Professor Eileen Munro today set out her initial analysis on the child protection system in England. She finds that processes and procedures, and the unintentional consequences of previous reforms, are getting in the way of social workers spending time with vulnerable children and families.
The early scoping review explains that while previous reforms have been well-meaning and well-informed, they have not delivered positive long-lasting improvements at the front line. Changes during the past 40 years have been made in reaction to high-profile cases and have focused on parts of the system in isolation rather than looking at the system as a whole.
Professor Eileen Munro said:
I want to be clear from the start that there are no simple quick-fix solutions to improving the child protection system. A key question for the review is why the well-intentioned reforms of the past haven’t worked. Piecemeal changes have resulted in a system where social workers are more focused on complying with procedures. This is taking them away from spending time with children and families and limiting their ability to make informed judgements.
Professionals should rightly take responsibility when things go wrong but they need more freedom to make decisions, more support and understanding, and less prescription and censure. Too often social workers are either criticised for breaking up families or for missing a case of abuse. But the system they work in is built around predicting a parent’s ability to look after their child, which is never certain.
We need a system that constantly looks to do things better. Any solution must prioritise meeting the needs of children.
The problems identified by Professor Munro in the report include
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said:
I welcome Professor Munro’s initial findings. She has started to expose the underlying causes of what has gone wrong in child protection. I have spent the last week shadowing social workers in an immersive exercise to see what happens at the sharp end. Social workers need to have the confidence to make tough decisions and make a positive difference.
Professor Munro wants to improve the serious case review (SCR) process so that lessons learned can be put into practice more effectively. The Government has published two research reports on SCRs today, which have fed into Professor Munro’s review.
The research shows that
5. The SCR research is available from the associated resources section of this page.
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