Saturday 3 January 2004
UNISON calls for 'critical debate' on O'Brien Inquiry
UNISON's Edinburgh branch is calling for a public debate on the
growing concerns about aspects of the O'Brien Inquiry Report into
the death of baby Caleb Ness.
"It is now time for a critical debate. Many people across the profession
are beginning to raise concerns about this Inquiry and the dangers
of it being used to remodel child protection services", said John
Stevenson, secretary of UNISON's Edinburgh Branch which is planning
a conference on the issue in the New Year.
"As people have had the time to examine the report in detail, away
from the emotion of the moment, it becomes clearer that the City
of Edinburgh Council should have taken a moment's pause before responding.
"While the report addresses fundamental issues, there are some
flaws in its understanding, analysis of evidence and conclusions.
It is of course crucial that lessons are learned. But they must
be learned from a solid base of evidence", he added.
UNISON's concerns centre on contradictions in the report, dubious
conclusions from some of the evidence, inaccuracies and a lack of
understanding or recognition of the law covering child protection.
UNISON says that the report even contradicts itself on child protection
For example, the report has reduced the people available to chair
child protection case conferences by almost a third by saying with
no reasons, that Senior Practitioners should not do this job.
"We have lost the services of some of our most skilled and experienced
staff which has increased the already huge pressures on other senior
staff and on the child protection case conference system", said
The union is also concerned about the effect this 'flawed' inquiry
will have on staff attitudes towards future inquiries.
"Staff were urged strongly by the Inquiry not to bring legal representation
and so none did. They attended voluntarily with a genuine wish to
help but then many faced unfounded criticism and immoderate comments
in a report which at times borders on sensationalism. In these circumstances,
it would be hard to advise anyone to voluntarily assist any similar
inquiry in the future. Unlike Orkney and the Victoria Climbie reports,
this report has potentially damaged future inquiry processes.
"It is essential that there is a wide debate on the enquiry across
professions and politics and that will be the purpose of the conference",
added John Stevenson.
Note to Editors: The full UNISON Edinburgh Branch initial
response to the Inquiry can be seen at http://www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/socialwork/obrien.html
For Further Information Please Contact: John Stevenson,
Edinburgh Branch Secretary 07876 795 018(m) Lyn Williams, Edinburgh
Branch Social Work Convenor, 07939 983 663(m) Chris Bartter (Scottish
Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)