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SOCIAL SERVICE DIRECTORS' SUBMISSION TO SEMINAR 3 OF THE VICTORIA CLIMBIE INQUIRY

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Submission of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) to ...
Submission of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) to

Phase Two of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry

Seminar Three - Determining Requirements

Introduction

Assessment comprises the comprehensive gathering of relevant information

from a number of sources and an analysis of its significance, which will

involve the exercise of judgement. Decisions can only ever be as good as

the information on which they are based, but errors will also occur if

there is a lack of rigour, knowledge or discernment in the weighing up

of the evidence and in the application of judgement.

Executive Summary

- The process of assessment is considered with some essential components

and factors that will influence the quality and actions resulting.

- The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their

Families is recommended for use by all agencies coupled with information

sharing protocols.

- Proposals are made to strengthen the qualifying training for social

care workers and for the selection and retention of staff.

- The resource implications of providing thorough assessments for all

identified children and necessary services need to be determined.

- It is suggested that ACPCs have statutory status and an enhanced role

in the performance management of the contributions of constituent

agencies.

Context

A dynamic process

Assessment of need is not static, even though it occurs at a particular

time. Some families and children will move across boundaries and will at

times need support and at others both support and protection. Social

workers and other professionals have the task of bringing order to what

may often seem a chaotic world. They will encounter pain, poverty,

muddle, ambivalence, evasion, hostility, violence, withdrawal and

seeming co-operation. Making an assessment in these circumstances is not

straightforward.

The effect of demand

When the scale of demand is greater than can be met and it is perceived

to be risky and complex, workers in all agencies feel under pressure.

When this happens the tendency increases to limit the acceptance of

responsibility and to define the problem as 'not mine' in order to avoid

being overwhelmed. This is particularly the case when there are acute

staff shortages. Rather then starting an assessment, effort is put into

transferring the responsibility. This can happen across geographical

boundaries as well as within and between agencies.

Understanding the impact of stress and anxiety in this context is

crucial. Evidence from studies about people under stress indicate that

they withdraw into themselves, look to close colleagues and team members

for support and tend to project their feelings of helplessness onto

others, hence: 'this task would be much easier if it wasn't for health,

schools, managers..' Understanding this process and working with it will

be critical to inter-agency and multi-disciplinary working.

Raising eligibility criteria is one way of deflecting demand and

targeting scarce resources on those most in need but this presupposes a

level of assessment in order to make a judgement.

Critical decision points

Decisions and judgements will often be made relatively early on in the

process as to whether a child is in need or also in need of protection

and this will have an effect on priority. The research behind the

Assessment Framework and Messages from Research shows that this split of

children in need and children in need of protection is a false

dichotomy. The differences of classification are subtle and liable to

vary with changing circumstances so that the thorough determination of

need promoted by the Assessment Framework is a key route to ensuring

children are safe. If the emphasis is on ascertaining and meeting need,

rather than focusing on a small top priority group, the dangers of just

falling outside this top group but still having significant unmet needs

are minimised. There are though considerable resource implications of

successfully broadening the focus in this way.

The importance of analysis

Any assessment tool must allow for new information to be considered in

the total context of what is already known about the child's experience

and when appropriate trigger a reappraisal of whether the child is safe.

Mistakes have sometime occurred because new information is seen as 'more

of the same' rather than a prompt for a re-evaluation of whether the

child's position is safe and sustainable. The quality of the analysis

is critical in any assessment. This has been highlighted in previous

inquiries but has not led to increased prominence in training courses or

to the development of tools to aid analysis. Workers need to be helped

with this task in supervision and to be able to recognise when a 'signal

has been passed at danger'.

Consideration of how and why mistakes occur and why workers do not on

occasions follow guidance should be part of core training. There is a

need for a commitment by government to further increasing the length of

training for social workers combined with an expectation by government,

employing authorities and staff to lifelong professional development.

It is interesting to note in this context that doctors, who have

specialised in psychiatry and psychotherapy, could well have undertaken

20 years virtually continuous training.

Key Questions

i. Having identified need, how can we ensure that the needs of each

child and their carers are properly assessed and an appropriate plan of

action put into operation and reviewed regularly?

Shared outcomes

There are no commonly agreed, owned and shared outcomes across agencies

with a requirement to report on linked performance targets and the

development of services by each agency which will contribute to

achieving those. See discussion and recommendations in ADSS submission

to Seminar 2, i.

Workloads

Workloads for all staff engaged in assessing children's needs should

build in time for the proper collection of information, analysis,

communication,planning and reflection for each child who is referred.

It is important that workloads allow for proper discussion between key

health personnel, especially hospital paediatricians, GPs, and social

workers, including attendance at strategy meetings and child protection

conferences. Teachers too need time to contribute in a meaningful and

informed way and should be released to attend meetings.

It has to be recognised that when demand exceeds supply, in this

instance, when the number of referrals requiring assessment exceeds the

availability of staff, rationing has to take place. Establishing

eligibility criteria is also a form on rationing and an attempt to make

clear to partner agencies the kinds of referrals that are likely to be a

priority for an assessment. It also has to be recognised that social

workers have to use their judgement, in consultation with their

managers, as to which cases are addressed first.

Workload measurement schemes that exist in SSDs are relatively

unsophisticated. There is no common understanding of what it is feasible

for a worker to achieve. The Assessment Framework was introduced without

an evaluation of the time it would take to complete an assessment using

this tool. In order to realise the aspiration of a thorough assessment

for each identified child and their carers, there needs to be a proper

determination of the human resources necessary to complete the work. A

pilot study is required to examine a series of excellent assessments

across a range of situations and determine the components necessary to

produce them. This would involve an estimation of the time taken to

produce each assessment to the required standard, which should then be

extrapolated by the known number of assessments made each year. This

would produce an approximation rather than an exact outcome, but unless

attempts are made to specify what is necessary, expectations are likely

to exceed delivery.

This analysis should lead to a benchmark or indicative figure for the

number of social workers required in a given setting working to a known

population. Clearly account will need to be taken of a range of factors.

Norms are set for the number of approved social workers, GPs and teacher

to pupil ratios. We would argue for a similar norm applying to social

workers.

Supervision

The task of the supervisor is broadly to ensure that the plan for the

child and family is being properly made and implemented. This is done

through monitoring the quality of the work effectively, sharing

responsibility for key decisions, constructively challenging judgements

and supporting the worker in implementing plans. Workers especially need

support when judgements or action are likely to be subverted by

hostility, threats of violence and intimidation. When individuals

experience intimidation, it requires a depth of training, knowledge,

self-belief and courage to withstand the tendency to withdraw, freeze,

become over compliant, inappropriately aggressive or assertive. A key

task is to ensure that organisations embed within their culture an ethos

of self-development, openness to learning, personal responsibility, team

working and crucially a focus on the needs of the individuals we serve.

Unless the culture is right, children's safety can be compromised. The

recommendations of the National Task Force on Violence against Social

Care Staff recognised and addressed this.

Another important consideration for supervisors and for the whole

organisation is to promote a learning rather than a blaming culture.

This is amplified in the publication by the Treasury 'Making a

Difference' which addresses the issues of vision and engagement.

Organisations must take responsibility for identifying when the

specified outcomes for a child are not being achieved and ensure a re-

evaluation and a change of direction. Individuals and the organisation,

through its monitoring processes, need to focus on whether the child's

quality of life has improved and be flexible enough to change the

original assessment and plan in the light of new information or if it is

not having the desired effect. This needs to sit alongside and be

consistent with individual and organisational accountability.

Review and audit

Assessments and the decisions that follow them should be reviewed

regularly to ensure that the stated aims have been achieved. When new,

significant information is received, it should be considered in the

light of the child's overall experience. Chronologies of incidents and

concerns should be maintained for each child and should be made

mandatory. Too often decisions are made on the basis of the latest piece

of information on a particular day without taking account of patterns of

behaviour or the social history. Workers may be inclined to limit the

extent of their own responsibility by looking narrowly at the newly

presented information, viewing previous concerns as already dealt with.

This approach fails to pick up or act on cumulative evidence which taken

together would indicate a different assessment and action plan.

Plans should stipulate the required outcomes for individual children,

the action required by whom and the mechanism and timescale for review.

If the required improvements for the child have not been achieved

despite the planned input, this is significant and will need to be

addressed. Independence is an important element in review and at regular

intervals someone not involved in the original assessment and decision-

making should undertake these.

Audit and performance management need to be more firmly embedded in the

methods and culture of organisations working with children in need and

this activity adequately resourced.

Recommendations by Agency

- A national outcomes-based strategy for children should be developed to

include child protection. For: DH, ACPCs, CYPU, DfES, Home Office, and

GSCC, LSPs, SSDs, Children and Young People's Strategic Partnerships and

all agencies

- A pilot study should be undertaken to determine the time and human

resources required to complete an assessment to the required standard,

with the results extrapolated, based on the known levels of need and

demand. For: DH, DfES, Home Office, GSCC with SSDs.

- The recommendations of the National Task Force on Violence Against

Social Care Staff be fully implemented. For: SSDs, PCG/Ts, Voluntary

Organisations.

- The use of chronologies of incidents and concerns on each child should

be made mandatory through Section 7 guidance. For: DH, SSDs

- Agencies should ensure that actions and outcomes for children are

regularly and independently audited. For: SSDs and all agencies

ii. Is the 'Framework of the Assessment of Children in Need and their

Families' appropriate and able to be used by all agencies in their

assessment of vulnerable children in a way that avoids the same

information being collected by more than one agency? If not, what are

the obstacles to its successful implementation?

Wider use of the Framework

The Framework is an appropriate assessment tool and could be mandatory

for all agencies. The three-dimensional approach is a helpful way for

all professionals to understand both the strengths in families and

communities and the extent of unmet need. However, it assumes sufficient

resources to assess and meet needs within tight timescales. Whilst other

Agencies are encouraged to contribute it is not a key part of their own

professional tasks and core practice. To be successful all agencies need

to accord the Framework the same priority and release resources as

required. This increases the resource pressures. The current reality is

different and the problem will be exacerbated if the discovery and

identification of children in need is improved.

The limits of prediction

The limitations of the tool also need to be appreciated. The Framework

does not focus specifically on risk assessment and management and would

be improved by the introduction of a section on the identification and

analysis how children might be placed on a continuum of risk. This

would span children in need as well as those who have reached a

threshold of significant harm. What it will not do is identify

accurately those parents or carers who will go on to seriously harm or

kill their children. Research indicates that it is virtually impossible

to predict reliably which children will in future suffer serious injury

or death (Little and Mount, 1999) While there are some factors that are

often present in families where children are killed or seriously harmed,

those same factors also feature in families who do not harm their

children. This is illustrated by Browne and Stevenson's study (in Browne

and Saqi, 1988), which found that for every correct prediction arising

from the use of a risk schedule, there were 36 incorrect ones.

Similarly the tool does not easily facilitate assessment when the risk

to the child is outside the family or friendship network and cannot

easily assist in predicting risk in those circumstances.

Prioritising children

Given the over representation of parental mental health issues in child

deaths, better access is needed to psychiatric assessments of the impact

of parental mental health on the safe care of children. Meeting the

needs of children must also be an explicit priority for substance misuse

service providers. Links between child care workers and Drug Action

Teams need to be strengthened.

Cleaver et al (1999) found in their review of the child protection

research that the prevalence of reported mental illness, problem drug

use including alcohol, or domestic violence increases incrementally as

an investigation progresses. They found, based on data from a number of

research studies, that parental mental illness was present in 42% of

cases that reached care proceedings. The comparable figure for alcohol

and drugs was 70%. Those offering services to vulnerable adults who are

also parents/carers need to focus more on safeguarding the child.

Changes are needed to eligibility criteria, reflecting more priority for

children. There is also a huge unmet demand for access to CAMHS

services, which are very pressurised. See discussion and recommendations

in ADSS submission to Seminar 2 i.

Listening to Children

In order to prioritise children and make effective assessments we (all

agencies) must make time and space to listen to children and must also

ensure that staff are effectively trained to listen not only to what is

said, but also what might be unspoken.

Sharing Information

In order for information on children in need to be collected by only one

agency, there must be a protocol for sharing relevant information

between agencies. Points and recommendations made in the paper on

Seminar 1.iv also address this question.

Recommendations by Agency

- The Framework to be made the mandatory assessment tool for all

agencies. For: DH, DfES, Home Office, SSDs, ACPCs, all agencies

- Eligibility criteria for accessing specialised assessments and

services from mental health services, CAMHS and substance misuse

services should be revised to ensure that the needs of children are an

explicit priority. For: SHAs, MH Trusts.

iii. Are changes needed to current training programmes? If so, which

training programmes and for which groups of staff?

Overview comments on training

As the Bristol Report indicated, children's services have not been a

priority in the Health Service. Until the recent initiatives starting

with the Quality Protects programme, looked after children and those in

public care have not been a priority. Children in need and vulnerable

children have also not occupied a high place in Government's priorities.

It is recognised that this has now changed. However, this change is

exemplified by a raft of new (welcome) initiatives. It has not yet been

translated into mainstream policy. This particularly applies in the area

of training.

More detailed comments follow but in summary we believe:

- Qualifying training should wherever possible be undertaken jointly.

This may be logistically difficult and there are vested interests.

Nevertheless ADSS believes it is essential. For example, why would it

not be possible for human growth and development to be taught to

doctors, psychologists and social workers? Similarly the aetiology of

abuse. The cross fertilisation from such training would be beneficial

for all disciplines.

- Throughout our submissions the ADSS has argued that true teamwork

comes from co-location, not structural reorganisation which would be a

huge and unnecessary distraction. The opportunity to work together on

cases, projects and crucially training, both qualifying and post-

qualifying, is essential.

- Elsewhere in the submissions we have highlighted the disparity in

training between social workers and other professionals. A 3-year course

goes some way towards remedying this, but it must be seen as a step on

the road, not an end in itself.

- Recruitment and retention of the highest calibre professionals into

social work, as with teaching and nursing, will only be achieved by a

thorough review of salaries. There are disproportionate incentives

taking high calibre people away from these professions into others,

arguably better paid and less challenging.

Qualifying training for social care staff

The task of assessing and meeting children's needs is not valued

publicly and consistently. The complexity is not reflected in the core

training for social care staff, though the new three-year course goes

part way towards this. Qualifying courses should be tightly performance

managed by the GSCC regarding the quality of teaching, the currency of

the evidence base, how students are assessed and the standards for a

pass. Students should be tested to ensure a good minimum level of

literacy, numeracy and ability to analyse, summarise, and record

succinctly and to develop and articulate a rationale underpinning

proposed plans. The training should also cover the roles and

relationships of other disciplines and their contribution to meeting

children's overall needs and for protection. The system of practice

placements needs to be strengthened and more rigorous. See ADSS

submission to Seminar 2 - Levels of Training and Core Knowledge and

Skills.

Selection of entrants

More graduate entrants to social care are required and workers in all

agencies need to be of good calibre and available in sufficient numbers.

There needs to be a much clearer definition of the skill set required,

the capabilities and the personality type best suited to different

aspects of the work and the level of intellectual ability required to

undertake the analysis of information the job requires. Entry

requirements for training could then be set accordingly.

Alongside this there need to be opportunities for those with fewer

formal qualifications to be recruited and trained with the aim of

ensuring a good mix of skills. Unless this is also in place recruitment

is likely to be more difficult and add barriers to recruiting a more

diverse workforce.

Vacancy rates and implications

Vacancy levels have been increasing in recent years and a recent

ADSS/LGA Survey showed this to be at 14.8% across the country, which

represents a shortage of around 2000 child care social workers. Results

from the 2001 Survey by the Employers Organisation showed 74% of SSDs

reported difficulties recruiting and retaining social workers. In the

same survey, in response to a question on skill gaps, social workers

were identified in particular as lacking in adequate professional skills

and qualifications. Turnover rates and retention difficulties tended to

be higher in London and the South East. There is as a result, intensive

pressure to recruit competent frontline staff and managers and a risk of

a competitive rather than a collaborative approach between London

authorities where workers tend to have a greater choice of local

authorities within travelling distance of where they live. The shortages

lead to a dependency on agency staff who require a high level of

professional supervision to ensure the quality of services.

The initial response to the recruitment campaign run by the Department

of Health has been encouraging, though interest will need to be

converted into a steady stream of good quality applicants.

Retention of staff

Workers in all agencies need to be well trained and well enough paid to

retain experienced workers in practice. One of the side effects of the

much valued Quality Protects programme has been to draw experienced

workers away from the front line to do a job which seems more manageable

and less risky for more money. Some new posts in Sure Start and

Connexions projects have also been attractive enough to have the same

effect. Skilled and experienced staff must be better rewarded in terms

of status, salary, training and balance of work so that there is are

incentives to remain in practice. In addition the positive aspects of

social work need to be emphasised to attract and retain staff. Immediate

assistance to local authorities to second significantly increased

numbers of candidates on social work courses needs to be provided.

Post qualification training

Post qualification training, across agencies is crucial and should

include how to access relevant evidence from research. This should be

part of everyone's expectations and seen as a shared individual and

agency responsibility. Multi agency training should be mandatory for all

relevant professionals, e.g. compulsory in service training days in

schools.

GPs, Accident and Emergency workers and school nurses have a broad

spectrum of training needs. Training to meet the needs of children,

including protection ought be given a higher profile. These workers are

often the first or only professionals to see non-accidental injuries and

those sustained as a result of domestic violence.

Recommendations

- Three year core training for entry qualification to social care to be

fully funded and performance managed. Consideration to be given to

extending this to four year qualifying training. For: DH, Treasury,

GSCC, NCSC, TOPSS.

- A thorough review to be undertaken of social workers' salaries. Career

grade opportunities to be available to encourage or enable experienced

practitioners to be retained. For: DH, Treasury, SSDs

- Immediate additional assistance to be made available to local

authorities to second unqualified workers on training courses as an

effective method of retaining competent staff. For: DH, Treasury

- Pre and post qualifying training to be undertaken jointly by relevant

professionals wherever possible. For: DH, ACPCs, all relevant agencies

- Make access to research evidence on children in need, including

protection a priority. For: SCIE, SSDs, all agencies

- Higher priority to be given to children in need, including protection

training specifically for GPs, A&E workers, paediatric staff and school

nurses. For: SHAs, Acute Trusts, PCG/Ts

- A Training Support Programme is needed for inter-agency training. For:

DH, Treasury

iv. How can agencies best organise themselves and the way in which they

handle their initial responses to concerns about children, regardless of

whether those concerns are raised by another professional agency or a

member of the public?

Sound Organisations

The first requirement is sound organisations, which are well led

politically and managerially. This is likely to produce stable

organisations both in terms of staff satisfaction, reflected in part in

low turnover, and in organisational structure. Whatever the benefits of

restructuring, the short term costs are often evident in deflection of

attention from the core task, high vacancy rates and low morale. The

work is inherently complex and challenging and workers need

organisational arrangements that offer security and stability.

Prioritising assessment

When the volume of work is high and staff time is insufficient to meet

all needs that are presented, resources should be front loaded to ensure

that initial assessments are carried out. This will then allow priority

for those whose needs are greatest. Depending on how short resources

are, this strategy could result in agencies being unable to deliver

vital services to meet assessed need. This would reduce the credibility

of the service and relationships between partner agencies and the

community. Issues discussed in Seminar 1 in relation to the balance of

available resources devoted to investigation as opposed to service

delivery are relevant here.

Critical choices about priority are often made at an early stage in a

case due to competing pressures. Taking the time to deal with one child

comprehensively has implications for the time available for other

children.

The corollary is that some children in need will be referred on to other

agencies and others will wait.

Links within and between agencies

It is often difficult to engage GPs in discussion about child protection

issues and attendance at child protection conferences. Their closer

involvement would improve the information base on which decisions are

taken.

As the management of schools is increasingly decentralised, the

communication links to other statutory agencies are becoming more

attenuated.

The links across service divisions for children and adults in SSDs need

to be enhanced and made more effective, particularly within mental

health and substance misuse services. Some good practice examples exist

of bringing mental health specialists into Investigation and Assessment

Teams as a way of bringing together the necessary skills.

All social inclusion projects need to be committed to agreed outcomes

across agencies for children with performance targets which specify and

measure what their contribution will be.

Inter-agency relationships and working across agency boundaries lie at

the core of an effective child protection system.

Recommendations

- Agencies need to devote sufficient resources to responding to initial

concerns but this should not have to be at the expense of delivering

services and treatment after assessment. Consequently there is a need

for greater investment. (see attached document ADSS/LGA Budget Survey)

For: SSDs, all agencies, DH, Home Office, Treasury

- All agencies should be required to prioritise the most vulnerable

children with performance measured against nationally agreed outcomes.

For: SHAs, Police, Probation, Schools, Housing Providers, Voluntary

Organisations, SSDs

- Although some new initiatives, like Sure Start and Connexions are not

specifically targeted at the most vulnerable children, all social

inclusion projects should address outcomes for children, including

protection, with performance targets which measure their contribution.

For: DH, CYPU, Sure Start, Connexions.

v. What are the implications for developing information systems to

ensure that assessments are properly shared, are acted on by those best

placed to do so and are regularly reviewed?

Developing IT systems

New electronic information systems should be developed in the context of

agreed inter-agency protocols. The complexity and expense of delivering

and implementing sophisticated IT systems needs to be borne in mind.

Local Authority and other public agency purchasing power is weak and

this has a knock on effect on the market. Systems used by partner

agencies will need to be complex, compatible, reliable and accurate.

Government could play a much bigger role in supporting the development

of such systems, given that it sets the parameters of the information

required, the sharing that is necessary and the scope of the task.

The recent introduction of new data protection and human rights

legislation has implications for the transfer of information between

agencies. This reflects the public concern for individual privacy,

rights and autonomy and sets limitations on information sharing.

Information sharing protocols will need to address this. See discussion

and recommendations in ADSS submission to Seminar 2, v.

Recommendation

- There should be long term investment in information systems, centrally

developed, which could be shared by all agencies with protocols to

support their use. For: relevant government departments

vi. Who should be responsible for ensuring that cases are properly

assessed, that appropriate action plans are in place and delivered to

agreed deadlines?

Responsibility

Each agency has to be responsible for delivering its own particular

contribution to the commonly agreed outcomes for children. Performance

indicators linked to outcomes should be developed by agencies with the

ACPC and overall performance reported regularly both to chief officers

in each agency and to the ACPC. It would not be appropriate to give a

single agency responsibility for the delivery of a multi agency

assessment and plan without the power to determine priorities and make

resources available.

Role of ACPCs

The role of ACPCs needs to be strengthened particularly in relation to

outcome setting and performance management of the respective

contributions of each of the agencies. The responsibility for delivery

should continue to be firmly located in each agency where the budgets

are held and the services provided. ACPCs need to explicitly link to all

other local arrangements between agencies for planning and providing

services to children and their families. ACPCs should have sufficient

resources to disseminate findings from research and case reviews,

provide multi-agency training and ensure that the arrangements for

monitoring performance across agencies are robust. The chair of the

ACPC, who may be independent of any agency, would have the

responsibility of presenting outcomes and linked performance monitoring

to the ACPC, the local authority Chief Executive, Director of Social

Services and Members.

Representation of all agencies on the ACPC should be at chief officer

level, and they would be accountable for the contribution of their

agency to outcomes for children, both to the ACPC and to their own

Members or Boards. This still leaves the vexed question of what

authority the chair of the ACPC has when an agency disagrees with a plan

of action or does not comply.

Outcomes for children and procedures would be nationally set and ACPCs

required to identify the contributions of all agencies to achieving

those outcomes. Any shortfalls in funding, access to services and

resources from any agency would be identified in the context of the

business plan. There is no reason why Health Act Flexibilities should

not be applied to child protection.

A Wider Role

Whilst discussing the role and function of the ACPC, the ADSS notes that

child protection committees are by and large the only forums in which

all agencies involved in child care meet. The ADSS encourages the

Inquiry to consider the options of recommending a broader role for ACPCs

into children's forums - in order to embrace the full children's agenda

and involve all appropriate agencies.

Multi agency working

Children in need and those needing protection are everyone's

responsibility and should have a high profile amidst the competing

priorities within agencies. The ADSS favours co-location of staff

wherever this is possible. We recognise that it is going to be difficult

to achieve in practice where there are scarce resources and

professionals have other duties, e.g. paediatricians, child and family

psychiatrists. We would still argue that a specific proportion of their

time could be allocated to a co-located team. We base our strong views

on the learning from other service areas, most notably mental health,

where co-location of teams has seen a real reduction in barriers and a

greater understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Clearly, as stated in previous submissions, we believe there is no need

whatsoever to change line management responsibilities. This would be

almost impossible to achieve given the range of professionals involved.

Multi-agency working, co-located wherever possible, is an essential and

much needed step forward.

Crucially, this needs to be linked to agreed outcomes. Providing

assessment and services for the most vulnerable children should be a

requirement of all partners and not simply that of a multi-agency, co-

located team - although clearly it would be one of their major

priorities. Agencies should not be able to place responsibility

elsewhere through passing information on to a specialist service. This

approach should be consistent nationally and not negotiated locally

Recommendations by Agency

- ACPCs should be given statutory status, and agencies should be

accountable for their contribution to achieving outcomes both through

their own accountability arrangements and to the ACPC. For: DH, DfES,

Home Office, ACPCs, SSDs and all agencies

- Further work needs to take place to develop an enhanced role for the

ACPC with agencies represented at chief officer level. For: Government,

SSDs, all agencies.

- Multi-agency working to support agreed outcomes for the most

vulnerable children should be mandatory, not discretionary. For: DH,

DfES, Home Office

- Wherever possible staff from key agencies should be co-located, if

necessary for part of their time, while retaining current line

management accountability. For: ACPCs, SSDs and all agencies

- Consideration should be given to widening the remit of ACPCs to

embrace the full range of children's issues. For DH, DfES, Home Office

vii. How should existing arrangements be adapted to ensure better

outcomes for children and their carers who are from different racial and

cultural backgrounds?

There is a lack of research evidence on the provision of good services

to black and ethnic minority (BME) children and families. BME children

need to be included in sufficient numbers in all research to allow

informed conclusions to be drawn about these groups. Although all

children have the same core needs, BME children are not a homogeneous

group. There is a complex interplay of heritage and culture, which

varies from group to group and from one religion to another. There are

implications for the skills needed by professionals where there is a

wide diversity of ethnic groups in an area as opposed to a substantial

community of one particular ethnic minority.

Recommendation

- Research and generation of good practice guidance in this area, drawn

from the experience of other European countries and the USA, to be

developed as a priority. For: SCIE

Table of Acronyms

SSD Social Services Department

DH Department of Health

ACPC Area Child Protection Committee

CYPU Children and Young People's Unit

DfES Department for Education and Skills

GSCC General Social Care Council

PCG/T Primary Care Group/Trust

SHA Strategic Health Authorities

MHT Mental Health Trust

CAMHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

NCSC National Care Standards Commission

TOPSS Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services

SCIE Social Care Institute of Excellence

IT Information Technology

BME Black and Ethnic Minority

References

Browne, K. and Saqi, S. (1988) 'Approaches to screening for child abuse

and neglect' in Browne, K., Davies, C. and Stratton, P. Early Prediction

and Prevention of Child Abuse, Chichester: Wiley and Son, pp.57-86

Cleaver, H., Unell,I. and Aldgate, J. (1999) Children's Needs -

Parenting Capacity, London: The Stationery Office

Department of Health (2000) Framework for the Assessment of Children in

Need and Their Families, London: The Stationery Office

Department of Health (1995) Child Protection: Messages from Research

London HMSO

Department of Health (2001) Report of the National Task Force on

Violence Against Social Care Staff, London: The Stationery Office

HM Treasury (2002) Making a Difference - Motivating People to Improve

Performance Report of the Public Services Productivity Panel, London:

The Stationery Office

Little, M. and Mount, K. (1999) Prevention and Early Intervention with

Children in Need, Aldershot, Ashgate

Michael Leadbetter

President of ADSS

27/3/2002

* see LGCnetfor 'VICTORIA CLIMBIE INQUIRY - UNION SAYS IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN'

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