MPs call for Munro early intervention duty

The need for social care expertise early on is significant, the Education Select Committee found

Houses of Parliament
Pic: Gary Brigden

MPs have urged the government to reconsider an early intervention duty, as recommended by the Munro review of the child protection system in England.

The government rejected the idea late last year but a report today from the Education Select Committee on England’s child protection system has criticised the decision.

“We believe that it would help to incentivise the provision of a service to all children in need and clarify [priorities]…in an increasingly crowded policy field if there were a statutory duty of an ‘offer of early help’, as recommended in the Munro review.”.

The need for social care expertise early on was significant, MPs said, and pointed to groups of schools who were now directly employing social workers as “family intervention workers” as a case in point.

Other recommendations in the report included:

For government:

  • Commission research on the impact of cuts on children’s safeguarding.
  • Research different thresholds for child protection and child-in-need services around the country and see if they are rising.
  • Urgently review the support offered to teenagers and consult on proposals to “reshape services” to better meet their needs. MPs said they were particularly concerned about services for care leavers.
  • Probe whether the criminal definition of neglect was currently too narrow to bring convictions
  • The Department for Education should be given explicit overall responsibility for the welfare of all children including those who have been trafficked or who were seeking asylum

For social workers:

  • Prove, as part of training and education, that they understand the effects of maltreatment on older children, their coping mechanisms and long term implications.
  • Receive more training on abuse between adolescents such as domestic violence.
  • Give feedback to those making referrals to child protection services and, if possible, involve the referrer when making decisions.

President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Debbie Jones, said they were already investigating care services for teenagers but pointed out that questions of thresholds, definitions of neglect and the challenges of supporting adolescents were complex areas with no easy answers.

“We have particular concerns about the health service’s contribution to safeguarding and welcome the recommendation that the Department for Education take on responsibility for all children which would mirror the local responsibility of directors of children’s services,” she added.

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