Social workers ‘disappointed’ with safeguarding indicators

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New performance indicators for children’s safeguarding services should assess the composition of social work teams as well as staff vacancy and turnover rates, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has said.

BASW’s policy officer on children’s issues, Nushra Mansuri, said proposed indicators published last week were not ambitious enough and were open to manipulation by local authorities.

The consultation from the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit put forward seven new indicators, including those on staff vacancies and turnover, and dropped or changed four.

The proposals follow Lord Laming’s comments, in his post-Baby P report in March, that indicators have been too focused on processes and timescales, and not enough on outcomes and multi-agency working.

As a result, the government wants to replace an indicator that measures the number of child protection cases reviewed within required timescales, with one that measures the percentage of care and supervision applications where the core assessment is missing or incomplete.

Although Mansuri welcomed the inclusion of workforce indicators, she said they “need to go deeper and look at the make-up of a team, how many are newly qualified, and how many are agency staff”.

“We need to be looking at the make-up of frontline managers, the quality of supervision and sickness rates,” she added.

In an attempt to drive better and quicker multi-agency working, one of the new indicators will measure the speed that child protection conferences are put in place. The indicators will be used by six inspectorates.

However, Colin Green, chair of the Association for Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) families, communities and young people policy committee said they were disappointed there were still so few indicators that measured results rather than processes.

He said they appreciated the difficulty in identifying robust outcome indicators and welcomed the committment to develop them over time.

“The definition of the indicator is however only a first step; it is also vital to identify the purpose of these indicators – are they to drive improvement or simply to measure current activity and expose weaknesses in a particular authority?”

The consultation asks which of the indicators should become statutory from 2011-12, and which from 2014-15.

Other suggestions include indicators around average caseload and numbers of unallocated cases, as well as workload by experience level of social worker.

Proposed new or changed indicators

  • Percentage of initial assessments for children’s social care carried out within 10 working days of referral
  • Percentage of initial child protection conferences which were held within 15 working days of the start of a s47 enquiry
  • Percentage of children who report they feel safe
  • Children and young people-unintentional/deliberate injuries and preventable deaths
  • Percentage of care and supervision applications where the core assessment is missing or incomplete
  • Children’s social worker vacancy rate
  • Children’s social worker turnover rate

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