Bureaucracy Axed To Put Vulnerable Children First
Frontline professionals working to keep children safe from harm will be freed from pointless bureaucracy that has stifled their judgment for too long, under radical plans announced by the Government.
The Government published its plans to overhaul the child protection system axing hundreds of pages of instruction manuals and replacing it with short, precise guidance and checklists clearly listing roles and responsibilities.
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Today the Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said professionals must now step-up to the challenge and lead the reforms. He published a consultation calling for views on the following:
Today’s consultation follows Professor Eileen Munro’s review, which said the child protection system was overly focused on compliance and too dependent on central prescription and rigid procedures.
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said:
We want to change the child protection system fundamentally – I believe the changes proposed today will free hardworking social workers and other professionals from structures, procedures and rulebooks so they can do their best for vulnerable children and their families.
This is a new mindset and a new relationship between central Government and local services. I am determined that we build on the excellent work of Professor Munro and I trust the workforce to deliver the reforms without the need for excessive central prescription.
We have worked openly and collaboratively with professionals and children’s leaders to create reforms that are sustainable in the long term. The Government is not in the business of telling local services how to implement the reforms - as has happened in the past - because this has been shown by Professor Munro to result in unintended consequences.
The Government confirmed that SCRs should be published in full to ensure that lessons are learned locally and nationally and also to give the public greater confidence in the child protection system.
The Government is determined to improve the quality and impact of Serious Case Reviews and we need to ensure that we have a robust system to protect children. Unfortunately we can never eliminate all risk, but when tragedies do happen we need everyone to be clear about what went wrong and why. This new guidance is clear that reviews should be thorough and lead to sustainable improvements in services to prevent future harm.
It is essential that as much information as possible is made public so the public can have confidence in the system that protects our most vulnerable children.
The Government’s proposal to remove nationally prescribed timescales for assessments for children in need aims to allow a more flexible process of assessment focused on the individual child’s needs.
These proposed changes build on the encouraging findings from eight trial authorities, which are testing more flexible approaches to assessment.
Replacing rigid timescales gives space for social workers to exercise their professional judgment based on the needs of each child. Social workers believe the flexibilities allow them to work more efficiently than before. They are able to use their judgment and experience, rather than work to nationwide dictats.
It is proposed that the three guidance documents, totalling 68 pages, will replace more than 700 pages of bureaucracy. The Government is clear that with greater freedoms comes greater accountability. The following steps have already been taken to reform the child protection system:
Professor Eileen Munro, author of the Government’s review of the child protection system, said:
This draft guidance is proof that reforms are rightly moving the focus of help and protection firmly onto children and young people.
We are finally moving away from the defensive rule-bound culture that has been so problematic. I believe an urgent culture change in our child protection system is now underway.
The guidance is clear and concise and leaves no one in any doubt on the expectations of all professionals in helping keep children safe. It moves responsibility for how to do that to local and professional control.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie said:
When faced with making difficult decisions about protecting a child, social workers need to first call on their professional judgment. Empowering practioners to do better for families means encouraging them to use their expertise and draw on their experience to make good choices, not giving them more guidelines to follow.
We support changing the emphasis within the system to enable professionals to take responsibility for safeguarding the welfare of the most vulnerable children.
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