There is a lot of good sense in the report of the House of Commons Education Committee on social work reform.
I liked the emphasis on joining up the profession across the divide between the Department for Education, which in England is responsible for children’s social work, and the Department of Health, which is responsible for social work with adults. I liked the recommendation that there be only one Chief Social Worker, standing outside government departmental structures.
The report rightly recognised that retention of experienced social workers is a key issue. That is most welcome. It also treated with some scepticism the Government’s heavy reliance on Frontline as an answer to the social worker shortfalls. That is very sensible. There’s no point training people if you don’t retain them!
But I’m saving the best bit to last!
The Committee strongly endorsed the evidence submitted by the Safer Safeguarding Group, of which I am a member, regarding the need for a just reporting culture in social work. In paragraph 74 of the report the Committee quotes directly from our evidence as follows:
“… developing a just reporting culture, in which people feel safe to talk openly about their mistakes, and a learning culture in which people can develop and grow, are key factors that will help children’s services departments retain valued members of staff.”
In similar vein, in paragraph 75 of the report the Committee recognises that a ‘blame culture’ exists within social work, which is a reason why experienced social workers leave the profession. The Committee recommends:
“Tackling the blame culture needs to be higher on the Government’s reform priorities. The Government should examine the benefits of a ‘just reporting culture’, as recently announced by the NHS, to move the sector towards a learning culture as recommended by the Munro Review.”
I hope the Government takes notice of this. It is vital that social workers (whether working in child protection or another field) can be helped to learn more effectively by the creation of a just reporting culture and that factors that frustrate learning are tackled as the highest priority.