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

Academies mean councils struggling to take integrated approach to education

23/02/2018Academies mean councils struggling to take integrated approach to education

Councils are struggling to take an integrated approach to education in areas where high numbers of secondary schools are academies, a report by the... more >
Core Cities leaders press for domestic post-Brexit agenda after meeting with Barnier

23/02/2018Core Cities leaders press for domestic post-Brexit agenda after meeting with Barnier

Leaders and mayors representing Core Cities UK have met with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this week. The Brussels meeting saw leaders ... more >
DHSC seeks views on addressing care workforce challenges

23/02/2018DHSC seeks views on addressing care workforce challenges

A consultation focusing on the adult social care workforce has been launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), in partnership wit... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... 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 >
Academies mean councils struggling to take integrated approach to education

23/02/2018Academies mean councils struggling to take integrated approach to education

Councils are struggling to take an integrated approach to education in areas where high numbers of secondary schools are academies, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed. The ... more >
Core Cities leaders press for domestic post-Brexit agenda after meeting with Barnier

23/02/2018Core Cities leaders press for domestic post-Brexit agenda after meeting with Barnier

Leaders and mayors representing Core Cities UK have met with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this week. The Brussels meeting saw leaders of the 10 largest urban areas outside London discu... more >

the raven's daily blog

Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

11/12/2017Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

Jen Rae, head of innovation policy at Nesta, says the aims in the government’s new Industrial Strategy are ambitious, but will require a shift in policymaking in order to be realised in full. Last Monday saw the long-awaited launch of the UK’s new Industrial Strategy, the government’s plan for prosperity and growth in a ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

An unsettling finance settlement?

23/02/2018An unsettling finance settlement?

Piali Das Gupta, head of policy at Solace, looks over the final local government finance settlement and argues that it does not do enough to supp... more >
Finance settlement: a golden opportunity

23/02/2018Finance settlement: a golden opportunity

The local government finance settlement must enable counties to continue to be the engines of the English economy by providing a fairer funding a... more >
Data protection by design

23/02/2018Data protection by design

Nigel Houlden, head of technology policy at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), looks at how organisations can win back public tru... more >
Citizen-centric cities for a better tomorrow

22/02/2018Citizen-centric cities for a better tomorrow

Mark Collin, group director of Ventures at ThoughtWorks, discusses how governments can learn from a bottom-up, citizen-focused approach to d... more >

interviews

BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >
Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

19/02/2018Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

The NHS plays a part in keeping the country well – but when it comes to places and their people, local government has a major role to fulfi... more >
Are we taking a risk on education?

14/12/2017Are we taking a risk on education?

Adrian Prandle, director of economic strategy and negotiations at the National Education Union (NEU), questions the stark lack of announcements a... more >
A fantastic opportunity awaits you

11/12/2017A fantastic opportunity awaits you

Eight months on from the government’s announcement of major training reforms, Anne Milton, minister for apprenticeships and skills at the D... more >

public sector focus

View all News