The Munro review is considering whether the social work manager’s role needs to be split so that staff can receive enough help for critical reflection on their cases.
In her second interim report, Professor Eileen Munro, who is examining the child protection system in England, said she was “considering whether the two roles of managerial oversight and professional supervision need to be separated so that both are done properly”.
The report added: “A division of career pathways at this point would also contribute to the establishment of a professional career pathway, as recommended by the Social Work Reform Board.”
Social workers needed ongoing learning from casework, access to research with summarised key messages, specialist training in intervention methods and clinical supervision on using these methods.
She said it was crucial that children’s social work became more evidence-based and pointed out that training failed to cover significant areas of knowledge, including child development.
“A crucial aspect of professional development is an organisational culture that not only provides access to research but values it and makes it feasible for workers to use it well,” she said.
“It is unrealistic to expect every social worker to have the time to search for research articles and the skill to appraise the research methods used in order to form a view of the reliability or validity of the findings.
“Similarly, a key element of professional development needs to include training in those methods of intervention that have evidence of some effectiveness. Currently, few social workers have detailed training in any evidenced method and this seriously limits their ability to help children stay safely with their birth family.”
Such training would need ongoing supervision and be another area where “the development of senior professional grades would be useful”.
Munro cited Tower Hamlets’ revised assessment forms as a possible model for the rest of the country. The interim report suggested that when a child is referred to children’s services, any social work assessment should be built on the original referral rather than start an initial or core assessment.
She described the development of ICS as a good example of a “failure to learn” but added that the existence of many systems would make errors more likely. However, the report pointed out that changes to ICS would take time to develop because they would depend on revised Ofsted inspection criteria and money.
Munro said there had been considerable enthusiasm in evidence submitted to her review for re-implementing family files while preserving individual children’s files within them. She suggested future ICS design should allow for the inclusion of digital stories and photographs.
The review is considering whether the 10 risk principles recently adopted by the police should be given wider endorsement throughout the child protection system.
In relation to media coverage of the profession, Munro said councils and social workers ought to be frank about problems in the system and face issues about confidentiality “rather than [hide] behind them”.
“Child protection professionals and those representing them in the media must develop better ways of joining in with public debates about their role and responsibility,” she said. “The review will work with the College of Social Work to consider how child protection professionals can join this debate to make the biggest impact.”
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