The Department for Education has urged social workers to blow the whistle on local authorities that prevent professionals from protecting children.
Speaking in response to Community Care’s investigation, a department spokesperson said councils had a duty to protect children from abuse, neglect and harm, and had to support social workers to do so.
“Social workers must speak out if they feel unable to provide the right help – Ofsted has a whistleblower hotline so that those working with children and young people can report safeguarding concerns,” the spokesperson said.
The DfE said the government was concerned that child protection was not working well but the Munro Review of child protection was examining how to remove burdens preventing social workers from making decisions in the interests of children.
However, Matt Dunkley, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, insisted the picture from Community Care’s survey was “not one we recognise as reflecting the national situation”. He said: “We certainly do not have any evidence that thresholds have been changed to save money.”
He added that managers were trying to implement better risk management, as proposed by the Social Work Reform Board and Munro’s interim report.
“It is understandable that changes to practice and management oversight are unsettling to those on the frontline, especially when dealing with questions of risk to children. Managers and social workers will need to communicate clearly so that these changes are not misunderstood,” Dunkley added.
Helga Pile, Unison national officer for social work, said it was “intolerable that social workers should come under pressure to reclassify risk”.
“Heavy caseloads and high vacancy rates make it impossible to keep all children safe,” she said. “Huge council cuts are making an appalling situation worse. Social workers are sounding the alarm, and urgent action from the government is needed before it’s too late.”
Child protection consultant and trainer Perdeep Gill added: “I am despondent when I hear people say thresholds are a red herring or don’t exist in the real world. They do, and unless we have a responsible way of shaping them they will increase year-on-year and those without a voice, children, will suffer.”
Ofsted’s whistleblowing hotline number is 0300 1233155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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