Munro social worker questions spark debate

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Professor Eileen Munro, who is currently reviewing child protection procedures, should be eliciting social workers’ views on the role of joint child protection investigations with other professionals, according to academics.

Late last month Munro put forward a number of questions to social workers on issues around unnecessary procedures and forms, accountability and relationships with the media and early intervention support from other professionals.

However, one key issue left out of Munro’s questions is that of joint investigation, according to Liz Davies, senior lecturer of children and families social work at London Metropolitan University.

“Since social workers now focus on assessment of need and the police now become involved at the level of crime rather than significant harm, the joint investigation of child abuse has become marginalised and increasingly difficult to implement,” said Davies. She said she believed the Munro review needed to investigate ideas such as having more social workers trained jointly with police officers.

Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, agreed that there was a gap in Munro’s questions when it came to joint investigation.

“Prior to Lord Laming’s report, joint investigation teams were much more common and I would say there’s some ground to be recovered there,” Jones said. “Things got worse when Laming said police should concentrate on criminal investigation, leaving social workers on the sharp end. I think joint investigation teams would benefit cases such as Baby P, for instance.”

Others have expressed concern that the timeframe for practitioners to answer Munro’s questions, and for Munro to consider those answers, is too tight. Munro posed her questions just before Christmas and the deadline for responses is 17 January.

“I think it is unfortunate to see such short time scales,” said Steve Cameron, independent social worker. “Social work is something everyone has an opinion about – the media, public, politicians, and so on – and it feels like we hear less from beleaguered social workers and frontline managers who have the most exposure to the issues.

“Failing to give them adequate time to reflect and respond risks repeating the mistakes of many earlier reviews.”

Nushra Mansuri, joint England manager of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), also expressed concern.

“The deadline is looming fast so there is very little time to engage people,” she said.

“BASW was a major contributor to the first part of the review, providing substantial evidence from social workers themselves, yet we did not receive any advance information about these questions, which we could have passed on to our members before Christmas.”

Mansuri added, however, that BASW was glad Munro was asking “the right questions to the right people”.

The questions are one of the many methods Munro is using to gain views from the frontline. She has been meeting with various groups of practitioners and issued a call for evidence in July 2010. In the first instalment of her review, Munro said she had been given feedback from over 450 organisations and individuals, including children and young people themselves. Munro’s safeguarding review panel was also selected with a view to attaining comprehensive coverage of the frontline.

To answer any of the above questions email Professor Munro and write “Munro Review Questions” in the subject header. Make sure you include the number/s of the question you are answering and indicate your role or your interest in the review. You can also join the discussion amongst frontline workers on the CareSpace forum or email Judy Cooper, children’s channel editor at Community Care.

What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace

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