The coalition government has outlined its plans for children and families, but there are some significant gaps in them.
For instance, while there are several commitments to helping families – such as funding for relationship support – details on what will be happening to children’s services are relatively thin on the ground.
While there is a vague commitment to investigate a new approach to helping families with multiple problems, how or what this new approach will be is not discussed, and this rather sets the tone.
There are also references to a ‘re-focusing’ of Sure Start back to its original purpose of early intervention and focusing on the neediest families.
A more concrete commitment to try and address the workload of children’s social workers comes with the scrapping of the Comprehensive Area Assessment, which has caused concern about the time it takes to do.
But there is nothing on how the rising level of referrals is to be combated, whether there will be greater funding for children’s services or if there will be help with recruitment – although local authorities will have greater autonomy with their budgets.
Elsewhere, the Vetting & Barring Scheme – due to be phased in from July – is due for another review to get it to “common sense levels”. This is again suitably vague – what is their definition of common sense, for example – and makes you wonder what last year’s Singleton review achieved.
In addition, in part of a wider push towards greater transparency, serious case reviews are to be published in full, with identifying details removed.
As I have said before [SCRS: To publish or not to publish], I am sceptical about this. While I can see the logic of publishing reviews in full, I worry that there may still be ways to identify those involved, and that journalists may use them to damn social workers, especially in high-profile Baby P-type cases.
So, as with adult social care, the proposals are a mixed bag and the publication of details about how these policies will be enacted will reveal whether they will be successful or not.