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Child protection review criticises box ticking

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Social workers should spend less time filling in forms and more time talking to children, the head of an independent review into child protection in England has said.

Professor Eileen Munro, left, also wants to strip Ofsted of the power to evaluate reports into the deaths of abused or neglected children.

And the regulator should scrap making pre-planned checks on children’s services in favour of unannounced visits, the review found.

Another move being given consideration is a test of the difference that relaxing rules around certain statutory processes could make to social workers’ ablity to use their own judgement to improve outcomes in child-protection cases.

That experiment would see staff at Cumbria CC, Knowsley MBC, Westminster City Council, Hackney LBC and Gateshead Council given temporary leave to ignore statutory guidance on when to hold particular conferences and complete assessments in a bid to test whether such freedom allowed them to better meet children’s needs.

Prof Munro’s report also stressed the importance of having a management and inspection process that monitors whether children are getting the help they need, rather than being a “tick-box exercise”.

She said: “Everyone in the profession can think of meetings and forms that don’t actually make a child safer.

“Whilst some regulation is needed, we need to reduce it to a small, manageable size.

“Professionals should be spending more time with children, asking how they feel, whether they understand why the social worker is involved in their family, and finding out what they want to happen.

“Placing a timescale on completing a form puts pressure on professionals which can distract from making decent quality judgments.”

Her second interim report found that experienced social workers should be kept on the front line to supervise more junior staff.

It also stressed the importance of giving health, police and family support professionals easier access to social work advice when they have concerns about abuse and neglect.

The Munro Review of Child Protection was created following a number of high-profile cases in recent years that have highlighted failings in the protection of young people.

Baby Peter died aged 17 months in August 2007 having sustained more than 50 injuries at the hands of his abusive mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton (Con), right, said: “Professor Munro has identified areas where professionals’ time is being wasted and children’s needs are not being properly identified.

“I welcome her approach to getting help to the neediest children and families as early as possible, and recognising that child protection is not just the responsibility of social workers.”

Prof Munro will submit her final report in April.

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