The interim report on child protection by Eileen Munro has been published today. It signals a new approach which will focus on helping children rather than on regulations, inspections and procedures. The areas for reform in the interim report include:
- the importance of a management and inspection process that monitors whether children are getting the help they need rather than being a tick-box exercise
- developing social work expertise by keeping experienced, more senior social workers on the front line so they can develop their skills and better supervise more junior social workers
- giving other professionals – health, police and family support services – easier access to social work advice when they have concerns about abuse and neglect
- revising and reducing the statutory guidance, Working together to safeguard children – which is now 55 times longer than it was in 1974 – so that core rules are separated from professional advice
- considering having a national system of trained reviewers of serious case reviews (SCRs), who can share findings so that lessons can be learnt nationally.
In the next stage of the review Professor Munro wants to test out how to give frontline social workers greater autonomy so they can better exercise their professional judgment. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is considering using his powers to grant five local authorities temporary suspension of certain aspects of statutory guidance, subject to conditions.
Social workers in Cumbria, Knowsley, Westminster, Hackney and Gateshead would be able to complete certain assessments and hold child protection conferences within timescales they think would best meet children’s needs. The trials would be rigorously monitored to ensure the safety and welfare of children and to minimise delays.