I attended an event at Whitehall the other week, organised by Westminster Education Forum and focused upon ‘reforming child protection’.
What particularly struck me was given that at the core of social work, is reflective and systemic practice, there needs to be much more of a focus upon this as an approach to social work reform. The 'more for less' mantra accompanying austerity measures cannot preclude or excuse the level of interruption presented to effective practice. Unfortunately, 'resource review' includes colleagues bidding against each other for diminishing positions and subsequently working within diminished teams. I recall such an example, at a local authority forum event where a member of their team introduced themselves by name, adding "Last year, I was three people".
Not taking a systemic, reflective approach to social work reform is to deny the necessity of a parallel process from policy and decision makers through to strategists and is evident in the practice of managers and front line professionals, and ultimately in the experiences of children and young people. Perhaps paradoxically, it is those experiences - the real outcomes - that are being inspected and assessed and are the real target we are trying to reach.
Raising social work thresholds and restricting the cash flow to community based services, which are often the invisibly tireless 'early interveners', is creating a bottle neck...where the disparate group in the middle are squeezed off the radar, until tragedy or destruction force a responsive hand. A systemic approach to social work reform requires joining the dots between services, not as an echo of the ongoing rhetoric that is 'working together' but as an acknowledgement of social work in its broadest, deepest, richest, most valuable sense.
Longer version of this published in the event’s transcripts: http://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/forums/showpublications.php?pid=534
Strategic Development Executive