06 May 2009
The Government today announced a wide ranging package of measures setting out how it will deliver the step-change in child protection called for by Lord Laming in his recent progress report.
The action plan commits to greater openness and public scrutiny of local child protection arrangements, as well as more investment in training and support for front line social workers.
This reform will be driven forward by a new cross-Government delivery unit working alongside Sir Roger Singleton, the first ever Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children.
The package also outlines a £58 million six-point plan to transform the social work profession, including:
- Sponsoring 200 university places from September, so that the brightest and highest achieving graduates, from any discipline, can sign up to conversion courses to become part of the social work profession;
- A new recruitment campaign specifically targeting social workers who may have left the profession to give the current work force a boost. The campaign will start this month with former social workers able to access information online, and from July, through a new helpline to help social workers link up to LA's with vacant posts. Our aim is that there should be 500 social workers back in the workplace as early as this autumn, supported by refresher training where they need it;
- Rolling out the successful Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) pilots so that all new social workers joining statutory and voluntary services this September, and all overseas children's qualified social workers who need it, can receive high quality supervision and protected time for training to support them in becoming confident and competent in their first year of practice;
- Funding a new practice-based Masters in social work to start in early 2011 so that social workers can continue to develop further their knowledge, skills and expertise; and
- A new Advanced Social Work Professional Status programme to create senior practice-focused roles to keep excellent and experienced social workers in children's services. Local Authorities working with the Children's Workforce Development Council will begin assessing candidates in October so that they can be in post and start making a difference on the frontline by early next year.
This new money brings the total investment in the workforce to £109 million over the next two years.
The Government has also published the first report of the Social Work Task Force. Chair of the Task Force, Moira Gibb, has written to Ed Balls and Alan Johnson setting out their advice on implementing Lord Laming's recommendations, including about the future of the Integrated Children's System (ICS). The Taskforce advise that effective record-keeping is an essential part of good social work; but that the ICS should be reformed so that it is less prescriptive and allows more scope for professional social workers' judgment. We will therefore work with local authorities to overhaul the ICS and simplify national requirements.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls said:
"In his progress report, Lord Laming found that we have good foundations in place, but that more needs to be done. We announced immediate action and today's cross-Government action plan is our detailed response on how we will be driving forward reforms in child protection to build on those foundations.
"This country has one of the best child protection systems in the world. But good practice is not yet standard practice everywhere and we should not rest until it is."
Health Secretary, Alan Johnson said
"NHS frontline staff have a vital role to play in safeguarding children and we have issued clear guidelines on roles and responsibilities. We are also ensuring that healthcare and children's services work better together to protect children from harm.
"The Government's Action Plan sets out the steps we are taking in response to Lord Laming's recommendations including strengthening quality assurance, increasing the number of health visitors and ensuring that NHS staff working with children get high quality training and support."
In a letter to Ed Balls, published today, Sir Roger Singleton, the Government's new Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children, set out priorities for his new role, including establishing a new Chief Adviser's Expert Group, made up of senior professionals from front line services.
Sir Roger said
"As Chief Adviser I welcome this clear, cross-Government action plan which I believe is a comprehensive and robust response to Lord Laming's recommendations.
"Protecting children is not the sole responsibility of one person or organisation but all of us. I will be working alongside the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit to ensure its implementation, and challenging progress where necessary."
Alongside the Social Work Taskforce's early findings, they have also opened a Call for Evidence and online survey as part of their ongoing review into the barriers social workers face in doing their jobs effectively.
Moria Gibb said:
"The reform of social work is a long term process, but we believe this is a helpful first step to inform that journey. We are committed to identifying improvements that will benefit those in the profession, and ultimately the people they serve, including vulnerable children and their families.
"I have been delighted by the willingness of social workers and others to work with us on understanding the obstacles and finding solutions. In my letter to the Secretaries of State, I have summarised what we have heard so far and what we think it means as we continue to develop our recommendations. I have also set out how we will respond to Lord Laming's recommendations and our advice on reforming the Integrated Children's System.
"It is time to move social work to a new footing. The Social Work Task Force now intends to do all it can to show the way forward."
Ed Balls said:
"Social workers do a really tough job in challenging circumstances, often saving children's lives and taking difficult decisions about a child's future and we should support their invaluable work.
"Our ambition is for social work to be a high quality profession, with the confidence and support of the public, but to do this we must give social workers the training and support they need to develop and become a confident workforce.
"We have already set up a special taskforce of social work experts, and Lord Laming has already told us we have good foundations in place on which we can build. This package of support lays the foundations for a radical transformation of the social work profession and significantly improves training and career opportunities.
"I want every social worker to be proud of the contribution they make and for every child to get the protection they deserve."
Today's action plan also outlines how, in future, there will be greater public scrutiny of Local Safeguarding Children Boards by:
- Recruiting two members of the public from the local community;
- New requirement for annual report on local progress;
- Separate independent chairs for Children's Trusts and LSCBs;
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:
"We are very grateful for Lord Laming's report in March and we are committed to delivering its recommendations.
"Lord Laming's report has proved invaluable in guiding our work and, as part of his recommendations, Francis Plowden's forthcoming review of court fees for local authorities will be completed in September of this year. I will act immediately on his recommendations.
"Every child deserves the courts' protection and for their case to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible to minimise the trauma of resolving their situation.
"We are helping to achieve this by developing performance monitoring systems that include all the agencies involved and are scrutinised closely at local level. The newly established inter-agency National Family Justice Board will support performance improvement nationally, to help us to make sure no one is denied the justice they deserve".
Alongside the action plan, the Government today also published its detailed response to the recommendations made by Sir Roger Singleton as part of his review into how the current laws and guidance on safeguarding in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and all boarding schools is currently working.
Ed Balls and Alan Johnson are also today writing to all front line social workers setting out today's announcements and the package of support.
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