Former children’s minister Tim Loughton wants the recommendations made in the Independent Child Welfare Review to be used as a ‘platform’ to tackle a ‘crisis’ in recruitment and training. retention of child social workers.
He said that even though Review by Josh MacAlisterwhich includes a recommendation to improve the training and support of social workers, is “not really rocket science”, it is a useful start to addressing the challenges facing the profession.
“We are facing a crisis that is part funding, part morale and part respect for the profession and we need to use the MacAlister report to change,” Loughton said during a speech at an event hosted by the firm. social work consultant WillisPalmer.
He is also concerned that in recent years the national media has acted “as if it was the social worker who killed the child” when reporting on child protection cases.
Instead, he called for social workers to be seen as the “fourth emergency service”, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had “reinforced how crucial the role of social workers is”.
“Everyone was clapping for the frontline workers, but behind the scenes social workers were trying to uncover complicated scenarios in which children might be at risk where they weren’t always able to knock on the door in because of the restrictions in place,” said Loughton, who was minister for children from 2010 to 2012.
Despite the monitoring of closure of more than 1,300 children’s centers since 2010, the government has since committed over £300m to create family centers to accompany parents and children from birth to 19 years old.
Loughton urged ministers to ensure social workers are a key part of the support offered by the centres, to do preventative work with families rather than “fighting fires”.
The MacAlister Care Review recommends the government introduce a £2.6bn five-year plan focus on early support for families in difficulty.
The former children’s minister stressed the need to deploy social workers to centers to prevent mental health crises in families.
“Mental health crises take up a huge amount of police and A&E time when people should be in the mental health system and be supported before they reach crisis point,” said Loughton, who is MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and deputy chair of the cross-party groups on young people and care leavers.
Loughton also supported the role of soap operas and celebrities in conveying positive images of social workers and the issues they face, such as child sexual exploitation.
The media “can be used as a force for good” in this way, he added.