Social workers frustrated at slow progress on Munro reform

Frustration is growing among social workers at the government’s failure to move quickly on plans to scrap statutory assessments and timescales for councils.

Frustration is growing among social workers at the government’s failure to move quickly on plans to scrap statutory assessments and timescales for councils.

The government originally promised to ditch the bureaucracy – as recommended by Eileen Munro in her review of child protection – by December 2011, following pilots in four key councils to test the move. 

But the pilots were extended until the end of this month and another four were launched in December.

Feedback from all the pilots will form part of the wider consultation on changes to the Working Together statutory guidance, due to be finalised in July.

Even among the pilot councils, the extension of the timescales has proved frustrating.

Catherine Witt, senior manager for social care in Cumbria, said implementing the changes in chunks had impacted on their approach.

“The main limitation we’re experiencing is the lack of external evaluation, which wasn’t able to be put in place because the initial timeframe was so short,” she said.

Despite this, the outcomes from the pilot have been so positive that the authority is rolling the approach out across all three of their districts. 

There are also plans to extend it beyond child protection, right down to common assessment framework (CAF) level.

“We’ll be in a sticky situation if the government decides not to follow-through with it,” Witt said. “I do worry that there feels to be a slowing down in the government momentum on this.”

Julie Shepherd, service development manager and lead on social work reform at Surrey council, said it is difficult to press on with reform because social workers are still constrained by form-filling.

“It is hard to keep the momentum up when you know changes are coming but you don’t know when. It can just cause confusion,” Shepherd said.

Rory McCallum, head of child and adult protection at Devon council, agreed.

“We’re chomping at the bit on this but if Ofsted were to visit tomorrow we would be inspected on the existing way of doing things.

“It is making life a bit of a challenge, especially where we’re talking to staff about how we respond to the Munro recommendations but we still have these statutory requirements hanging over us,” he said.

But he added that he would prefer any changes to be right rather than quick.

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