With two children of school age, Ofsted is a word that we know well so we were interested (and a little horrified) to learn that following an Ofsted-run review of UK children's services, 19 out of 74 were found to be "inadequate" and none were classed as "outstanding", Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to take action. A number of high-profile deaths of at-risk infants over the past few years has seen children's services thrust into the public spotlight and the latest announcement, which will allow high-performing local authorities, trusts or charities to take over failing children's services, is seen as a landmark reform. What, however, will these changes mean for those working in social work jobs who deal with vulnerable children and their families on a day-to-day basis? Let's try and explain:
Bridget Robb, the CEO of the British Association of Social Workers, has stated recently that, although government involvement in child protection and children's services is a positive step, the effective "privatisation" of the sector is unwelcome. She affirms that, rather than seeing children's services as failing and wading in heavy-handedly, the government would perhaps do well to scrutinise funding cuts within the sector and investigate the reasons why social workers are increasingly stretched as a profession. Read Ms Robb's comments here.
Vital children's services cut
Shadow Education secretary Lucy Powell waded into the debate last week, warning that Mr Cameron's proposals are merely smoke and mirrors, attempting to take focus away from the government's slashes to early intervention programmes, which play an important role in the prevention of young people entering care in the first instance. She pointed to the budget for children's services in the north-west, which received a shortfall of £160 million during the last five years. This directly impacts on the working conditions of employees in front-line social work jobs, who are dealing with closing children's centres and cuts in children's mental health support. Read her interview with Buzzfeed here.
Outsourcing children's services
The proposal to outsource children's services to trusts, charities and other bodies is not a new one. In education, David Cameron's "academy" brainchild is already being rolled out in schools up and down the country and is being heralded as a huge success. From this model, we know that management structures will be centralised and more graduates will be recruited into social work jobs. It remains to be seen whether these reforms will provide the investment that vulnerable children and their families so desperately need. The Guardian is wary; you can read Patrick Butler's commentary here.
What do you think?