New regulations on placements for children in care increase bureaucracy and divert council staff from frontline tasks, children’s minister Tim Loughton has been warned.
Coventry City Council has called for a review of elements of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, which came into force in April, claiming they cause a duplication of work already carried out by staff.
The council believes reductions in bureaucracy for social workers promised by the Munro review should be extended to rules concerning processes for children already in care, with an eye to similar reductions in red tape.
In a letter to Mr Loughton, Coventry’s children’s services lead Jim O’Boyle (Lab) criticised the revised role for independent reviewing officers. He said stronger guidance on placements - including those with foster carers already known to the youngsters in care - and more detailed changes in other social work practice in the new regulations were potentially unconstructive.
“I am concerned that the sheer weight of regulation and guidance in this area, their complexity and the bureaucratic and recording requirements that they bring with them will be counterproductive,” he said.
“Given the very evident pressures on our social care services it is vital that as much of the effort as possible is devoted to those things that we know children and families value most.
“The Munro review and its recommendations - which I welcome with enthusiasm - point us in a different direction.
“If that direction is right for our child protection and safeguarding services, then surely it must also be right for those services concerned with our very vulnerable children who are in our care,” he added.
“I do understand that we need to strike a balance between the kind of assurance that tight bureaucratic systems can give us and the need to allow our practitioners to do what they do best and which children and families value most.”
LGC understands that rather than being an isolated opinion on the part of Cllr O’Boyle, opposition to the guidance on placements is part of Coventry’s formal position.
Cllr O’Boyle said he had yet to receive a response from the Department for Education.
Children’s Minister Mr Loughton said the government had not introduced any new requirements on social workers or added to guidance.
“We have consistently said we will cut the unnecessary bureaucracy hampering social workers, freeing them to spend more time working directly with children and families. In place of previously confusing and ad hoc areas of guidance, the revised regulations and guidance published in April will reduce the bureaucratic burdens on frontline staff,” he said.
“In response to Professor Munro’s recommendations, we are also working to streamline guidance so social workers can spend less time filling forms and ticking boxes and more time helping vulnerable children and young people.”