Safeguarding inspections form heart of government Munro response

Janaki Mahadevan
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Health, education, police, probation and the justice system are all to be inspected on how well they protect children, the government has announced as it spelled out its response to Professor Eileen Munro's review of child protection.

Tim Loughton was children's minister from 2010 to 2012. Picture: Matt Gore
Tim Loughton was children's minister from 2010 to 2012. Picture: Matt Gore

A chief social worker is to be appointed by the end of 2012, and slimmed-down statutory guidance will be introduced by December this year as a first step to reducing the amount of central regulation applied to local social work practices.

But the government said that with greater freedoms comes greater accountability and said all agencies in contact with children will be judged on how well they protect children.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton has written to all schools, directors of children’s services and early years providers setting out the proposals. He has also sent a joint letter with health minister Anne Milton to all local health services and one penned with equalities minister Lynne Featherstone to all police forces.

Among the proposals are plans to extend the number of pilots that allow social workers greater autonomy to set timescales according to children’s needs, to five further areas currently piloting community budgets.

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: "We’re not just tinkering at the edges and fixing short-term problems. We are freeing hardworking social workers and other professionals from structures, procedures and rulebooks so they can do their best for vulnerable children and their families.

"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 Department for Education will also establish a joint programme of work with the Department of Health by September to ensure children’s safeguarding is a central consideration in the health reforms.

Further work is also to be undertaken to consider the use of systems review methodology for serious case reviews in an attempt to improve learning from cases rather than apportioning blame to individuals.

Under the government plans, local authorities will be expected to appoint a practising senior social worker as a principal child and family social worker. Councils will also have to expand the range of preventative services and redesign child and family social services, based on feedback from children and families.

Matt Dunkley, director of children’s services in East Sussex and president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: "My personal reflection is to strongly welcome the collaborative and transparent way in which the minister has worked with the sector to formulate the government's response to Professor Munro's review.

"There will be significant challenges in the transition to the locally determined and professionally-led approach to child protection it promises, but with the same collaboration, trust and transparency, I believe we have a good chance of making it a reality."

Professor Munro will continue to advise the government and will undertake an interim assessment of progress next year.

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