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Professor Eileen Munro has published the first part of her review of how to remove the barriers and bureaucracy in child protection services.
Part One: A Systems Analysis seeks to understand why previous reforms have not led to the expected improvements to practice and outcomes. At this stage the report is purely analytical and does not contain recommendations for change.
Professor Munro concludes that while previous reforms were well intentioned and often well designed, they were frequently made in isolation and in response to specific incidents. She says the cumulative effect of this has been to create an imbalance at the front line where professionals focus more on complying with process and regulations than to providing a service that meets the needs of children and young people.
The report highlights the views and experiences of social workers and others, who suggest that an over-bureaucratised system, focused on meeting targets, has reduced the capacity to spend time with children and young people.
The review was announced by the government in June and will consider changing the case management structure from social workers functioning within a hierarchical structure to working in small autonomous teams of five that handle cases together. Each team has an administrator who does the paperwork allowing the social workers to spend more time with vulnerable children.
This model has been successfully piloted in Hackney where the number of children put into care has drop by about a third since being introduced.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton welcomed Professor Munro's initial findings: "She has started to expose the underlying causes of what has gone wrong in child protection. I have spent the last week shadowing social workers in an immersive exercise to see what happens at the sharp end. Social workers need to have the confidence to make tough decisions and make a positive difference."
Professor Munro is due to submit her final report in April 2011.