Initial and core assessments, and their respective legal timescales, should be ditched in favour of a single ongoing assessment that sets out the decisions that need to be made by a social worker, the Munro review has recommended.
The statutory guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children and the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need should be trimmed to only the rules needed to help multi-agency working and principles underlying good practice and risk assessment. Future revisions of Working Together should be made based on the advice of a group of experienced professionals, co-ordinated by the chief social worker.
“Submissions to the review have strongly suggested that the current guidance has become too long to be practically useful,” the review stated. “This can be dangerous: research has shown that thick manuals of procedures can be paralysing because they are hard to use and can prevent workers from moving quickly enough to seize opportunities.”
In her third and final review of child protection in England, published today, Professor Eileen Munro called for a radical reduction in central prescription, to be replaced by locally tailored approaches to forms and ICS systems.
However, local areas needed to ensure a focus on the timeliness of identifying children’s needs and providing help, the quality of the assessment to inform safeguarding and the effectiveness of the help provided. Ofsted inspections should also hold local areas to account on this.
Council managers should also be responsible for informing local practice through research and theoretical models.
Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, agreed that social workers had become too focused on filling in forms, rather than using their skills and judgement. He supported Munro’s vision of a child protection system free from unnecessary red tape.
But he raised concerns that the 173-page review was “short on detail”.
He said: “The government now has an opportunity to make substantial improvements to the child protection system. It must prioritise support on the most vulnerable children in our society at a time of increased pressure on resources. This report must be the beginning, not the end of that process.”
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