Child protection still isn’t working well enough. That’s the message from the Department for Education today, and, as is traditional with such things, is setting up a review of the profession to address this.
But the focus of the review is not on the quality of social workers, but on cutting bureaucracy and the barriers that prevent social workers spending more time with vulnerable children.
“Hallelujah” I hear social workers cry…
So, could this be an end to the much-disliked ‘box-ticking culture’ that has developed within social work in recent years? Let’s hope so. I’ve spoken to many in the profession over the past couple of years, and a constant theme is the amount of admin and paperwork they have to do – some have said it is as much as an 80-20 split on paperwork to spending time with children.
The initial signs that change might be coming are good. For example, the choice of Professor Eileen Munro to lead the review is positive. She is well respected within the profession and will not pull any punches or follow any particular political agendas.
In addition, the review will be informed by successful child protection systems from other countries.
The review will also look at how effectively children’s social workers and professionals in other agencies work together. From what I have written in the past, this is patchy – some are very good, others not, with a whole range of issues affecting this – but a drive to remove barriers to working together more makes sense – they are all pursuing the same goal, after all.
Nevertheless, social workers are in general a cynical bunch and will greet this review like they have greeted others in the recent past: I’ll believe it when I see it.
Many reviews have come and gone in children’s social work – most recently the Social Work Task Force – and often they have had little effect on frontline practice. I imagine this will be treated in the same manner until things actually start to change.
Elsewhere, children’s minister Tim Loughton also confirmed that serious case reviews are to be published in full but with redactions and anonymised ‘except where it would affect the welfare of any surviving children and their siblings’ and that ContactPoint is to be scrapped.
Both these are controversial. I won’t go over my standpoint on SCRs again – see SCRs – to publish or not to publish for that. But it does seem odd that the government is advocating more integrated working, but at the same time getting rid of ContactPoint, a database that should help that. It also seems like a huge waste of money, given the millions spent on it – and will anything be put in its place?