Failing councils should outsource child protection, say Tories

Failing councils may be forced to outsource their child protection services, the Conservatives said today. Under Tory proposals to improve child protection, social workers will be able to establish social work practices similar to GPs’ surgeries, and failing local authorities may be obliged to contract out all or part of their children’s social care provision.

The Conservatives argue that social work practices would reduce the high turnover of staff and absenteeism caused by heavy caseloads. Giving staff a stake in the practice would encourage them to stay put, “increasing the stability and consistency of care essential for vulnerable children”.

In the forward to the Conservatives’ new policy paper, Child Protection: Back to the Frontline, the shadow children’s minister, Tim Loughton, said there was still a lot to do.

“Despite all the investment, all the legislation, and all the hard work of professionals at the sharp end, the child protection system in our country is still not working properly,” he said. “It is not the quantity of legislation and regulation that is at fault but rather the quality, content and direction.

“Indeed, there is now a growing body of opinion that many of the structural changes that we have seen – and particularly the constant upheaval and drain on resources and morale – are actually undermining the effectiveness of child protection systems.”

The Conservatives’ plans would see the creation of a national post of chief social worker to raise the profession’s profile and status, the scrapping of the children’s database, ContactPoint, and the anonymous publication of all serious case reviews.

The Tories intend to overhaul the inspection regime and will second directors of children’s services and key social workers to Ofsted to help inspect councils other than their own.

“Just as school inspectors spend time in classrooms, so care inspectors should spend time with social workers on their rounds,” the report says. “In addition, inspectors should be obliged to examine joint working between social workers and other agencies to ensure that services are cooperating appropriately.”

The Conservatives have appointed Eileen Munro, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, to chair an expert panel on cutting bureaucracy in social care.