Children’s services directors fear the government’s long-awaited, streamlined version of Working Together will not deliver the cuts to red tape that ministers are promising.
The revised guidance, Working Together To Safeguard Children (2013), has been launched today and condenses around 700 pages of guidance into 95 pages.
Changes include removing the requirement to have a separate initial and core assessment of children in need. The 10-day target to complete initial assessments is also removed; however the 45 working days target for an assessment to conclude has been retained. The government has said this target will be monitored and could be removed at a later date.
Directors concerned new version will not cut red tape
But the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) is concerned the new document, which comes into effect on 15 April, will not effectively cut bureaucracy.
ADCS president Debbie Jones is particularly worried about the creation of an independent panel of experts on serious case reviews (SCRs). These will be set up to vet the decisions of the independent local safeguarding children’s board (LSCB) chair on whether to carry out and publish a SCR.
This “feels like an unnecessary bureaucratic intervention on the part of central government and potentially one that interferes with the independence of the LSCB chair”, Jones said.
Jones is also concerned the appointment of an independent LSCB chair by council leaders and chief executives “may compromise the crucial single line of professional accountability of the statutory director of children’s services for safeguarding in their area”.
Greater decision making role for social worke
Nevertheless, she backed the new document’s focus on giving social workers a greater role in everyday decision making “rather than slavishly following process and prescriptive procedures”.
The ADCS also supports the new document’s focus on ensuring safeguarding children is the responsibility of all professionals working with children across health, education and police.
In addition to this latest guidance, the NHS Commissioning Board has also published its accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding in the NHS.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, says “better practice and co-ordination between all agencies” is vital to prevent “future tragedies”.
‘SCR focus brings new opportunity to dispense with culture of fear’
She also hoped the document’s greater focus on SCRs evaluating why mistakes happened would “lead to genuine opportunities to learn from mistakes in child abuse cases and dispense with the current culture of fear, recrimination and tabloid hysteria”.
This latest document is being released later today, following a consultation that ended last September. It follows Eileen Munro’s review of child protection, which found excessive red tape was hindering social workers’ ability to focus on children’s needs.
Munro told Community Care today that she is pleased the final version removes “a great many of the rules and guidance that should be under the control of the professions not of politicians”.
“The revised Working Together is part of a wider set of reforms, including a revised inspection framework that looks more at whether children and young people have been helped rather than an over-focus on bureaucracy, new performance information that is not seen as a simple measure of good practice,” Munro said.
‘Quality assessments over meeting deadlines’
Children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “Today’s guidance makes absolutely clear the core legal requirements on all organisations and individuals working with children to promote their welfare and keep them safe. We expect professionals to use the guidance, along with their expertise and judgement, to tailor support to individual children and families.”
Chair of The College of Social Work Jo Cleary was particularly pleased that the staggered timescales for carrying out assessments had been removed. “This should allow local authorities to concentrate on the quality of their assessments rather than placing an over emphasis on meeting deadlines,” she said.
The government is looking to produce a young person’s version of Working Together to Safeguard Children with the Office of the Children’s Rights Director.
Working Together 2012: What it means for social workers
The storm surrounding Working Together