Demand for ‘change of culture’ to meet needs of children most at risk

Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children requires
behavioural rather than structural change, Audit Commission
chairperson James Strachan told public and voluntary sector workers
last week.

They were urged to challenge children and young people’s minister
Margaret Hodge over plans to prescribe change from the

“In order to learn from experience, different localities will need
the flexibility to introduce change that suits circumstances,”
Strachan said. “It won’t always be structural change and major IT
programmes. It will be about behavioural change and change in

He was speaking at a conference on whether children in the UK
count, organised by Community Care, the Association of
Directors of Social Services and The Guardian.

Although he welcomed many of the changes outlined in the children’s
green paper, Strachan warned of the dangers and distractions of
focusing on structures alone. He highlighted the importance of
listening to children and building on existing child protection
services rather than overturning them.

He said the test of whether children in the UK counted was whether
services and the quality of life improved for the one in five
children in society most in need or at risk.

Labour MP Hilton Dawson told delegates it was “impossible” to say
that children in the UK counted, given the treatment of
unaccompanied minors, children in custody, disabled children and
other disadvantaged groups.

“Not one of us can say that, in the UK, every child matters because
some palpably do not,” Dawson said.

The former social worker, who intends to return to the profession,
said that the green paper provided “the greatest opportunity in the
whole of our working lives” to transform the lives of children and
build services around them.

He said he was amazed to hear social workers describe the green
paper as a threat to their profession, seeing it instead as a
chance to revitalise social work. He welcomed children’s trusts and
planned to “join in the party when social services departments are

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