The government today announced a £57.8m social work transformation fund to improve training and support for children and families social workers.
The pledge came as part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ response to Lord Laming’s review of child protection, ordered last year following the Baby P case in Haringey.
The DCSF said the fund was designed to increase capacity in the system and the funding would be available from 2009-11. It is in addition to £73m already pledged by the DCSF to improve support for social workers from 2008-11.
Lack of capacity
In an interview with Community Care in March, Moira Gibb, chair of the government’s Social Work Task Force, said the lack of capacity in social work was undermining efforts to improve the quality of practice.
The DCSF said today the money would go towards:-
- Sponsoring 200 university places from September so high-achieving graduates can convert to social work.
- Funding a recruitment campaign to tempt back social workers who have left the profession, starting this month. There will be a helpline established in July to help link up job seekers with councils with vacant posts.
- Rolling out the newly qualified social worker support programme, currently being piloted in 90 areas, to all new practitioners joining statutory and voluntary services this September, and all overseas staff who need it.
- Funding a new practice-based Masters degree in social work to start in early 2011 so practitioners can continue to develop.
- Establishing a new advanced social work professional status programme to help experienced social workers stay on the front line.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls said: “This package of support lays the foundations for a radical transformation of the social work profession and significantly improves training and career opportunities.”
The DCSF, which formally accepted all of Laming’s 58 recommendations on improving child protection after he published his report in March, will also introduce new statutory targets for child protection, as recommended by Laming.
This will be through amendments to the current Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. It has also promised to revise the Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance, as recommended by Laming.
Other recommendations include reforming local safeguarding children boards to ensure they each include two members of the public, report annually on progress and are not chaired by the same person who chairs the local children’s trust.
ICS to be overhauled
The government also promised to overhaul the Integrated Children’s System – the electronic case management system for children’s social work – on the back of the first report of the task force, published today.
It said ICS, which has been criticised as being overly bureaucratic, needed to be reformed so it is less prescriptive and allows more scope for professional social work judgement.
Balls also announced the creation of an expert group of senior professionals to advise on child protection, on the recommendation of Sir Roger Singleton, who was appointed as the government’s chief adviser on the safety of children in March.
Its membership includes Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas, Moira Gibb and Colin Green, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ lead on safeguarding.
More coverage on today’s reports
Interview with Social Work Task Force chair Moira Gibb