Staff express lack of confidence in changes to child protection system

Children’s services staff have little confidence in government reforms to protect children, an exclusive Community Care poll has found.

Only two-fifths of respondents believed the reforms would make children safer, while nearly 90 per cent were against the government’s proposal to scrap the child protection register.

While 57 per cent of the 1,000-plus respondents believed electronic social care records would be the best place to store serious child protection concerns, only a quarter said their departments would be ready to go live with the records on 31 December as planned.

The government has said it would like all child protection information to be held on an integrated system, but could phase this in.

The survey also reveals major dissatisfaction with the existing child protection system. Almost 80 per cent believed children did not receive adequate support unless they were on the child protection register.

And there was opposition to the government’s proposal for health professionals to have more discretion in sharing information than other children’s services staff, with only a quarter agreeing they should.

But more than 70 per cent backed plans to replace area child protection committees with statutory local safeguarding children boards.

Almost two-thirds of respondents worked in local authorities, and nearly a half were employed at senior social worker level or above.

Andrew Webb, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services children and families committee, said the child protection register had served a “very useful purpose” in sharing information on at-risk children but that a separate register was “no longer valid”.

He also acknowledged that councils had difficulties in developing the electronic records system and said the government should act cautiously in replacing the register.

He condemned the proposals for health professionals to have more discretion over data-sharing.

Nushra Mapstone, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said the register should not be scrapped “until other changes are at least bedded down”.

Poll findings

  • 88 per cent said the child protection register should not be scrapped.
  • 41 per cent said that reforms would make children safer.
  • 24 per cent believed their department was ready to go live with electronic records on 31 December.
  • 8 per cent did not have a computer at work.

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