Children need new behaviour from professionals not structures

Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children in society
requires behavioural rather than structural change, Audit
Commission chairperson James Strachan told an audience of public
and voluntary sector workers, writes Lauren

Speaking at a conference on whether children in the UK count,
organised by ‘Community Care’ in association with the Association
of Directors of Social Services and ‘The Guardian’, Strachan urged
delegates to challenge children and young people’s minister
Margaret Hodge over plans to prescribe change from the centre.

“In order to learn from experience, different localities
will need the flexibility to introduce change that suits
circumstances,” Strachan said. “It won’t always
be structural change and major IT programmes. It will be about
behavioural change and change in culture.”

Although he welcomed many of the changes outlined in the
children’s green paper, Strachan warned of the dangers and
distractions of focusing on structures alone.

He said the real test of whether children in the UK counted was
whether services and the quality of life improved for the one in
five children in society most in need or at risk.

Speaking at the same conference, Labour MP Hilton Dawson said it
was “impossible” to say that children in the UK counted
given the treatment of unaccompanied minors, children in custody,
children with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.

“Not one of us can say that, in the UK, every child
matters because some palpably do not,” Dawson said.

The former social worker, who is committed to returning to the
profession within the next three years, said the green paper
provided “the greatest opportunity in the whole of our
working lives” to transform the lives of children and build
services around them.

He said he was amazed to hear social workers describe the green
paper as a threat to their profession, adding that he welcomed
children’s trusts and would “join in the party when
social services departments are gone”. He said the green
paper was, on the contrary, an opportunity to revitalise social
work values.

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