The British Association of Social Workers has called for an overhaul of the way professionals assess child abuse cases.
In its submission to Lord Laming’s child protection review, ordered following the Baby P case, BASW said current safeguarding procedures did not help social workers identify individuals who posed a serious risk to children.
Failing to spot signs
The association warned newly qualified children’s social workers were failing to spot signs of abuse because they did not want to jeopardise their relationship with the parents.
It said a range of risk assessment models were used by different agencies, some of which were “incompatible” with each other and focused on “assessing children in need rather than children at risk”.
BASW, which represents about 11,000 social workers, also blamed the separation of children’s and adults’ services for problems in practice.
Separation between children’s and adults’ services attaced
“The separation of the two services does not make sense and inevitably has created barriers between the two departments which are not helpful to children and their families,” it said. The association raised concerns that directors of children’s services with an education background – who form the majority – could lack the necessary skills to protect children.
BASW also called for full serious case reviews to be made more widely available to ensure social workers could learn from tragedies, and for greater support for whistleblowers.
The association said its greatest concern continued to be a lack of resources in children and families social work, and called for a level of investment on a par with the police, education and health.
Challenge to government
“The question for the government has to be how serious are we about protecting the country’s most vulnerable children; strong words are not enough to protect children; they need to be backed up with realistic budgets. In our view, current staffing of child protection services is simply not adequate to meet the needs of children, families and communities, and social workers are acutely aware of this,” the association said.