Resource implications cannot be ignored after MPs express safeguarding fears for older children
BASW welcomed a report by MPs highlighting failings in the care system for older children, but warned the situation would get worse unless the government recognises the urgency of the dangers facing the child protection system.
The report published by the House of Commons Education Select Committee after a year-long inquiry, calls for an urgent review into child protection to ensure the needs of all children are met.
It comes in the wake of shocking high-profile cases involving the abuse of older children, including sexual exploitation of girls in Rochdale and the Jimmy Savile allegations.
BASW’s professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: "There is not nearly enough focus on the safeguarding needs of older children, as was highlighted by the sexual exploitation case in Rochdale.
"We support the findings of the Education Committee, but BASW has very real concern that the plight of older children in need of protection will only worsen in the current economic climate.
“Ministers simply must put their money where their mouth is. BASW knows from what our members told us in our State of Social Work survey that there have been huge cuts in the support social workers receive, from not filling vacant posts through to deep cuts to administrative staff – the situation facing older children won't improve while social work services are cut to the bone.”
BASW is concerned that some young people – including those at are risk of self-harm or feeling suicidal - are waiting to be assessed while homeless or living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.
Recent changes to legal aid have also rendered the plight of children seeking asylum one of ever-greater desperation with less protection provided.
Ms Mansuri added: “Thresholds for neglect must be looked at again, as too many young people are going without support. Current draft plans for the Working Together guidance will see a watering down of the ability of professionals to get involved since they don't even cover issues such as child trafficking or child sexual exploitation."
The Education Committee’s report, Children First – The Child Protection System in England, says older children are too often let down, frequently ignored and pushed out of care too young without sufficient support.
The Committee’s report examines three key themes: neglect, older children and thresholds for intervention, taking children into care and adoption.
Among other findings, it said care should be considered as a viable positive option at an earlier stage for some children and called on the government to monitor the impact of cuts to services on child safeguarding on the care system.
It also calls on ministers to review the impact of immigration policy on the plight of asylum-seeking children and those that fall prey to trafficking.
Committee chair Graham Stuart MP said: “Whatever your view on the cuts it is essential that the children in our society most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation are not the ones to pay the price. These children must be first and foremost in the minds of councillors and ministers so that the welcome improvements we have seen over recent years are maintained and built upon.”
The Committee made it clear in its report that more needs to be done by central and local agencies to raise awareness amongst children of the nature of abuse and how it might affect them, and to encourage self-referrals. MPs suggested there are many specialised forms of abuse which many practitioners may rarely come across and called on The College of Social Work to be required to co-ordinate and promote awareness of CPD training in this area. The report said local authorities should nominate a specialised child abuse practitioner to lead in their area.
The Committee also made a number of recommendations around ensuring that the referrals process makes better use of intelligence from teachers and doctors and to improve co-ordination between agencies. The report strongly urges moves towards multi-agency co-location and more integrated services where all children receive help regardless of thresholds.