The Government is introducing a new set of professional standards to drive “culture change” in children’s social work, in the wake of scandals including the revelation of widespread sexual abuse in Rotherham.
Announcing plans for a new assessment and accreditation system for three levels of professional practice for children’s social workers in England, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the changes would be accompanied by new freedoms for practitioners to innovate.
She said the Jay Report into Rotherham - which found that 1,400 children were groomed and abused over a 16-year period - showed there had been too much focus in social work departments on “reviews and audits and plans”, rather than frontline engagement with the young people and their families.
The announcement yesterday came as residents in South Yorkshire cast their votes to elect a replacement for Shaun Wright as the county’s police and crime commissioner. A low turnout is expected when the result is announced today in Barnsley.
Speaking to the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, Ms Morgan said it was “obvious” culture change was needed to ensure social workers’ activities are “consistently and unapologetically in the best interests of children and young people” and that “all concerns are taken seriously and acted upon by every tier of the profession”.
A new Approved Child and Family Practitioner accreditation will set “stretching” standards for all social workers dealing with cases of children in need or at risk of harm and children in care, said Ms Morgan.
Meanwhile, an Assessed and Accredited Supervisor status will be created for those managing frontline social workers. And a new role of Social Work Practice Leader will operate alongside local authorities’ directors of children’s services, with a focus on frontline practices in the local area.
Ms Morgan said that the three new standards will be based on a statement of knowledge and skills needed for children’s social work, due for publication next month. Details of the standards will be developed over the next few months and decisions made next year on the timetable for rolling them out.
“This is an opportunity for the profession as a whole and for individuals within it,” said Ms Morgan.
Meanwhile, Fiona Woolf faced fresh pressure about her role at head of a Government inquiry into child abuse after the chairman of an influential group of MPs said her attempt to detail her contact with former home secretary Lord Brittan tried to play down her links with the former cabinet minister and his wife.
A letter Mrs Woolf, the former Lord Mayor of London, wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May stated that she had no “social contact” with Lord and Lady Brittan since April 23 2013.
But the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said there were seven drafts of the letter and the final version “gave a sense of greater detachment” between Lord and Lady Brittan and Mrs Woolf than her previous attempts.
Mr Vaz had written to City lawyer Mrs Woolf after a photograph surfaced showing her chatting to Lady Brittan at a prize-giving last October. The letters were published yesterday.