Chief social worker for children Isabelle Trowler has urged council leaders to review the tools social workers use when assessing and managing risks to children.
In a letter sent to all local authority directors of children’s services, chief executives and lead members, Trowler called on leaders to “immediately review any assessment and decision making tools in use in your authority designed to support professionals making decisions about risk”.
The letter, written on behalf of education secretary Nicky Morgan, is part of the government’s response to the “chronic” social work failings exposed by by high profile child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Rotherham.
Trowler drew particular attention to a tool referred to in the Alexis Jay report into CSE in Rotherham. The troubled council used an assessment tool based on a numeric scoring system, which mean risks were underestimated, Trowler wrote.
“As part of this review, you should assure yourself that any tools are not only fit for purpose, but being properly implemented as well,” she said.
These tools should not be used until their validity has been “seriously explored”, she urged, and should only ever be used to assist decision making.
Local authorities need to be fostering an approach where social workers have high quality dialogue with expert practice supervisors, to help them make decisions about risk, she said.
While acknowledging there is a place for assessment tools to help professionals make decisions about risk, Trowler urged “swift action” from councils on how such tools should be used locally.