Government regulation of children’s social workers is hindering sound professional judgement, according to Kent Council’s chief executive.
Peter Gilroy’s comments came as he published Kent’s first annual self-assessment of its own children’s services department which contained 19 recommendations including a move to improve social worker training in dealing with difficult and unco-operative families.
“Over-regulation, both of professionals and the public, rather than protecting children, may have the unintended consequence of diminishing individual and family responsibility and sound professional judgement,” Gilroy said. He added that the focus on targets and regulation also distracted councils from the hiring and training of sound professionals.
“The emphasis on assessment needs to be addressed,” he said. “We must remember that we need resilient, competent people to do this job. We need to de-centralise: a department’s effectiveness is about the quality of relationships between professionals and the families they deal with. That doesn’t come out of regulation and processes.”
In his report, Gilroy states Kent ought to use the Social Work Task Force’s departmental “health check” regularly, and ensure there is protected time for social worker supervision. The council should also establish a trainee bursary scheme for new social workers in return for two years’ employment with the council.
The report said reduction of administrative tasks should be continually reviewed and recommended Kent make contact with other local authorities to share experiences and seek shared solutions through the joint development of IT programmes.
Gilroy has also proposed a new training scheme for Kent’s children’s social workers. He said local authorities would team up with universities to set up role-playing scenarios for social workers in training.
A house would be equipped with video cameras and actors pretending to be a troubled family. Students would be called at any time of night or day to handle the situation.
Next day, students would analyse the video in an academic setting and assess their conduct. This would better prepare students for the reality of children’s social services, said Gilroy.