Munro report welcomed but little mention of thresholds

Sector leaders have welcomed Professor Eileen Munro’s first report identifying the problems within child protection but some experts have criticised her failure to tackle the issue of thresholds.

Sector leaders have welcomed Professor Eileen Munro’s first report identifying the problems within child protection and her intention to use a systems approach in her recommendations, but some are divided on how she has so far tackled the issue of thresholds.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services praised Munro’s “clear, analytical and child focused report” while a spokesman for the Local Government Association said they agreed with her assessment of the problems and felt she was taking the right approach in her report. Shaun Kelly, head of safeguarding at Action for Children, said he liked Munro’s “broad brush” approach in contrast with previous reviews that were “somewhat isolated in their scope”.

However, child protection trainer Perdeep Gill said while she agreed that social workers needed better skills and more time with families, she felt Munro had not grappled with the fundamental problem of too many children and too few social workers.

“The only way we will be able to give social workers more time for critical thinking is to increase thresholds. That raises the issue of how we convince the public about the difficulties of social work if we do not have a discussion about what is ‘significant harm’ and how much abuse we accept children should have to tolerate.”

Munro has previously told Community Care that she believes thresholds are the wrong concept for child protection and interventions should be made solely based on practitioner judgement in each case.

However, Colin Green, director of children and young people’s services at Coventry Council, said Munro had clearly set out the problems associated with setting both high and low thresholds in her report and he personally felt Munro was probably leaning towards child protection services being involved at higher thresholds.

Matt Dunkley, vice president of the ADCS said he was reassured that Munro was also looking at how other professionals could help in supporting children who may not need protection.

However, he made the point that Munro’s final report would not be published before the comprehensive spending review when local authority funding would be decided.

“There must be some financial provision to support local authorities and their partners in reconfiguring services to make the best use of social workers time and provide a better service to children, young people and their families.”

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