Professor Eileen Munro has criticised the government’s adoption targets, arguing they are creating confusion and risk undermining her recommendations.
“The adoption inspection criteria and the reforms in the court system both introduce timescales and targets which are at variance with my review’s aim of reducing them because of the perverse effects they have produced. For those responsible for managing children’s services, this creates a confusing narrative,” Munro said.
But “the political will to consider and address these problems creates opportunities to settle this confusion”, she added.
Munro made the critcisms in a report, published today, detailing the one-year progress since her review of child protection systems in England.
She said she was pleased with the changes the government has made so far in revising the performance data collected on child protection, but added, “when considering performance information, it is important that it is viewed from the perspective of the quality of practice and conditions behind it.”
She continued: “If the numbers of children with [child protection] plans has increased significantly, is this a good thing or a bad thing? It depends. The answers will lie in the examination of the quality of the work being delivered, illustrated by outcomes, not measured solely by process.
“This interrogation of data should be encouraged by central and local government in order to prevent data being treated as targets and simple indicators. For example, it is important that the new adoption performance information does not become a series of blunt targets or naïve judgments about practice.”
Her comments follow criticism from the sector that the government’s recently published adoption scorecards will lead to perverse outcomes for children, such as social workers feeling compelled to stop finding families for harder-to-place children to improve their scorecard performance.
Meanwhile Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, warned the environment in which Munro’s reforms are being implemented adds to the challenge.
“Children’s services departments are dealing with consequences of not only the Munro review, but also the social work reform programme, the family justice review and changes to the education, policing and health systems, not to mention reduced resources.
“Bringing partner agencies together to shape services in this changing context requires clear expectations on the roles and responsibilities of every agency described in joint guidance.
“This is a long term project that will require significant commitment from ministers, directors and frontline staff to maintain the momentum created by Professor Munro’s rigorous report,” Jones said.
Munro review special report