The government is still undecided on whether to create a legal duty on councils to provide earlier intervention to families in need, as recommended by Professor Eileen Munro in her review of the child protection system in England.
At the National Children and Adults Services Conference in London Stephanie Brivio, who is leading on the area for the Department for Education, said before they could make any progress around early intervention they needed to decide on whether to make it a statutory duty or not.
“We’re trying to think in partnership on this and we’re involving the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in these decisions. There is a variety of views around whether it should be a duty. I think it is clear that we do need to have a transparent offer of what help is available and why and have some kind of a contract between families and services offered.”
Children’s minister Tim Loughton told Community Care an early intervention statutory duty was “not on the table at the moment”.
“Much of what is in the Munro Review can be done without legislation. I really think we need to get on with what we can do without legislation such as getting rid of assessment deadlines. Other areas will take more time.”
However, Rory McCallum, director of children’s services in Devon said he felt an early intervention duty on councils would be useful in attracting resources and buy-in from other agencies to help children-in-need.
“A simple “offer” of early help to families will not have any impact on reducing the numbers of children in care. To me that’s CAF [common assessment framework] territory. The families we really need to be targeting are the families who are unlikely to take any offer of help. It’s those families who currently fall into the section 17 category and who are getting less and less services in today’s economic climate. We need to be ensuring we get a team around the child type structure for those families in place if we’re to make any impact on reducing the numbers of children in care.”
However Andrew Webb, director of children’s services at Stockport council, said it made no sense to be calling for an extra legal duty on councils when they had battled so hard to free themselves from numerous statutory requirements.
“The problem under the last government was that there was so much ring-fencing and requirements that we didn’t have the flexibility to move. I’m currently involved in a streamlining process in Stockport around early intervention, looking at where the money is going and what we actually want to achieve with it and to me that’s a far more helpful solution.”
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