Government reform delay leaving children at risk

The Public Accounts Committee has warned that the government's failure to develop ‘credible’ plans to improve child protection is leaving children ‘at risk of harm’.

Despite the government reassuring that it has a relentless focus on keeping children safe, the group of MPs have called for ‘urgent action’ to be taken, including the publication of detailed plans to transform child protection services.

The committee highlights ‘slow’ progress on the government commissioned Munro Report, first published in 2011 to address the issue of child protection and concluding that a major overhaul of the system was necessary.

Professor Eileen Munro’s report called for social workers to be freed from excessive bureaucracy, centrally imposed targets and regulations so that they could spend more time on face-to-face work with families and at-risk youngsters.

The latest report from the committee acknowledges that children in need of help or support are among the most vulnerable members of our society, often facing neglect or abuse, but the services for the nearly 800,000 children in need of help or protection every year have not been good enough.

Stating figures that show how only 23 per cent of services are judged by Ofsted as Good, the group said the Department for Education was being ‘worryingly complacent that nothing can be done to improve services more quickly’.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Government complacency over improving children's services must end now. There are nearly 800,000 children in need of help or protection every year—children who for far too long have been let down by the support available.

“It is completely unacceptable that, six years after the launch of a major review of child protection services, so little progress has been made. The government has now set itself a target of 2020 to transform the system, a time frame which better serves Whitehall than it does vulnerable young people in need of help.

“Even then there is a serious risk of past mistakes being repeated. For change to be effective it must be based on evidence of what works, a point government accepts but has yet to act on properly. When things are going wrong locally it must intervene earlier—and to do that, it must use the information available to monitor and address emerging problems.”

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