Voluntary sector reluctant to take on statutory child protection role

The recruitment crisis in child protection is forcing the
government to look to the voluntary sector for boosting child
protection social worker numbers, children’s minister Margaret
Hodge has revealed.

She said the government was in the earliest stages of looking at
how the sector could be used to build the capacity of the
workforce, which was still struggling with recruitment problems
caused by its poor image.

Speaking at an Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary
Organisations conference last week, Hodge added the government
“desperately want you [the voluntary sector] as deliverers as well
as planners and commissioners of services”.

But director of UK operations at Barnardo’s Chris Hanvey said: “We
have gone from a position where the voluntary sector is hardly
mentioned in the green paper, especially in relation to children’s
trusts, to one where the government wants us to have a much more
prominent role.”

He added: “The privilege of working in the voluntary sector is that
we are free of statutory responsibilities. I don’t think many
organisations will wish to see those duties transferred to the
voluntary sector.”

Hanvey went on to say that the sector was able to establish much
closer relationships with service users because “they recognise we
are not the ‘welfare.’

John Coughlan, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social
Services’ children and families committee, said: “If what we are
saying is that the voluntary sector has the potential to develop
people who then may want to go on to become child protection social
workers that would be welcome. But if what is being talked about is
core child protection responsibilities being redirected to the
voluntary sector that would be more complex and problematic.”

Earlier, chair of the charities bill scrutiny committee Alan
Milburn said the voluntary sector was already a major provider of
environmental regeneration, learning difficulties and mental health
services and its role could be expanded further.

But he added: “I do not believe the voluntary sector can – or
should – replace the state. The public sector and the voluntary
sector should be partners not rivals… this agenda cannot be about
the voluntary sector replacing the public sector.”

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