In Education Questions last week, Emma challenged the Secretary of State for Education over a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report which has judged child protection ‘services to be “unsatisfactory and inconsistent”, suggesting “systemic rather than local failure.”
The independent report, Children in Need of Help or Protection, looked at the quality of care provision for children who use or want to access social services.
It found that despite investment, government initiatives and reforms over the last 6 years have not yet resulted in good outcomes. At least 20% of local authorities inspected were judged inadequate and only 23% of all authorities inspected received a Good judgement.
The Government has made huge cuts to local authority budgets despite the fact that the demand for help or protection is rising. The number of children in need of help or protection in England is fast approaching 400,000 and they are just the children known to services.
Over the last 10 years there has been a marked rise in serious cases requiring children to be protected from harm. The rate of enquiries made by local authorities when they believe a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm increased by 124% and the rate of children starting on child protection plans rose by 94%.
The report found that Children in different parts of the country do not get the same access to help or protection. There exists a post-code lottery of service and the quality of care is too variable.
The report also found that social workers are hugely over-worked. High caseloads, vacancies and an increase in use of agency workers has adversely affected the quality of services. Social workers work in pressured circumstances that can sometimes lead to low morale, high vacancy and turnover rates, and a reliance on temporary staff. Ofsted has found local authorities it judges Good tend to be the ones that give their social workers manageable caseloads
You can read Emma’s question and the Minister’s response by clinking here:
Following Educations Questions, Emma said,
“It’s not enough for the Secretary of State to simply acknowledge there is a problem in childcare services when this has been known to all of us for many years. This Government needs to act on the findings of this report which shows that despite their efforts, their plans to improve services for our most vulnerable children are not working well enough or fast enough.
In July 2016, the Government set a goal that all vulnerable children, no matter where they live, should receive the same high quality care and support by 2020. Yet they have devised a clause within the current Children & Social Work Bill which aims to allow different local authorities exemptions from child protection laws. This move alone flies in the face of their empty promises to provide consistent provision for children and it’s also very dangerous.
If the government really wants to achieve its goal, it would listen to social workers and those on the front line who know exactly what is required to improve care for all children. This is an urgent situation. The government need to stop talking about the problem and start acting and delivering on their responsibilities.”