Former members of the Social Work Task Force have warned that the government’s review of child protection in England must deliver “quick and meaningful” conclusions.
Kim Bromley-Derry (pictured), immediate past-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the review was an opportunity to build on the taskforce’s work and look at service-specific issues in more detail.
But he added that time was of the essence. “It would be a big worry if this review takes too long,” said Bromley-Derry, one of 18 experts to sit on the taskforce set up by the Labour government in 2008, to examine ways of improving the social work profession.
“We need to tackle the barriers to delivering children’s services, such as too much bureaucracy, as swiftly as possible; so we need quick and meaningful statements.”
Last week, education secretary Michael Gove and families minister Tim Loughton asked Eileen Munro, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, to lead an independent review of child protection and frontline social work practice. The review group is due to submit a first report in September and an interim report in January 2011.
Munro said she hoped the group’s work would build on that of the taskforce, chaired by Moira Gibb, whose 15 recommendations to reform the profession across children’s and adult services were accepted by Labour government ministers in December 2009.
However, Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, said many social workers had pinned their hopes on the taskforce delivering change and were “fed up” with reviews.
“Now [social workers] want to see action,” she said. “Their top priorities are clear, including manageable caseloads, continuing training, and more protection for newly qualified staff.”
But Bromley-Derry argued that the taskforce had given a general overview, and Munro’s review was an opportunity to drill down into the specific issues affecting child protection teams.
He said: “Some people in children’s services might say the taskforce’s work was too broad, so this is an opportunity for them to get involved.”
Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, agreed. She said the review would be able to tackle issues that were beyond the remit of the taskforce, such as the quality of inspections.
“There were various aspects of the regulatory regime and the inspectorial framework which were beyond our remit but which require urgent attention,” she said.
“This review has those matters within its brief and provides hope that a more appropriate regime can be produced which supports good practice and limits distracting and poorly designed inspections.”
Anne Beales, director of service user involvement at mental health charity Together, added: “It’s positive that the current government’s response to the taskforce recommendations has been to build upon the existing foundation of the review.”
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