Be more like family GPs when dealing with abused kids, child expert urges

BRITAIN’s leading expert in child abuse is calling for social workers to be more like family GPs—rather than focus on red tape, rules and service targets.

Eileen Munro, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, visited the Overland children’s centre in the deprived East End yesterday with Children & Families Parliamentary Under-Secretary Tim Loughton to see how the local authority was dealing with youngsters on their register of care.

Her interim report to the Government says professionals in health, police, and family support services need better access to social work advice if they have concerns about abuse and neglect.

“We need more efficient ways of helping families without getting tied up in red tape,” Prof Munro told the Advertiser on her visit on Tuesday.

“Social workers should be more like junior doctors referring individual cases to specialist experts.

“We’re not making good use of the care knowledge we have—we need GP-style practice in social services to put emphasis on the child.”

She had asked local authorities in October to suggest ways of simplifying care that would cut the red tape and focus on the child rather than administration.

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Tower Hamlets council, which has 319 children subject to protection orders, came up with simplified monitoring which looked more at the child’s real needs than on ‘ticking boxes’ to try and reach overall targets.

Prof Munro is a former social worker herself who undertook a study of child abuse inquiries which have been carried out over the past 40 years.

Her earlier report in October highlighted previous reforms which had led to social workers spending less time with vulnerable children and families.

Changes had been made since 1970 with ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to high-profile cases, such as ‘Baby P’ in north London in 2009, which had focused on parts of the system rather than all of it. She makes her final recommendations to the Government in the spring.