Laming says LGA may have misinterpreted key proposal

Lord Laming has backed the government’s response to his recommendation on initial assessments, claiming the LGA may have “misinterpreted” what he meant.

The recommendation – that “all referrals” to children’s services from other professionals should lead to an initial assessment – was originally backed by the government, but has now been softened after research by the LGA found it would take around 6,000 extra social workers to implement, and would cost millions.

Published yesterday, the government’s one-year-on response to Laming’s progress report says the decision on whether or not to carry out initial assessments should be at the discretion of individual councils.

Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA Children and Young People board, said it would be a “relief for councils up and down the country” that the recommendation “appears to have been scrapped.” Spending millions on “unnecessary bureaucracy” would have diverted funds from the frontline, she said.

But Laming told Community Care he was satisfied with the government’s response to his recommendation, which he said the LGA “might have misinterpreted.”

“I was never talking about all bells and whistles 80-page reports, it is just an initial assessment. It’s about talking; those making referrals want to know that their concerns will be taken seriously,” Laming said.

“Professionals have got to have the skills to work across organisational boundaries and have a shared commitment to the child and this recommendation underpins that.”

Laming said he had never thought local authorities should operate in a “robotic” manner. “They have got to make judgements, on which a proper assessment of needs should be based, and they must be accountable for their judgements.

“The LGA ought to be reinforcing that message,” he said.

Children’s secretary Ed Balls said the government’s response to Laming sets out “how the recommendation can be implemented in a way that is sensible and deliverable within the resources available.”

“There must be contact over referrals but there also has to be professional judgement so it’s about getting that balance right,” Balls said.

Responding to Laming’s comments, an LGA spokesperson said the recommendation was “very clear” and that the government’s response was a U-turn. “If that’s not a change then I don’t know what is,” the spokesperson said.

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