Saturday, 17 November 2012

Michael Gove identifies fifteen key failures of child protection

The gloves have come off – and Michael Gove has come out fighting. The Secretary of State for Education, and the most senior minister in the British Government with direct responsibilities for child protection, has probably shocked more than a few people with his combative speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research.

While there are a number of things in the speech with which I disagree (and which will be the subjects of subsequent posts), I have no real argument with Gove’s analysis. Indeed I think it is excellent and should form the basis of a long-term agenda for change.

Gove talks of “the failure of our current child protection system” and admits that the “… state is currently failing in its duty to keep our children safe”.

He identifies of fifteen key failures:

1.    Too many local authorities do not meet acceptable standards for child safeguarding

2.    Too many children are left too long in homes where they are exposed to neglect and abuse

3.    The rights of biological parents are often put ahead of those of vulnerable children

4.    Intervention is often too late

5.    Children are often returned prematurely to abusive homes

6.    There is a preoccupation with the smaller risk of stranger danger, resulting in an intrusive and inefficient bureaucracy that creates a false feeling of security

7.    We are not transparent about the mistakes that were made when things go wrong

8.    We do not learn properly from what went wrong to improve matters in the future

9.    We do not support the social work profession properly, nor have we modernised its ways of working in line with other professions

10. When children are taken into care we take too long to find them a secure and loving home

11. We don’t recruit enough foster parents for children with very challenging needs

12. We don't recruit enough adoptive parents – and treat those who do wish to adopt poorly

13. Children who are placed in residential care homes are not provided with sufficient support and security

14. Abused and neglected teenagers are not given enough respect or protection

15. Care leavers are not provided with a sufficiently clear and secure path to the future

In the past I have not infrequently disagreed with Michael Gove. On this occasion, however, I think his fifteen ‘failures’ are a most concise and accurate analysis of the key things that we should all be trying to change.