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Child Protection

Volume 513: debated on Monday 12 July 2010

5. What progress has been made on the Munro review of child protection; and if he will make a statement. (6960)

Professor Munro’s review, which was launched on 10 June, appointed a top-level reference group to advise her. It met for the first time on 6 July. Professor Munro has issued a call for evidence with a 30 July deadline. We have asked her to report in three stages, the final report being in April 2011. The review has come about because the system of child protection in our country is still not working as it should be, despite the immense dedication and hard work of front-line professionals.

Does the Secretary of State agree with me and many children’s charities that out-of-area placements for children taken into care should be considered only in extreme circumstances?

I, too, am grateful for the promotion.

I know that my hon. Friend has already established her credentials in this matter. She will be pleased to know that as part of the care planning guidance that came out of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, which we supported, a new sufficiency duty will come into effect from next April, which should lead to a significant drop in the number of children placed far away from their original homes. I know that that is a particular problem in her constituency, as it is in mine and those of other hon. Members with seaside constituencies in particular.

Would the Minister be concerned if, as a result of the review of the role of the Children’s Commissioner that I understand has been announced, more children who are in care because of abuse were put at risk because no one was there to stand up for their interests? Will he confirm that there will be no dismantling of the office of the Children’s Commissioner prior to the completion of the review that he has referred to and the implementation of its recommendations?

The hon. Lady makes a point about the review of the role of the Children’s Commissioner and her office, which is quite separate from the Eileen Munro review. I share her concerns about the rights of children in care, and she will be aware that the children’s rights director has a direct role in that matter, which he has carried out with enormous respect over recent years, ensuring that the concerns and voices of children in care are heard loud and clear.