17 October 2022
Social work has long been a mainstay of support for children. And so it was during the reforms and developments from Laming to Munro in the wake of public interest following the deaths of Victoria Climbié and Peter Connolly respectively.
One delivered significant policy guidance ‘Every Child Matters’ along with five key outcomes for children, the other a child-centred approach and the promotion of professional judgement for practitioners interacting with children, young people and their families.
Effective engagement of communities and families was deemed to be key to providing appropriate support; yet the gap between authorities and families is wider than ever, with the increase in hostile policies and practice impacting on disadvantaged children and families across a spectrum of characteristics.
The introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014 set in motion a range of measures, of which a good proportion of social workers were unaware, leading to the dismantling of the profession and a lack of regard for their stated concerns.
Social workers have wittingly or unwittingly moved away from their professional values and intent, and remain largely unsupported by management, professional bodies or the principal social work network; and a critical public who continue to question their competence, compassion and humanity within practice.
A mass exodus to private firms has increasingly led to the use of agency workers, many of whom enjoy better pay conditions and the flexible nature of a demanding role to avoid being ‘ethically compromised’ within statutory settings.
Yet, as locum social workers move or are moved on, the threats or concerns can become heightened within households identified for support, with authority focus on detracting from practice based issues or inaction, to the detriment of children and their families
If we envision a child’s journey as their early CV, the track record for children’s services will be determined by their response. A lack of implementation of existing reforms has led to increased levels of unlawful practice, amid concerns that we are moving towards unprecedented – and controversial – changes to established legislation and guidance.
None can be confident that social work, under revised reforms, will be able to deliver quality services to children – at home, in school or within the community.
Thus, the solution to keeping children safe must return in part to the community who can best support their growth and development. It is the community that became the beacon of hope for disadvantaged children during the most recent crises.
Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility, not solely the role of the State. And in this we are all fully supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to education, care and protection.
VCF leads on a community partnership structure to support grassroots projects to become local hubs, including as part of a strategic alliance