Chess pieces on a black and white board

Can David Cameron’s child protection task force achieve quality in children’s services?

When a proposal was made in 2014 that accredited standards for social work would be introduced by the Department of Education through the Chief Social Worker for England, I saw real potential for promoting social work excellence in children’s services.

Furthermore, this proposal could significantly assist in enhancing the status, standing and standards of social work with a positive impact in addressing some of the professional and contextual issues for social work practice.

Recently Prime Minister David Cameron announced a new Child Protection Taskforce to drive forward fundamental reforms to protect the most vulnerable children in our society and give them the opportunity to succeed. Again, this was an announcement that I welcomed to drive forward the Munro recommendations.

Cameron said: “Through this work we will accelerate our current reforms to children’s social work, and will overhaul the way that police, social services and other agencies work together locally.”

I followed social media responses from my colleagues regarding this suggested task group idea and had many face-to-face discussions on the subject. On Twitter and LinkedIn, I said: “We need a social worker on the task group… knowing, feeling and having the knowledge to inform actions.”

Meanwhile, one social worker voiced a common message: “Why should I be concerned with who makes up this task group?”

And this latter comment prompted me to write this blog.

The majority of social workers have already participated in a task group, but may not have called it by name.

Knowing the skills that contribute to being an effective social worker, manager or leader will help to ensure that this task group experience is positive and productive for social work in the UK. The focus needs to be kept firmly on vulnerable children and their families and on social work as a profession.

In my view task groups are collections of individuals brought together to accomplish a specific action or produce a product. Running an effective task group takes many different skills. Developing an awareness of the ingredients that go into a successful task group remains crucial. In this case it’s the ingredients that comprise social work.

Five areas that are frequently cited by the experts on task groups are the five Cs: Control, Conflict, Communication, Consensus, and Cohesion.

It is well known that the five Cs can make or break a task group experience. Groups are dynamic and fluid, which often means that the five Cs will be interrelated and interconnected. All can ultimately influence the level of success the group will have in attaining its goals.

Therefore, as a social worker on Cameron’s task group it is the thinking, feeling and knowing aspects that will assist with the pitfalls that we as social workers with our partners experience daily; doing our best to keep children safe and supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

Knowing this and some strategies learnt already as part of our improvement planning and in our day-to-day practice will and can help with the preparation of children services and its future.

The task force’s terms of reference are reported to drive improvements in the protection of vulnerable children by:

  • promoting innovative models of delivery
  • overhauling the way that police, social services and other agencies work together locally
  • extending and accelerating reforms to the quality of children’s social work practice and leadership.

In many ways we have seen the first two points developed during the past few years in the UK in the form of Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH), Early Help Hubs, Partnership Locality approaches and Public Service Reform.

These all are innovative models that have sprung up following the coalition government reviews and where partners have responded collaboratively and in integrated ways through the sharing of information and joint locality approaches to keep children and their families safe.

Though much more work is needed to ensure these models are sustainable, we have seen in practice great benefits and partnerships making a difference. These are models of good practice in my opinion that need to be built on and taken into consideration by the task group.

As partnerships we must maintain influence though innovation and quality and always strive to push for better.

My follow up blog will address my views on point 3 of the terms of reference.

By Marisa De Jager