Friday, 9 March 2018

Council Services on the Brink

Children and Young People Now reports that the opposition Labour Party has warned the British Government that an unsustainable situation is arising with demand for children’s services continuing to rise while funding cuts severely afflict local authorities.
There are no surprises in Labour’s report, which coincides with the Shadow Chancellor’s call today for the Government to ‘wake up’ to the severe impact of its austerity policies. The dark and depressing picture the report paints is broadly true. Many local authorities are in deep financial trouble.

A dictionary definition of ‘austerity’ is: “difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure”. Perhaps we need to start using a new word to capture the true circumstances of local authority services? ‘Penury’, ‘Destitution’ and “Impoverishment’ are some worthy candidates.

Mandatory Reporting dismissed - a good result

Having been busy moving house, I nearly missed some of the best news concerning child protection this year.

The Government has decided NOT to introduce Mandatory Reporting of child abuse and neglect in England. The response to the consultation concludes:

“Most fundamentally, the evidence and submissions received through the consultation has not demonstrated conclusively that the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty or a duty to act improves outcomes for children. This must be our guiding consideration when considering such a major reform of such a vital service.” (Paragraph 24).

I have long believed that Mandatory Reporting is a bad idea.

That’s not because I don’t think that practitioners should always report their concerns - I do - but because I think it is counter-productive to punish them if they fail to do so. Almost invariably practitioners fail to report abuse and neglect because they fail to recognise it, not because they recognise it and would prefer to do nothing about it!

Blaming people for making the wrong decision breeds defensive practice and creates a climate of fear in which people are unable to discuss their mistakes openly. That makes practice less safe.