The Government has today published its response to Professor Eileen Munro's recommendations to reform the child protection system, set out earlier this year.
The response outlines the Government's intention, working with professionals, to build a system focused on the needs, views and experiences of vulnerable children. The Government will reduce central regulation and prescription and place greater trust and responsibility in skilled professionals and local leaders to bring about long-term reform.
Ministers agree with Professor Munro (pictured) that the current system is overly focused on complying with procedures and targets as a measure of success. The new approach is based on developing professional expertise and providing a range of help and services to children and families that meet all their needs.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "Today's response is the first stage of a journey which will fundamentally change the child protection system - we're not just tinkering at the edges and fixing short term problems. We are freeing hardworking social workers and other professionals from structures, procedures and rulebooks so they can do their best for vulnerable children and their families.
"This is a new mindset and a new relationship between central government and local services. I am determined that we build on the excellent work of Professor Munro and I trust the workforce to deliver the reforms without working to prescription."
Professor Munro will continue to advise the Government and will undertake an interim assessment of progress next year.
The response includes a commitment to slim down statutory guidance in the interim by December 2011 including removing timescales for assessments and removing the distinction between initial and core assessment.
The Government also announced it will appoint a Chief Social Worker to provide Ministers with a permanent professional adviser on social work, both children and adults, in place by the end of 2012.
Under the action points in the response, in future local authorities will have to appoint a practising senior social worker as a Principal Child and Family Social Worker.
In addition, all local services - health, education, police, probation and the justice system - are to be inspected on how well they protect children.
Ministers have also agreed to extend ongoing trials to give social workers greater autonomy so they can better exercise their professional judgment. Current trials in Westminster, Knowsley, Cumbria and Hackney have seen social workers completing assessments within timescales that they think would meet children's needs better.
The current trials will now run to December 2011, and be extended to five Community Budget areas - Hull, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth and Swindon. Evidence will be used to inform changes to the statutory guidance on assessment.
To read the Government's response in full, click here.