The social work reforms pledged after the baby Peter case are at risk of becoming sidelined in the current political turmoil, a sector leader has warned.
Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said government commitments following the Laming report may “go into the sand” as Labour fought for its life ahead of the next general election.
Jones predicted that the resignation of children’s minister Beverley Hughes on Tuesday had left the post open to people who would “want to make their mark” in the Cabinet reshuffle. “Anyone stepping in will want to take credit for taking action and this could lead to a lack of continuity of current reforms,” he said.
“By the time it comes to autumn, general election fever will take hold and the post-Baby P reforms won’t get much attention,” Jones warned.
Jones’s comments came after Hughes said in a letter to Community Care yesterday that she wanted the reforms under the Children Plan and Sure Start to continue.
Jones tipped Foreign Office minister Meg Munn, a trained social worker, as a possible replacement for Hughes. Munn was parliamentary private secretary to former children’s minister Margaret Hodge and assistant director of children’s services at City of York Council.
Jones also suggested that Innovation, Universities and Skills secretary John Denham could take over from children’s secretary Ed Balls, amid widespread speculation that he will become the next chancellor.
Jones said Denham, who previously held ministerial posts in Social Security, Health and the Home Office, was “quite a sensible politician.”
Jones also tipped Cabinet Office minister and former care services minister Liam Byrne to take over from health secretary Alan Johnson if he was reshuffled.
But he also predicted that care services minister Phil Hope would stay where he was, citing his “low profile.”
Both Hope and Hughes have come under the spotlight for their expenses claims.
Hope spent more than £10,000 in one year refurbishing a small London flat. He has promised to pay back £41,000 to the taxpayer, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Hughes cited family reasons for her resignation and said her decision had nothing to do with the parliamentary expenses row. The Daily Telegraph reported that she rented a second home in London where she claimed £801.60 for reupholstering furniture, £718 on a chair and £435 on curtains and for bedding.
Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle is predicted to be completed after the weekend, following today’s European elections and some local council elections.