Children’s social care services should be freed from government targets and every council should appoint a principal child and family social worker, Professor Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection system has claimed.
The review, which was commissioned by government after a spate of child protection scandals, argues that a one-size-fits-all approach to safeguarding and “tick-box culture” is preventing local areas from focusing on the needs of children.
Munro claimed too many forms and procedures are preventing professionals from being able to give children the help they need.
“That is why I am recommending that unhelpful targets for completing assessments within a set timescale are removed,” she explained.
“Professionals should instead concentrate on making good quality assessments that really focus on delivering the right help for the child, and checking whether that help has improved the child’s life.”
Children’s minister Tim Loughton said the Munro review is the first review of its kind that hasn’t been initiated as a direct reaction to a child death or serious case.
“This has allowed for a wide-ranging and in-depth review with some radically different proposals for reform,” he said. “It is clear that Professor Munro has taken a long hard look at what is preventing child protection services from working as well as they should in this country and I welcome her thorough analysis of the problems.
“It is now up to the government and the children’s sector to work together to look at the recommendations in detail and assess the implications of their implementation in practice for the long-term, not as a short-term fix. To do this the government will be working closely with a group of professionals from across the children’s sector and we will respond to Professor Munro’s recommendations later this year.”
Marion Davis, past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said Munro’s review seeks to make the whole child protection system more coherent.
“It is important that this systematic approach continues in the implementation of all the review’s recommendations across local and national government,” she claimed. “This review gives all social work employers a strong steer on what steps need to be taken to support an excellent child protection system and it will be strongly welcomed.”
The government has given the Children’s Workforce Development Council £79.9m for social work funding for 2011/12. This money is to be spent on helping local areas address specific challenges including high vacancy rates, problems recruiting child protection social workers, and increasing referrals of children to social care services.
Munro’s recommendations include plans to:
- Remove the statutory requirement on local authorities to complete social care assessments within “artificial set timescales”
- Free services that work with children and families from unhelpful government targets, national IT systems and nationally prescribed ways of working
- Change the approach to conducting serious case reviews (SCRs), learning from the approach taken in sectors such as aviation and healthcare
- Introduce a duty on all local services to co-ordinate an “early offer” of help to families who do not meet the criteria for social care, to address problems before they escalate
- Require local authorities to protect the discrete roles and responsibilities of director of children’s services and lead member for children’s services
- Reform Ofsted inspections so they follow the child’s “journey” through services, add more weight to feedback from children and families and examine how all local services, including health, education, police and the justice system contribute to the protection of children
- Keep experienced social workers on the frontline even when they become managers so that their experience and skills are not lost
- Designate a principal child and family social worker in each local authority to report the views and experiences of the frontline. At national level, a chief social worker would be established to advise government on social work practice
- Revise the statutory Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance and the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families
- Require employers and higher education institutions to work together so that social work students are prepared for the challenges of child protection work
- DFE: Safeguarding Children – Children in Care (michellelanthony.wordpress.com)
- Munro Review: social workers ‘to face random checks’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Munro report: Child protection staff hindered by IT (go.theregister.com)
- ‘End child protection red tape’ (mirror.co.uk)
- Call to end ‘child protection red tape’ (independent.co.uk)
- ‘Tick box culture’ for social workers needs to come to an end (alisonsgypt.wordpress.com)