Cultural change is needed, panel hears

The key to improving child protection services may not
concern new procedures, better equipment or even more resources, but it might
lie in changing the culture of the various agencies involved, the panel was

Mike Pinnock, social services performance
manager for North Lincolnshire Council said that in his area there had been a
change in the development of a healthy culture towards performance monitoring.

"Culture is about the every day
experiences of staff and users of the service," he said.

Denise Platt, head of the social services
inspectorate, said the best performing social services departments were those
where feedback about performance was closest to the front line and where
front-line staff had a say in how performance management was done.

She cited one case where inspectors found that
the system for managing a heavy workload was to put all the referrals into a
file basket that nobody looked at. Things also tended to go wrong when an
authority allowed its social services department to become marginalised.

"We can spot corrosive cultures a mile
off," she added. "In one inspection last year staff hid files until a
social worker blew the whistle. But we had already pretty well sussed the
environment. In discussion with councillors my question was ‘what was it about
the culture of your organisation that is so corrosive that it puts people in
fear?’" Neil Garnham QC asked how efficient systems could be encouraged.

He said: "You see this happening. Why are
you not knocking heads together?"

Platt replied: "We are."

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