Education & Family

Child protection bureaucracy in England is cut

Child in distress
Image caption Ministers say social workers will be able to focus on vulnerable children and their families

Social workers in England are to be "freed from pointless bureaucracy", the government has promised.

Ministers plan to overhaul the child protection system by replacing more than 700 pages of instruction manuals with three short documents.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton said social workers would be "free" to do their best for vulnerable children.

The British Association of Social Workers said members were overburdened by "unmanageable" case loads.

The new guidance for social workers follows a review last year which said social workers should be freed from government red tape.

In the wake of the death of Baby Peter in Haringey, London, Education Secretary Michael Gove asked social policy expert Professor Eileen Munro to assess the child protection system in England.

In her review, Prof Munro said the system had become preoccupied by individuals "doing things right" rather than "doing the right thing".


Now ministers have responded by announcing that three guidance documents, which together total 68 pages, will replace more than 700 pages of current guidance.

Mr Loughton said the planned overhaul would help groups involved in safeguarding children - including teachers, youth workers, police and social workers - to carry out their work without being hampered by unnecessary bureaucracy.

He said: "I believe the changes proposed today will free hardworking social workers and other professionals from structures, procedures and rule books 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 the need for excessive central prescription."

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said its members would welcome less time spent on administration, but raised concerns about government cuts and heavy workloads.

BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: "Tim Loughton is being utterly disingenuous in suggesting this move is anywhere near enough to make a difference to the real concerns that social workers have identified - namely unmanageable case loads, stress, plummeting morale and cuts to administrative support staff.

She added: "We are concerned that there has been no meaningful consultation on reducing this guidance with front-line practitioners.

"Indeed, we have spoken to social workers who say that they don't even support this particular approach to reducing the length of the guidance.

"Reducing guidance is undoubtedly part of the solution, but it has to be done in the right way.

"For Mr Loughton to say that social workers should 'now step up to the challenge' is cruelly unfair at a time when cuts are ravaging their ability to protect vulnerable children and adults."


In a survey of 1,100 UK social workers last month, the BASW found 88% thought government cuts were putting vulnerable children's lives at risk.

And 54% said their case loads were "unmanageable".

Commenting on Mr Loughton's proposals, Prof Munro said: "This draft guidance is proof that reforms are rightly moving the focus of help and protection firmly onto children and young people.

"We are finally moving away from the defensive rule-bound culture that has been so problematic.

"I believe an urgent culture change in our child protection system is now under way."

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