donated by the people who gave money on the proviso that it was to
save lives and improve the welfare of vulnerable children - not to
spend money on further fundraising. I for one will not donate any
Libby, London, UK
If the outcomes for children in care are so poor, surely the NSPCC and
the government should be concentrating their resources on improving
those outcomes rather than on fundraising and campaigning.
David Bevir, Andover, England