Singleton calls for more money to handle rising referrals

Sir Roger Singleton, the government’s chief adviser on children’s safety, has called for more funding to combat the steep rise in referrals to children’s services.

In his first annual report to parliament, Singleton said judges and Cafcass agreed the increase in care proceedings could not be attributed to social workers lowering thresholds due to a loss of confidence.

“This suggests that in the period before 2008 some children were not coming into care who probably should have done,” Singleton said. “From that point of view, the recent rise in care proceedings can be seen as positive rather than negative; however, the resource implications need to be taken into account.

“Despite the difficult economic climate, both central and local government need to face up to the financial realities of delivering safeguarding improvements against a backdrop of what appears at present to be a level of significantly increased demand, compared to the period before 2008.”

He said even when waste was squeezed and work prioritised “it will still be necessary to make sufficient funding available for services to carry out their tasks and ensure an adequate level of protection”.

Singleton said decisions about how much funding was needed should be informed by “careful and objective assessments” about the true cost of protecting vulnerable children by local agencies and Cafcass.

He added that the rise in demand was also, in some areas, overtaking preventive work that had been reducing caseloads.

The government responded by claiming that announcements of £10m to help Cafcass clear backlogs and the £23m fund to help free up frontline social workers were the “first step in responding to this concern”.

Other key proposals in Singleton’s report include:

● Ofsted should take on a greater role in helping councils improve. It should also consider the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) proposal for inspections to have a peer review element.

● Alternative methods of conducting serious case reviews, such as Learning together to safeguard children: a ‘systems’ model for case reviews developed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie), must be piloted.

● Clearer distinctions should be made about the responsibilities of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) and children’s trusts.

● Involve the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit in all policy-making from the start to ensure “more practitioner involvement in policy development”.

● Serious case reviews should not be published in full but he was “worried” about claims that executive summaries did not always reflect key findings. Revisions, published today, to the “Working Together to Safeguard Children” guidance would help as would Ofsted’s forthcoming SCR evaluation framework.

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