Over the years the social work profession has seen many changes, not just in the way the profession is structured but in law, policy and procedures.
The work done by social workers is difficult and complex, involving intimate work with the most vulnerable and then working and balancing a complex local authority environment while ensuring partnerships are maintained.
Lately there has been significant media coverage devoted to the failings of some local authorities to protect children. The Jay report into the tragedy in Rotherham showed us that it was not a lack of focus on child sexual exploitation that did the damage, but a lack of “effective focus”. We saw a large, multi-agency partnership response focused on increasingly distracted activity that failed to deliver positive change for children or their families.
Breaking the Lock
In April 2015 the ‘Breaking the Lock’ report was released, which explored the challenges faced by children’s social care. This report argues and evidences a new model that is financially sustainable and improves life chances for children, calling for the inspection process by Ofsted to modernise. It offers a vision of what a future sustainable model of care should be. The model proposed is a major shift towards integrated prevention and early help for vulnerable families, the need for which has been highlighted successfully by the government’s Troubled Families Programme.
There have also been several reports since 2012 that commented on the benefits and challenges of implementations of Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) and connected business areas.
Multi agency working
The concept of multi-agency working arrangements used as the opportunity for practitioners to support and clarify the nature of concerns and identifying the most appropriate way to respond to them have many good story examples.
Joint arrangements for safeguarding those in need of protection are now much improved and working well, through the development of ‘Front Door’ arrangements and implementation of MASH and pathways to and from complex dependency and Early Offer arrangements. It is anticipated that these new arrangements and integrated working will strengthen and improve decision making and information sharing around early help and issues of harm, risk and need by partnerships.
Prevention and early interventions
At a time of budgetary constraints considerable efforts are being made by local authorities and their partners, including the third sector, to ensure the retention of a wide range of services to support children and families. Alongside this we still need to do more to promote better decisions and joint working to provide the right help at the right time for families and ensure all arrangements embedded in practice can be sustainable. This way children will receive the support they need at the right time and in the right way regarding prevention and intervention services.
In addition, children’s social care and Ofsted need to modernise to reflect the reality of the public sector’s financial climate and the growing complexity of needs that vulnerable families have.
Practitioners on the frontline responding to the needs of children and young people require an effective approach embedded locally and guidance providing clarity. With this its ownership can be fully embraced and adopted by social workers and their partners.
Equally, the newly elected government plays a key part and should prioritise the safeguarding of vulnerable children.
The fundamental disconnect between Ofsted and local government and a clear dysfunction needs to be urgently addressed.
By Marisa De Jager