Social workers lack assessment skills, say child care professionals

Many social workers responsible for carrying
out assessments lack the analytical skills to do so, said child
care professionals at the Victoria Climbié Inquiry last

David Spicer, honorary secretary of the
British Association for the Study and Prevention of Abuse, one of
24 professionals who took part in the third seminar of phase two of
the inquiry, said: “Sadly, we are in the position now where people
who are required to carry out sophisticated work simply do not have
the skills necessary to undertake that.”

He added that they often lacked knowledge of
what their powers were, what authority they had, what information
they needed to collect, and how to analyse and evaluate that
information when they had it.

Professionals at the seminar also discussed
the assessment framework, published in 2000. Edith Hendry, NSPCC
head of child protection training and consultancy, said the
framework was not very good at detecting risk and needed to be more
useful for “the more dangerous end of families”.

She added that the lengthy forms involved in
the framework meant that too much time was spent gathering
information and not enough time analysing it.

Rhian Davies, assistant children’s
commissioner for Wales, policy and services evaluation, added: “The
sheer size and weight of the form and the tick box can have the
temporary effect of paralysing the most skilful social

Hendry said she was not confident that people
who came off the current two-year courses really knew what they
were going to face when they started work, and called for a long
period of induction and support to help them bridge the gap between
qualifying and actually doing the job.

Although there was widespread support for the
social work degree, which will be introduced next year, questions
were raised over its length. While it will last three years in
England, in Northern Ireland it is to be three years with an extra
year on placement. In Scotland a five-year degree is being

Hendry advocated the implementation of the
three-year plus one model for England, which would allow more time
to specialise in child care work and build up knowledge.

But Richard Banks, principal for standards and
qualifications at training body Topss England, argued that, rather
than an extra year training, social workers should undertake
training throughout their employment. He predicted that the new
General Social Care Council would require social workers to commit
to continued learning as part of the registration process.

– Guidance on when agencies can share
information should be developed, the inquiry heard. A number of
speakers voiced concern that nervousness around the Data Protection
and Human Rights Acts meant that some agencies, particularly those
working in health, felt unable to pass information to other
professionals, which could potentially protect children from

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