Avoiding risk is a risky business

Children could be at risk because professionals working with them are immersed in a culture of “playing it safe” a new report has claimed.

The report, by think tank Demos and GatenbySanderson, a public sector recruitment consultancy, says social workers, teachers and other professionals working in children’s services need to take more risks and to learn from their mistakes.

Based on in-depth interviews with directors of children’s services, it argues that a culture of risk aversion could affect professionals’ judgement meaning that children’s needs are neglected.

It also sets out steps to build a culture of “owning up” where professionals learn by talking openly about things that have gone wrong.

Children’s services need to learn from the success of critical incident reporting in the NHS, and local authorities should have greater control over the advice they receive from central government, the report argues.

One director of children services said: “There are risks associated with being so worried about bad things that might happen that we get separated from our core purpose as professionals, which is to give children a good and happy childhood that sets them up to move into adult life on a good foundation.”

The Leadership Imperative: Reforming Children’s Services from the Ground Up from www.demos.org.uk

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