Place more children in care, says Barnardo’s Chief Executive

Posted on June 28th, 2010

Martin Narey, Chief Executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s has entered the debate over Children’s Services by stating that 1 in 3 children who should be taken into care are being left with inadequate parents.

Narey, whose previous position was Director General of the Prison Service said the conventional wisdom of ‘social services’ was, “…outdated and placed too much premium on keeping the birth family together”.

Narey has called for greater early intervention, saying that leaving the child with the parents, only to intervene later costs Children’s Services up to an extra £33,000 per child per year.

Narey also called for more looked after children to be placed in residential care as opposed to fostering.  Almost 75% of all looked after children are in foster care, with only 13% in residential settings.

Think-tank Demos published a report commissioned by Barnardos this week which corroborated many of Narey’s statements. The report called for earlier intervention, fewer family placements and upping the age of leaving care from 16 to 18 years.

The report also warns of the dangers associated with the budget cuts faced by care services.  According to Demos,   “The temptation to intervene later and cut frontline spending for vulnerable children would be a counter-productive cost cutting exercise”.


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Chair of Education and Children’s Social Services Inspectorate resigns

Posted on June 28th, 2010

Zenna Atkins resigned as chair of Ofsted last week, amid speculation over the future of the inspectorate.

Zenna Atkins had been the chair of Ofsted since September 2006, and was the organisation’s first ‘chairperson’.  Atkins said in a statement that she had left the organisation to head a ‘global education provider’. She also said that, “Ofsted has achieved much of what I hoped it would achieve.”

Her departure comes in the same week that ministers hinted at their intention to replace Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert. Gilbert has stated that she intends to stay until the end of her contract, which runs until October 2011.

Atkins chaired Ofsted through many changes, including the merger of the Schools Inspectorate with the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2007. She was renowned for being outspoken, and often criticised the Civil Service culture.

Non Executive Board Member John Roberts said “Zenna has helped transform Ofsted in her role as its first Chairman. Working closely with HMCI, she has overseen the development of world-class inspection systems, including doubling the classroom observation time in school inspections and the introduction of unannounced inspections of front-line Children’s Services contact, referral and assessment arrangements, helping to ensure the most vulnerable are better protected.”

Ofsted has been criticised heavily in the last 18 months, most notably over the handling of children’s social care inspections during recrimination over the Baby P case.


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Front Line Social Workers Left Feeling Powerless in Child Neglect Cases

Posted on June 1st, 2010

Action for Children, formerly known as NCH, released figures this week showing that front line Social Workers and Police officers often feel powerless to intervene in cases of child neglect.  The children’s charity surveyed 490 Social Workers and Police officers from across the UK.

The survey revealed that 16% of Social Workers reported a rise in the number of cases of suspected child neglect over the last year.  This is supported by a report by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, which stated that the number of cases where members of the public and other professionals had brought children to the attention of Social Workers had risen by 25% since the death of ‘Baby P’ 2 years ago.

The research also reported that 37% of the professionals surveyed felt that they had been unable to tackle suspected child neglect early enough to protect the children involved.  50% said early intervention was vital to adequately protect vulnerable children.  Nearly 60% of those surveyed also said that the amount of paperwork, coupled with staff shortages was preventing them from spending enough time with families.

Hugh Thornberry, Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children said, “The threshold for intervention is not a clearly defined line because the symptoms of neglect are chronic rather than acute; professionals on the ground are telling us that they report cases to local child service departments, then have to stand back and watch as nothing happens…  In acute cases of abuse, where there is an unexplained injury, help will be given very quickly, but children suffering ongoing, chronic cases of neglect slip under the radar”.

Colin Green, head of policy for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ safeguarding and child protection team said “The problem is that workload is up in all categories of child protection.  The debate we need to have is about capacity in a very stressed system where tough decisions have to be made based on priorities.”


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