Reactions to the Laming report on child safeguarding

Children’s services and social work leaders have broadly welcomed Lord Laming’s report on improving the safeguarding of children, published today.

Voices of dissent were few, though one included the Family Rights Group, which described the review as a “missed opportunity”.

Welcome from the sector

  • British Association of Social Workers chief executive Ian Johnston said: “Lord Laming’s acknowledgement of the challenging nature of the social work role and the support that is required is a step in the right direction.  Government must address the issues of retention, recruitment and status as a matter of priority to ensure the best possible service for vulnerable children in England.”
  • Rosie Varley, chair of the General Social Care Council, said: “The role of the employer in keeping standards high is fundamental. We are delighted that Lord Laming agrees that compliance with our code of practice for employers, which sets out their responsibilities around providing training opportunities and supervising staff, should be mandatory. This is something we have urged for some time as we think it will make a significant difference to social workers and the standard of their work.”
  • Wes Cuell, director of services for children and young people at the NSPCC, said: “We are encouraged that the government has moved quickly to accept Lord Laming’s recommendations. The government must carry through its commitment to keep every child safe from harm by fully funding and implementing real change nationally and locally. It needs to work with local agencies to get experienced professionals back into the workforce and restore public confidence in them.”
  • Amanda Edwards, deputy chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, responded by calling on local authority children’s services to adopt new ways of learning from serious case reviews. She said: “What’s evident from this review of progress is that learning from practice still focuses on what and who went wrong, rather than addressing why workers acted as they did. The questions now must move beyond ‘why did they do that?’ to ‘what factors influenced that decision?” SCIE’s preferred model is outlined in its report, Learning Together to Safeguard Children, published in October.
  • Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: “Social workers do a crucial job in very difficult circumstances – often with very good results but where there are serious failings in child protection services, intervention is essential. It is right that all children’s services departments review their practices in light of recent events and ensure that they are meeting their obligations. We welcome Lord Laming’s report and recommendations, in particular the emphasis on training and professional development which will be essential in driving a thorough understanding of safeguarding practice from senior management executives to all frontline workers.”
  • Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, said: ““It is the people, not the system, who play the most important role in protecting our children. That is why Lord Laming’s emphasis on support for frontline workers is so vital. Investing in first class training, supervision and management is essential for social workers to do their job. What is strongly recognised today is that it is everybody’s job to protect children. We hope these recommendations, including the creation of a national safeguarding delivery unit, will help all professionals involved in protecting children to work together more effectively, build on good practice and promote excellence across the board.”
  • Helga Pile, Unison national officer for social workers, said: “We are pleased that Laming has recognised the enormous pressures put on social workers with too much red tape and targets. They, too, want to be able to “Just do it” – that’s why they went into social work, to protect children at risk.  But they are spending too much time at their desks dealing with red tape instead of being out there at the door. If we want social workers to do our work for us, we must support them all the way down the line.  We know that social workers are dealing with unmanageable case loads, made worse by high vacancy rates and a truly unworkable IT system. The stress of knowing that at any moment their tenuous grip on the safety of a child could be lost, is unbearable.”
  • The president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Maggie Atkinson, welcomed the “pragmatic and sensible” recommendations. Atkinson singled out the expansion of the National College for School Leadership’s remit in supporting leaders of children across education and social care as an important change. “The success of the college in driving improvement in schools will be an asset to the sector and in particular to future directors of children’s services,” she said.
  • Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “Child protection is a top priority for the NHS and this report shows we must all work harder to make sure we get it right. Lord Laming’s findings highlight the need for a change in the relationships of all agencies working together. Information sharing is central to effective child protection and encouraging the open and honest flow of communication between local services in a timely manner will help health and social workers improve their protection of children at risk.”
  • Chief executive of Barnardo’s Martin Narey welcomed the emphasis on improving cooperation between agencies through the formation of a National Safeguarding Delivery Unit and strengthening local safeguarding children boards. Although the introduction of more stringent training requirements for social workers was important, Narey warned against overlooking “the value of experience”.
  • Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “As Lord Laming said at the very beginning of this review, it is vital that social workers focus on the needs of the child, rather than on their parents. Social workers desperately need the time, support and training to help them do more preventative work with families, rather than just being able to step in when the child is already at risk.”
  • John Chowcat, general secretary of the trade union Aspect, said: “Lord Laming has responded to the issues raised in recent tragic child death cases with balanced measures that bring a welcome note of rationality into a debate that has been disfigured by ill informed and prejudiced comment and tabloid hysteria. They will bring overdue help to a dedicated workforce.”
  • Sue Berelowitz, deputy children’s commissioner for England, was “delighted” that the views of children and young people had been placed at the heart of the debate. She also welcomed the acceptance of the children’s commissioner’s recommendation to the review, on enhancing the training and supervision of the social care workforce.

Rare voice of dissent

However, Family Rights Group chief executive Cathy Ashley said: “The report with its 58 recommendations replicates the very problems that beset child welfare – namely an over focus on changing structures, introducing new targets, commissioning reviews and amending processes.

“I would challenge Lord Laming’s comment that ‘it is robust and consistent implementation of …policies and procedures which keeps children safe’.  It isn’t. What makes social work unique is the combination of skills in building relationships, working with and listening to families in very difficult circumstances, providing practical help, making thorough assessments and using one’s judgement.”

Comments ahead of publication

  • “What I very much hope is for Lord Laming to show some humility and recognise that the reforms are part of the problem.”
    Dr Eileen Munro, reader in social policy at the London School of Economics, BBC Radio 4 
  • “Social work as a profession has been unfairly hounded over recent months, and the morale of thousands of excellent public servants has been affected. Now we all need to recognise the debt we owe to social workers and others for keeping most children.”
    Paul Ennals, NCB chief executive

Have your say

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