LSE's Professor Eileen Munro has said a “culture change” was underway in the child protection system but outlined an urgent need to now accelerate reforms to create a more child-centred system.
Speaking about her new report on the progress of child protection reforms, she said we had reached a “watershed moment” but progress now needs to move faster with more prescription and bureaucracy stripped away so social workers are able to focus on giving children and young people the help they need.
Professor Munro said social workers must be confident to use their judgment instead of applying rules that do not match a specific child’s needs.
Commenting on the report, Professor Munro said:
“This report shows an urgent culture change in our child protection system is now underway. We are finally moving away from the defensive rule-bound culture that has been so problematic.
Reforms are rightly moving the focus of help and protection firmly onto children and young people and away from excessive bureaucratic demands.
What is particularly encouraging is that some local authorities are already developing innovative ways of working that are enhancing the quality of help received by families.
I believe there are many front line managers and social workers who now have the confidence to exercise their judgment and provide effective help, based on the individual needs of a child. However, I am concerned there are also some who are uncertain how to do this and I hope the examples of good practice that I have included in this report will lead further change.”
Professor Munro highlights the following progress in her report:
The removal of fixed assessment timescales. The experience of the trial authorities who were granted exemptions from these statutory timescales has been positive. They report that the additional flexibility has encouraged better, more thoughtful working practices, and better and clearer consideration of priorities.
Ofsted’s revised child protection inspection framework. This rightly focuses on the impact and effectiveness of help and protection for children, young people and their families.
The report has found many encouraging examples of services working together and with social services to provide better understanding of children’s needs.
Important improvements are already being made to initial education, in selecting the right people and training the next generation of social workers.
The Government has taken steps to appoint a Chief Social Worker and local authorities are now starting to recruit Principal Social Workers to their teams.
The report calls for faster progress in the following areas:
A reduction in statutory guidance so that there is more scope for professional and local autonomy. There has been a delay in implementing these changes, due to the need for proper public consultation. Once this has been removed services should be better placed to work together to offer improved early help.
The Government needs to encourage better understanding between services as reforms take place in health and policing.
The importance of implementing all the proposed reforms together in full. Implementing these reforms as a whole will give professionals the scope and skills they require to better protect children.
1. Professor Munro’s report, The Progress Report: moving towards a child centred system, is published on the safeguarding children section of the Department for Education's website.