The reality for children and families targeted by recent reforms

The reality for children and families targeted by recent reforms

As the government ramps up efforts on its ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’ reform guidance – in response to the ‘Children’s Social Care Review’ – selected authorities reported challenges with the introduction of specialist child protection social workers.

The three local authorities; Dorset, Lincolnshire and Wolverhampton are set to be joined by other authorities next year following testing of the government’s social care reforms, namely to;

  • Set up multi-disciplinary family help teams
  • Appoint experienced and skilled social workers as lead child protection practitioners (LCPPs)
  • Make greater use of family networks when families need help
  • Strengthen multi-agency safeguarding leadership, including increasing the role of education

Yet we know firsthand that authorities will struggle to deliver on these reforms when the same barriers and practice based issues remain which have exacerbated problems for families assessed as requiring much needed support.

Practitioners that are too busy to access specialist training or other work-based support may not be best placed to deliver on the rights of every child to care and protection.

In 2014, after the introduction of the Children and Families Act, we published ‘Voices from the frontline…’ from joint research following consultation with permanent and locum children and family social workers; a significant percentage of whom were unaware of the forthcoming legislation.

Ten years on, we know that their stated concerns are still to be addressed, and have largely been ignored.

  • Recruitment remains challenging as increasing numbers of social workers have failed to register with their regulator, albeit remain operating as family support workers under reduced duties.
  • Retention is low as demoralised social workers leave local authority employment to set up or get involved with alternative services, or seek work with external agencies that are able to demand more from statutory budgets.
  • Micro-managed practice has led to gravely concerning mindsets and unlawful behaviour; the reputation of social work remains diminished due to lack of positive leadership, empowerment or support – everywhere.

The latest social care reforms are unlikely to meet our expectations for improved delivery of care and protection of children and young people, as related policies become established at school or within the community, that we know will harm or already harming children, particularly those from Black or other racialised communities.

Whilst the narrative broadly remains the same; for the children, young people and families that we serve, the reality is far worse…

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See also

Independent advocacy provides vital support for children

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