Education secretary Michael Gove has promoted the idea of outsourcing child protection services and said the government will investigate changing the law to make it easier.
In a speech to the NSPCC this morning he said innovation could only grow if current models of provision were changed and there was a rethink on how services were organised.
“Why must all child protection services be delivered in-house? Why aren’t there more independent social work practices which local authorities can draw on as they need? Should social workers automatically be managed and led by other social workers? Especially when some of the most visionary leaders in social work and child protection-such as Sir Martin Narey and Peter Wanless- come from a range of backgrounds?
“For innovation to take place, the current monolithic model of providing child protection has to change.”
He said he was confident that the new model put in place in Doncaster, where children’s services will be run by a trust independent from the council, would bring improvements and be adopted by other councils.
“Also from today all local authorities have the freedom to delegate their functions for children in care and care leavers to third parties- a first step towards freeing up innovative and ambitious local authorities to deliver greater diversity and excellence of provision.
“Over the coming months we will examine the case for extending these freedoms to more areas of children’s social care services.”
Gove said he accepted that decisions made by politicians of all parties had contributed to some of the problems in children’s social care.
“The way politicians in the past have reacted to failures within the system has encouraged a defensive approach based on compliance with the minimum demands of bureaucracy, rather than a pursuit of excellence.
“Critically in local government we need to ask tougher questions of council chief executives and political leaders rather than zeroing in on just social work practitioners and directors of children’s services.
“Social workers do not operate in a vacuum. Ultimate responsibility for child protection should rest with the chief executives on six-figure salaries and their political leaders who may not concentrate on vital questions of child protection because these issues do not influence their job prospects or move votes.”
He added that other professions, including doctors and police, should be held to account just as much as social workers when things went wrong in a child protection case.