Progress urged on child protection

 

Changes to improve protection for children need to happen faster, a Government-appointed expert said today.

Professor Eileen Munro, who suggested reforms a year ago in a report commissioned after the death of Baby Peter, said a "culture change" was under way in the child protection system but there was an urgent need to accelerate progress further.

Prof Munro said last year that social workers should be freed from Government red tape to allow them to focus on children's needs, and local areas should have more freedom to design their own child protection services, moving away from the "one-size-fits-all approach".

She said then that such changes could help prevent a repeat of tragedies such as Peter Connelly's death in August 2007, saying: "Yes, the tick-box system stifles thinking. These changes would reduce the number of such child deaths, it won't eradicate them."

Prof Munro said today that reforms had reached a "watershed moment" but, while progress was moving in the right direction, it now needed to move faster with bureaucracy stripped away so social workers were able to focus on giving children and young people the help they need.

She said social workers must be confident to use their judgment instead of applying rules that did not match a specific child's needs, and added: "This report shows an urgent culture change in our child protection system is now under way. 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 on to 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."

Prof Munro said the experience of authorities who had been granted exemptions from statutory fixed assessment timescales had been positive.

They reported that the additional flexibility had encouraged better, more thoughtful working practices, and better and clearer consideration of priorities.

Ofsted's revised child protection inspection framework had rightly focused on the impact and effectiveness of help and protection for children, young people and their families, she added.

Her report also found many encouraging examples of services working together and with social services to provide better understanding of children's needs.

It also pointed out that the Government had taken steps to appoint a chief social worker and local authorities were starting to recruit principal social workers to their teams.

The report called for faster progress in reducing statutory guidance so there was more scope for professional and local autonomy.

It said there had been a delay in implementing these changes, due to the need for proper public consultation. Once this had been removed, services should be better placed to work together to offer improved early help.

The Government needed to encourage better understanding between services as reforms took place in health and policing.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "I am pleased to hear that our reforms are beginning to fundamentally change the child protection system and we now need to make sure they are implemented as quickly as possible.

"We agree the pace of reform now needs to be accelerated and are committed to creating a system that is sustainable in the long term.

"This report shows progress is being made towards freeing hardworking social workers and other professionals from excessively restrictive structures, procedures and rule books so they can do their best for vulnerable children and their families.

"It is encouraging to see evidence in Professor Munro's report that services are increasingly stepping in early, rather than waiting for problems to escalate.

"These reforms go to the heart of our child protection system and require a new mindset and a new relationship between central Government and local services.

"We are committed to keeping up momentum and doing everything we can to get the right mechanisms in place and to strengthen public confidence.

"But this is about putting the power of decision making back into the hands of local authorities and they all need to step up to the challenge and be strong and confident leaders who are ready to innovate."

The chief executive of the charity Barnardo's, Anne Marie Carrie, said: "Barnardo's welcomes the work the Government has done so far to implement the recommendations of Professor Munro's review of the child protection system.

"The call to rapidly speed up the pace of change so that social workers are freed up from bureaucracy to focus on the front line work of protecting children is particularly heartening.

"But it's important to remember that it's not just babies and young children that need our protection - as the recent child sexual exploitation court cases have illustrated, there needs to be an urgent and increased focus on protecting the older vulnerable children who are currently slipping through the safety net."

Professor Corinne May-Chahal, interim co-chair of The College of Social Work, said the college's members were saying change on the ground was not happening at a fast enough pace in many areas.

"Social workers are still struggling with IT systems that do not reflect Professor Munro's principles and more needs to be done to ensure that systemic learning and managing uncertainty have political and organisational support at the local level.

"We welcome Professor Munro's recognition of the role that the college is having in developing expertise within the profession.

"Implementation of the Munro and Reform Board recommendations is key to ensuring social workers have the professional confidence and capability needed to provide the best possible protection for children and young people who experience abuse and neglect.

"The college is pleased to have been part of the work that has been done so far around the creation of principal child and family social workers in local authorities, the take-up of guidance around standards for professional development and joint working, and higher standards for student placement and social worker training.

"We look forward to continuing to work with key stakeholders across the sector to ensure that the change in culture, and the tools required to achieve it, are effectively embedded across the profession.

"We also look forward to continuing to work closely with Professor Munro in her role of transitional faculty chair of the college's children and families faculty."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas