Vulnerable children cannot wait for someone, someday. YOU are someone. TODAY is someday. Strategic child protection priorities set across government and reflected in the priorities of frontline services.
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It is scathing about the unwieldy, overly bureaucratic nature of the regime currently in place. It reveals the problems we have with the information technology systems. We must fix the IT systems and expand the health visitor programme. We must publish serious case reviews. We cannot have a situation where we keep terrible errors secret. As a nation, we must reduce the number of children suffering abuse and neglect, and must seek to eliminate the uncommon but tragic cases where children die as a result.
We must never be complacent about the need to do more to improve services for children at greatest risk. What is clear is that while all organisations which work to protect vulnerable children, whether the health service, police, teachers or councils need to raise their game, there is not a need for a potentially dangerous and damaging reform of the entire system.
It is a tough job to do and for councils it is the toughest job to fill. There are real difficulties for councils in recruiting and retaining high-calibre child social worker staff. We must look to the future and recruit and retain staff so that they can protect the most vulnerable children in society and stop preventable deaths. Information sharing is central to effective child protection and encouraging the open and honest flow of communication between local services in a timely manner will help health and social workers improve their protection of children at risk.
While we must tackle the flaws that still exist in the system, implementing structural solutions does not always bring about improvements in the short term — we do not want to have processes that reduce children to a bureaucratic parcel to be passed between organisations. Providing adequate support to staff across both health and social services will allow workers the space they need to make the right call on incredibly tough and important decisions.
Promoting a culture that enhances relationships and builds esteem is essential for attracting a high calibre of workers in child protection. This will enable them to provide the best level of child protection services as well as deliver many other general practice services. It is vital that social workers are properly trained, supported and valued for the work they do. We are currently reviewing whether we have the right system to ensure robust inspection of social work degree courses and will be working closely with the government on this.
We also welcome the importance Lord Laming has placed on post-qualifying training. We are delighted that Lord Laming agrees that compliance with our code of practice for employers, which sets out their responsibilities around providing training opportunities and supervising staff, should be mandatory.
This is something we have urged for some time as we think it will make a significant difference to social workers and the standard of their work. With this information we could act swiftly to establish whether any individual has committed serious misconduct and take action where needed to safeguard standards and protect the public. It is important that those individuals who have helped to shape the role in the last four years are at the heart of planning and delivering the development programme.
We all have a responsibility in ensuring that children are safe and tragedies like those of Baby P are avoided. Most of all we need to stop vilifying social workers for doing their jobs.
As our memories of Baby P fade, the default option for the public will be to assume that social workers routinely and uncaringly tear families apart. We need to accept that we can only try so hard and for so long to fix families, and for some children care and fostering will be a better option. Lord Laming has listened to their views seriously and drawn on their experiences in his report.
We are particularly pleased with the extensive training and supervision for newly-qualified social workers and the commitment to raising the status of the profession. We all recognise there has to be systematic improvement and support but our foundation is solid, on which we must build. The young people we have spoken to have told us how important it is to have a relationship with a trusted adult like their social workers.
However, no child should die because professionals have failed in their duty to protect. We must support professionals to exercise good judgment and focus on the views and best interests of children. But they are spending too much time at their desks dealing with red tape instead of being out there at the door. If we want social workers to do our work for us, we must support them all the way down the line. The stress of knowing that at any moment their tenuous grip on the safety of a child could be lost, is unbearable.
The toll of child deaths is terrible and any steps that make it easier to prevent those deaths must be put in place immediately. There are tens of thousands of children out there who owe their lives to the diligence and professionalism of social workers. It needs to work with local agencies to get experienced professionals back into the workforce and restore public confidence in them.
From now on, protecting children must remain a national priority for the government and a moral imperative for every local agency in England. Improving services requires skilled social workers, health, education and other professionals.
It requires unwavering political and organisational leadership, transparency and accountability at all levels. Achieving that requires continuous day-in, day-out commitment. This report marks a new chapter in child protection — but there is still a long way to go.
Social workers have a very tough job and their success in protecting many thousands of children is often overlooked and unappreciated. They need the support of the nation. This decision did no favours to either service. The solutions to preventing future tragedies such as Baby P lie not in top-down bureaucracy but in the provision of proper resources, backup and training for frontline services such as social work, and in enabling local authorities to construct effective coordinated services in the knowledge that they will face tough action if they fail.
Lord Laming's recommendations on child protection
The government should provide child protection training for council leaders and senior managers. The Social Work Taskforce should produce national guidelines setting out maximum case loads for social workers. The taskforce should establish guidelines on guaranteed supervision time for social workers. The government should ensure social work students get more and better child protection training at graduate and post-graduate level.
The protection of children in England: a progress report
Last updated: These are all summarised below. Strategic child protection priorities set across government and reflected in the priorities of frontline services. Establish a National Safeguarding Delivery Unit, whose remit ill include: leading a change in culture across frontline services that enables them to work more effectively to protect children; working with existing organisations to create a shared evidence base about effective practice, including the implementation of the recommendations of Serious Case Reviews; commissioning training on child protection and safeguarding. All government departments to create a comprehensive approach to children through national strategies and the organisation of their services. Targets for child protection, similar to school targets. Safeguarding and child protection performance indicators for Primary Care Trusts.
Laming report: index of recommendations