Welfare

16.12.16

‘Unacceptably slow’ reforms leaving children at risk, warn MPs

Child protection services are failing to show improvement despite promises from the Department for Education (DfE) to deliver reforms, leaving many children at risk of harm, the Public Accounts Committee has argued in a new report.

The DfE admitted that child protection services weren’t good enough in 2010, when it commissioned the Munro Review. However, just 23% of council children’s services were rated as ‘good’ in the latest Ofsted reports for help and protection, which MPs said meant there was limited evidence of what constitutes good practice, and few services capable of supporting those who needed to improve.

Different local authorities had widely different quality of outcomes. In some areas, the proportion of children being re-referred to services after an initial contact was as high as 46%, while in others, it was just 6%.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “It is completely unacceptable that, six years after the launch of a major review of child protection services, so little progress has been made.”

The DfE has now set a target of further improvements by 2020. However, MPs criticised the department for having “few plausible plans” to achieve this beyond a target of reducing an unspecified number of local authorities that are failing to protect children, and a “frustratingly vague” understanding of the scale of the problem.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, insisted that reforms to child protection had been “largely removed from local government” and “increasingly centralised” in recent years.

He added that it was “vital” that the DfE’s new initiatives were “evaluated to check whether they are doing a better job of looking after vulnerable children”.

Dr Ruth Allen, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, argued that the Munro review could even be “misused” to justify a lack of government oversight of children’s services and overlooking the impact of an increase in poverty on families.

“A lack of sector-wide, inclusive planning, the undermining of universal legal provisions for children and piecemeal, selective approaches to improvement leaves many social care departments without the right resources and leaves many professionals confused and demoralised,” she said.

Ofsted’s target of inspecting all local authorities has now slipped from 2016 to 2017. The PAC criticised the DfE for not pressuring Ofsted to speed up the pace of inspections, despite Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw saying the regulator would be happy to take on more work.

The government does not intervene in local authorities until they are rated as ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted, which the PAC pointed out was too late for the children in need of help.

Cllr Watts called on Ofsted to “play a far more active role in supporting improvement” and stop using one-word ratings for something as complex as children’s services.

By March 2017, the PAC recommended that the DfE should set out how it will ensure minimum standards for local authorities, get more timely assurance on the quality of children’s services, and monitor services in real time instead of waiting until they fail.

This should be followed by detailed year-on-year plans, including a timetable and resources, on how it will meet the 2020 goals.

Cllr Watts also warned that local authorities would need sufficient resources to meet a huge increase in demand, instead of the current budget cuts.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services recently said that they risk meeting a “tipping point” after finding that contacts have increased by 53% since 2007.

A DfE spokesperson admitted that the systematic reforms would “take time”, but denied that there was no strategy in place for improving services.

They said the ‘Putting Children First’ strategy, published in July, set out “a clear programme of action”.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here 

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

22/09/2017Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

Councils are failing to meet their obligations to prevent, reduce or delay the need for care as set out in the Care Act 2014. New research p... more >
Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

22/09/2017Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

Cheshire East Council is to be investigated by police following allegations that air quality data collected by the local authority had been delib... more >
Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called ... more >

editor's comment

14/08/2017Time for reflection

A lot has happened since the last edition of PSE was published. In particular, the snap general election delivered an astounding result that many of the pollsters and political experts could not have predicted when Theresa May initially called for it back in April. Chris Painter, Professor Emeritus at Birmingham City University, provides ... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open — and this needs to happen as soon as po... more > more last word articles >
Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

22/09/2017Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

Councils are failing to meet their obligations to prevent, reduce or delay the need for care as set out in the Care Act 2014. New research published by the Red Cross called ‘Prevention... more >
Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

22/09/2017Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

Cheshire East Council is to be investigated by police following allegations that air quality data collected by the local authority had been deliberately altered.   Back in August, the o... more >

the raven's daily blog

How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

18/09/2017How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

Five years on from the introduction of the Social Value Act, Alison Ramsey, frameworks co-ordinator at Scape Procure, reflects on the key questions that prompted the legislation’s introduction. The Social Value Act was an important landmark. It decisively addressed the need for major public projects led by all public bodies to maxim... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Support for councils following Grenfell

04/09/2017Support for councils following Grenfell

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assess... more >
A quiet revolution

04/09/2017A quiet revolution

Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), talks to PSE about the importance of moving to the ... more >
Effective leadership in uncertain times

04/09/2017Effective leadership in uncertain times

Dr David Beech, lecturer in people management at Salford Business School, argues that continuous renewal and progress is fundamental to effective... more >
Refocusing professional development

04/09/2017Refocusing professional development

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing l... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

public sector focus

View all News