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CCN: Changes to innovate child social care must have a ‘clear objective’

Social services must introduce more innovation and new ways of working to improve care of vulnerable children, education secretary Nicky Morgan has said, but county councils have warned that “change should not happen for the sake of change”.

The new Children and Social Work Bill is designed to create a new ‘Power to Innovate’ to give local authorities greater freedom to test out new ways of working.

Morgan announced yesterday that Norfolk children’s services has started working with Barnardo’s to establish the first joint looked-after trust, and voluntary trusts are being established in Sunderland and Birmingham.

In her speech introducing the reforms, Morgan said: “I am determined to raise standards so that all vulnerable children get the best quality care and support – there can be no compromise. That’s why I am proud to be launching my plan for the widest reaching reforms to children’s social care and social work in a generation.

“This strategy will deliver a system staffed and led by the best trained professionals; dynamic and free to innovate in the interests of children; with less bureaucracy; new checks and balances designed to hold the system to account in the right ways; and new ways to intervene more quickly where services consistently fail our most vulnerable children.”

Other reforms include establishing a new specialist regulator for social workers and a national learning panel for high-profile cases of child abuse such as sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham, improving how agencies share information, and investment in graduate schemes and a new social work training programme to improve the status of social work.

The Department for Education is also piloting a new scheme to allow care leavers to stay closer to their care home in order to access support.

However, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, spokesperson for children, young people and learning at the County Councils Network, said that county councils had been “at the forefront of good practice and innovation for a number of years”.

“Change should not happen for the sake of change. While some councils may wish to pursue other models of delivering children's services, county authorities have the track record to drive transformational change, and already work in close collaboration with police and health partners,” he added. “It is imperative that the development of new delivery models are evidence-based and delivered through a staged process to ensure that vulnerable children and young people continue to receive the levels of care and support required.

“Such changes must have a clear objective, with improving outcomes for children at the centre of them. It is imperative that new models of service delivery are accountable to democratically elected local councillors.”

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