Timpson challenges social workers and announces legal change for care leavers

Children's minister tells Community Care Live he intends to 'challenge and champion' social workers to improve standards of care and safeguarding

Directors of children’s services will be required to formally approve any instance where a young person leaves care before they turn 18, the children’s minister announced today.

Speaking at Community Care Live, Edward Timpson said the move would stop high numbers of 16 and 17-year-olds leaving care before they are ready and is part of the government’s plans to transform outcomes for care leavers.

“We are changing the law to make sure that sign off is required at the highest level, by the director of children’s of services, for any young person to leave care before they are 18,” Timpson said.

“I hope to see more young people leaving care when they are ready to and not when they have to.”

The government’s plans also include giving the National Care Advisory Service £200,000 funding to develop an evidence base on care leavers’ outcomes, and £80,000 to the Care Leavers Foundation to train care leavers to act as consultants on the care system. Nearly 100 local authorities have agreed to give young people leaving care a ‘setting up home allowance’ of at least £2,000, Timpson revealed.

Challenging and championing social work

The minister also used his speech to praise social workers for “making the decisions nobody else can face”, and reassure delegates he would make sure social care professionals get the respect and recognition they deserve.

“As social workers you are an unacknowledged emergency service that steps in when society looks the other way,” Timpson told delegates. “I want you to be regarded in the same way as other emergency professions.”

But the profession needs to be more honest when mistakes have been made, he said – referring to recent high profile child sex abuse cases – and the government needs to do much more to challenge professionals and raise standards.

He added: “We need to do much more to challenge and champion you as a profession. By challenge, I mean being honest with ourselves, and each other, about where we’re going wrong…and acting on these insights.”

He said he hoped the appointment of the new chief social worker for children, Isabelle Trowler, will “change the way you are perceived and the way you feel about your job”.

Setting out his credentials, which include working as a family barrister and growing up with parents who fostered, Timpson made it clear he understood the issues facing social workers today. 

He told delegates: “I know you came into this job to help children and families, not do admin. We want to free you up from bureaucracy…The system has undermined your professionalism.”

He also referred to the government’s reforms on speeding up adoption, reducing delay in the family courts, revising Working Together and setting up expert panels to scrutinise serious case review decisions, saying they prove the government is finally making good on Lord Laming’s recommendation to ‘just get on with it’ following his report four years ago.

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