In summer 2010, the coalition government commissioned Eileen Munro (pictured), professor of social work at the London School of Economics, to conduct a review of the child protection system in England.
While cutting bureaucracy has been the central focus of her review, Munro was also tasked with looking at early intervention, trusting frontline social workers, and transparency and accountability. Within these areas, Munro and her panel are considering the possible reform of serious case reviews, the Hackney model of social work, improvements to the integrated children’s system (ICS) and helping social workers handle the media.
Although he claimed that the review is proof of the coalition government’s commitment to improving children’s social care children’s minister Tim Loughton has so far been coy about what will happen if there are any costs attached to Munro’s final recommendations due in late April.
Munro has said she hopes the review will build on the work of Moira Gibb’s Social Work Task Force.
In the first instalment of her report, published in October 2010, Munro said social workers were failing to meet the needs of children because they were overly focused on complying with regulations and targets.
She also claimed serious case reviews had not fostered a learning culture which supported improved practice and that a lot of data was collected which described performance but not what mattered. She added that current ICS systems were hampering many children’s social workers and suggested future areas for ICS development.
The first report also stated that performance and inspection systems did not adequately examine the quality of direct work with children and young people or its impact and the assessment framework was inefficient and did not help social workers making judgements about risk. Universal services also did not currently offer comprehensive early specialist support, Munro said.
Her first report was widely welcomed although some in the sector worried that she had not addressed the issue of thresholds or caseloads. However, Munro has previously said she felt thresholds were the wrong concept for child protection.
In December 2010 Professor Munro put a series of questions, through Community Care, to frontline social workers to inform her third report. The questions, part of a “virtual conversation” focused on which forms and bureaucracy was unnecessary, multi-agency working and barriers to effective working with families.
Responses to a survey, devised by Community Care, and responses on a CareSpace discussion thread showed social workers had many ideas on what paperwork to cut, wanted a return to patch-based social work teams and felt multi-agency working was effective but could be more streamlined.
Community Care has also learned the Munro review is looking at adopting police risk assessment methods and that Professor Munro is working closely with those on the Family Justice Review, Graham Allen’s Early Intervention Commission as well as the Social Work Reform Board.
Also read: Interview with Eileen Munro
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