Demos urges move away from witch hunt culture

A “risk averse” culture in children’s services is preventing the development of new ways of working, according to a report out today.

The report by think-tank Demos proposes a move away from the “witch hunt” culture of blame when things go wrong in children’s services by allowing professionals to learn by discussing shortcomings.

It suggests developing a model similar to critical incident reporting in the NHS for children’s services.

The report’s authors, Hannah Lownsbrough and Duncan O’Leary, said: “An excessive focus on risk aversion could be taking away power away from the front-line professionals and failing to put the needs of children first.

“Leaders in children’s services must help to create safe environments in which professionals can take the kind of risks that can improve services for children and learn openly from mistakes.”

The report, based on in-depth interviews with local authority directors of children’s services, also highlights professional “silos” and a lack of focus on service users’ perspectives as barriers to developing effective services.

It also proposes giving local authorities the power to commission advice from central government and other sources and suggests council should be given the “right to recall” central government inspection teams to gather strategic advice.

The Leadership Imperative: Reforming children’s services from the ground up from:


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