The government has published the long-expected stripped down version of safeguarding guidance Working Together and launched a consultation on it and two new documents as part of proposals to overhaul the child protection system.
Working Together to Safeguard Children, originally a 300-plus page document, has been revised to 21 pages of guidance that “clearly states the law” and sets out social workers’ and other professionals’ duties in checklist form.
Two separate guides, which were previously bundled together with Working Together in a single document, have been created on assessing children in need and serious case reviews (SCRs). In total, the three documents have been reduced to 68 pages from more than 700.
It is likely the revised version of Working Together, which was launched today by children’s minister Tim Loughton, will be met with mixed reaction from the sector. In March, Community Care revealed concerns that the document would be reduced to as little as 10 pages, prompting accusations that vital guidance would be lost.
Loughton defended the decision to cut the number of pages, pointing out that the revisions followed Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection in England, which found the system was overly focused on compliance and bureaucracy.
“We want to change the child protection system fundamentally,” he said. “This is a new mindset and a new relationship between central government and local services.”
But Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, said: “Social workers won’t quibble with efforts to cut red tape and reduce the time they spend on administration, but Tim Loughton is being utterly disingenuous in suggesting this move is anywhere near enough to make a difference to the real concerns that social workers have identified, namely unmanageable caseloads, stress, plummeting morale and cuts to administrative support staff.
“We are concerned that there has been no meaningful consultation on reducing this guidance with frontline practitioners.”
The new guidance on assessing children in need confirmed that the government proposes to replace nationally prescribed timescales for assessment, based on emerging evidence from eight local authorities and their partners in health, education and the voluntary sector, who are testing a more flexible approach.
The guidance on SCRs reaffirms the government’s commitment to publishing every review in full to ensure lessons are learned locally and nationally.
“Unfortunately we can never eliminate all risk, but when tragedies do happen we need everyone to be clear about what went wrong and why,” said Loughton.
A consultation on the three guidance documents closes on 4 September.