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LGA calls for scrapping of Laming’s initial assessment plan

Social workers should be given the freedom to process referrals using their own discretion and the requirement to carry out a formal initial assessment should be scrapped, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

It is calling on the government to revise a recommendation by Lord Laming in his March 2009 report, The protection of children in England: a progress report, written in the wake of the Baby Peter case, that any referral made by another agency, such as the police, should automatically result in an initial assessment by social workers.

Under a five-point plan, drawn up after research showed initial assessments would rise by 91% across the country and would require an extra 2,000 social workers, the LGA is also calling for interim funding of £116m to fund the reforms, which includes an estimated £75m to pay for work generated by extra initial assessments if the government decides not to scrap Laming’s recommendation..

The research by Loughborough University into the implications of implementing Lord Laming’s report, which made 58 recommendations accepted by the government, was commissioned by the LGA.

It found on average just 13% of time taken to complete an initial assessment is spent with

the child or family but 87% is spent on paperwork and process.

The most common reason social work teams feel they are pushed beyond the number of cases they can reasonably manage is an increase in statutory work, include handling a rise in referrals following the Baby Peter case. This is seen to have a greater impact than staff vacancies or sickness absences.

Councillor Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA Children and Young People Board, said: “Children who are at risk and families which are struggling will benefit more from additional time with experienced social workers than they will from an increase in the number of forms filled in about them. Some paperwork is essential to doing the best possible job, but it is right to try to reduce bureaucracy where it can ease the pressure on social workers and increase the quality of care offered to children.

“It is time to show more trust in our social workers to do the right thing for children. It is time for professionals like the police and health service workers to step up to the mark and show they understand the part they have to play in helping social workers reach the most vulnerable children first.,” she added.
“The aim now is to find the right way forward, to make services that protect children the best they’ve ever been while properly supporting the people who do this vital work.”

The LGA’s five-point plan

• Give social workers more power to process referrals in the way which will best help the child, using their own discretion, and scrap the requirement to always do a formal initial assessment.

• Have all professionals record information in the same way using the Common Assessment Framework, to reduce time cross-referencing information.

• Increase the part played by other bodies, such as the police and health services, in making decisions about a child’s needs.

• Reduce the 200 pages of guidance for child protection to a target of 100 pages

• Provide interim government funding of £116m to councils to plug the gap created by social work reforms and to pay for recommendation 19 if it is not amended