Policy

Children's social workers

Issue

In the year 2012 to 2013, just under 600,000 children in England were referred to local authority children’s social care services because of concerns about their welfare. It is the role of social workers to lead the assessment of the needs of these children and make sure effective action is taken quickly to protect them from harm.

We believe children are best protected when professionals are clear about what is required of them individually and are able to work together in the interest of vulnerable children.

We are committed to raising the quality of social workers and clarifying their responsibilities in helping children. We also need to make sure social workers can exercise their professional judgement in the best interests of vulnerable children.

Actions

To make our child protection system more effective and improve the quality of the social work profession, we are:

  • enforcing revised statutory guidance which clarifies the responsibilities of different professionals in promoting the welfare of children and protecting them from harm
  • making sure that local authorities whose child protection services are judged not good enough by Ofsted improve immediately
  • continuing to reform the system of serious case reviews (SCRs) so social workers are able to learn the lessons from serious child protection incidents and improve future services
  • attracting high-quality graduates who want to enter social work through the Step Up to Social Work scheme and the Frontline pilot
  • introducing regulations so local authorities can delegate some of their work to private or voluntary organisations on a not-for-profit basis - they can delegate functions related to:
    • support for looked-after children
    • child protection
    • early interventions to give vulnerable children a better chance of staying with their families rather than going into care

Background

In 2011, Professor Eileen Munro ran an independent review of the child protection system. As a result, we:

  • revised statutory guidance on safeguarding children aimed at schools and local authorities in March 2013
  • established a national panel of independent experts that is providing advice to local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) about how to apply SCR criteria and the requirement to publish reports
  • appointed Isabelle Trowler as the Chief Child and Family Social Worker - she is in charge of reporting on how effective professionals are at helping children and families and she advises on good social work practice

These changes were implemented with the publication of ‘Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children’ in March 2013.

From December 2009 to March 2012, we ran social work pilots, which looked into the effects of allowing local authorities to delegate services for looked-after children to independent providers. A total of 15 local authorities participated in the pilot.

As a result of the pilots, we changed the law on 12 November 2013 to give all local authorities in England the freedom to delegate their functions relating to looked-after children and care leavers to independent organisations.

In February 2013, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove asked Sir Martin Narey to conduct an independent review of the education of children’s social workers. We published Sir Martin’s report in February 2014. The report gives 18 recommendations on how we can make the education of social workers more consistently effective.

In line with the recommendations from the Narey review, Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler produced the knowledge and skills statement on 31 July 2014. It sets out everything a child and family social worker needs to know at the end of their first year in practice.

Who we’ve consulted

The ‘Consultation on revised safeguarding statutory guidance’ ran from 12 June to 4 September 2012. It sought views on 3 statutory documents from LSCBs, local authorities, schools, social workers, and the voluntary and community sector, among others. As part of the consultation, we considered messages from children about the safeguarding and child protection system provided to us by the Children’s Commissioner and the Office of the Children’s Rights Director. The consultation received over 460 responses.

On 17 April 2014 we launched a consultation on proposals to allow local authority children’s social care departments to delegate some of their functions to third-party providers. The consultation closed on 30 May 2014.

From 31 July to 9 October 2014, we ran a consultation on the on the skills and knowledge statement. The statement:

  • sets out what a child and family social worker needs to know at the end of their first year in practice
  • informs the teaching content of qualifying programmes so they prepare students to become effective child and family social workers

Bills and legislation

Legislation about child protection is covered in:

Who we’re working with

We are working with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the Local Government Association and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) on reforms to the child safeguarding system.

We are working with the same organisations, as well as the Association of Independent Chairs of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, on reforms to the SCR system.

We are also working with Skills for Care to help employers introduce ASYE into their organisation.