Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Working Together

My trip to Italy and Austria coincided with the publication of the new Working Together guidance and I have only just had the opportunity to look at it in detail. 

What I liked:

  • The guidance is commendably short
  • There are two documents separating guidance on assessment from the general arrangements for ‘working together’
  • Vast swathes of ill-thought-out detailed guidance have been deleted, marking an end to governments’ attempts to micro-manage practice
  • There is no attempt (as there was in previous guidance) to impose a single monolithic view of how things should operate – rather the guidance seeks to set out the basics
  • Silly targets and time-scales have been eliminated

What I didn’t like:

  • Largely this new guidance is an edit – albeit substantial – of the previous Working Together
  • There has been little attempt to be original or innovative
  • The guidance still has the tone of civil servants and ministers ‘telling’ rather than creating documents which will be useful in practice
  • The ‘user-perspective’ seems to have been ignored – how easy will these documents be to use / understand / remember?
  • The truly awful flow charts – which do not conform to the usual flow chart conventions – have been retained
  • The definitions of physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse are relegated to a glossary – almost as if the authors didn’t want to be too obviously identified with documents about child maltreatment!

Critics are right to stress that this new guidance will not be a panacea. But then who expected it would be? It is a beginning not an end. 

I would also like to warn of a possible danger, namely that local officials will reinvent lots of the detailed guidance and incorporate it in local procedures. We need to devise ways of insuring that that does not happen. We want services that are driven by children’s needs, not by procedural manuals!

I will be taking a very careful look at the new guidance and responding to the public consultation. Can I suggest that you should consider doing the same, especially if you are directly involved in providing child protection services?