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The Final Report of Professor Eileen Munro's of Review of Child Protection, A child-centred system, is published today. Professor Munro's analysis finds that local areas should have more freedom to design their own child protection services and that ‘one-size-fits-all approach' to child protection is preventing local areas from focusing on the needs of the child.
The report signals a radical shift from previous reforms that resulted in too much bureaucracy and a loss of focus on the needs of the child. Professor Munro says that the government and local authorities should operate in an open culture, continually learn from what has happened in the past, trust professionals and give them the best possible training.
Professor Munro's recommendations are aimed at creating long-term change to the system. She recommends a fundamental shift in the way the child protection system works, to enable professionals to focus on the needs of children, young people and families and how to give them the best possible help.
The first report, published in October 2010, analysed why problems had come about in the child protection system and why previous reforms had unforeseen consequences. Her second report, published in February this year, considered the child's journey through the protection system - from needing to receiving help - to show how the system could be improved.
Professor Munro's final report makes 15 recommendations which are designed to change the child protection system from a compliance to a learning culture. Speaking about the culture shift, Professor Munro said: "It will require more determined and robust management at the front line to support the development of professional confidence. Given the considerable interest in the review, and the feedback I have received, I am confident that there are many people working in the sector who are capable and eager to take on this responsibility."
The recommendations include:
Revise statutory guidance and modify inspection process to encourage professionals to exercise their judgment on how to provide services to children and families.
Reduce targets, IT systems and "artificial set timescales" for professionals.
More regular reviews of cases and adoption of the ‘systems approach' to case reviews.
Increase focus on preventative services rather than reactive services. Identify children at risk of harm by increasing coordination of services.
Improve the training and continuing professional development for social workers.
Keep experienced social workers on the frontline and change the social worker career structure to encourage and reward growing expertise.
Designate a principal child and family social worker in each local authority to report the views and experiences of the frontline.
Creation of a Chief Social Worker for England to advise Ministers on what they can do to assist social workers in improving practice.
The NSPCC has responded by emphasising that the Munro Report is only the beginning of the process of reform. Chief executive Andrew Flanagan said: "The NSPCC supports Munro's vision of a child protection system centred on the child and free from unnecessary red tape. Social workers have become too focused on filling in forms rather than using their skills and judgement to meet children's needs. But her report is short on detail.
"The government should not move too quickly to rapid deregulation. It needs to invest heavily in building the skills, confidence and experience of all professionals working with children. Controls which safeguard against poor practice must stay in place while professionalism is built. Otherwise, children's lives could be put at risk," Mr Flanagan warned.
The government will work with a group of professionals from across the children's sector to develop a full response to Professor Munro's recommendations later this year.