Munro Review Resource Page
Final Report of the Munro Review
Interview with Eileen Munro about her Interim Report on child protection
Eillen Munro's Interim Report on Child Protection
Eileen Munro's initial analysis of the child protection system
Munro Review Focus Revealed
The Final Report of the Munro Review of Child Protection makes 15 key resomendations that Eileen Munroe believes will "help shift the child protection system from being over-bureaucratised and concerned with compliance to one that keeps a focus on whether children are being effectively helped and protected."
She also also wrote that although "This move from compliance to a learning culture will require those working in child protection to be given more scope to exercise professional judgment in deciding how best to help children and their families." she is confident the considerable interest in the review shows that "there are many people working in the sector who are capable and eager to take on this responsibility."
The review's final report key finding are:
- Local authorities should be given greater freedom to develop their own approaches to handling case work, rather than being bound by statutory guidance.
- Councils should develop ways of keeping experienced senior social workers in front line work so they can better supervise junior practitioners.
- The excessive burden of inspection on child protection departments should be lifted, and the inspectorate, Ofsted, should not evaluate serious case reviews into child deaths.
it was also recommended that the social work profession be more open and transparent in talking about the pressures and dilemmas faced by safe-guarders, particularly at times of crisis, such as the Baby P case.
Professor Eileen Munro has signalled a new approach in her interim report 'The Child's Journey' on child protection, which focuses on helping children rather than on the regulations, inspections and procedures that have thrown the system out of balance.
The interim report examines the areas of the child protection system where reform needs to take place. Currently the amount of prescription and bureaucracy in the system has meant social workers are not able to do the jobs they came into the profession to do.
The report highlights the importance of having multi-agency services based in the community to help keep children safe and support their wellbeing, identify the children and families most in need and give them help as early as possible.
The areas for reform in the interim report include;
- The importance of a management and inspection process that monitors whether children are getting the help they need rather than being a tick-box exercise
- Developing social work expertise by keeping experienced, more senior social workers on the front line so they can develop their skills and better supervise more junior social workers
- Giving other professionals – health, police and family support services – easier access to social work advice when they have concerns about abuse and neglect
- Revising and reducing the statutory guidance, Working together to safeguard children – which is now 55 times longer than it was in 1974 – so that core rules are separated from professional advice
- Considering having a national system of trained reviewers of serious case reviews (SCRs), who can share findings so that lessons can be learnt nationally.
Professor Munro said:
Too often questions are asked if rules and procedures have been met but not whether this has helped children. Everyone in the profession can think of meetings and forms that don’t actually make a child safer.
Whilst some regulation is needed, we need to reduce it to a small, manageable size. Professionals should be spending more time with children, asking how they feel, whether they understand why the social worker is involved in their family, and finding out what they want to happen.
Placing a timescale on completing a form puts pressure on professionals which can distract from making decent quality judgements. We now have more knowledge about the kind of parenting that really harms children. Assessments should be skilled enough to distinguish between the families most in need and the parents who are struggling and just need a bit of help – possibly not from social workers.
Child protection is not an easy job. I now need to work with professionals to develop more precisely how my ideas will work in practice. Ultimately this is about helping them to do their job better, more confidently, and with more support so that children are protected more successfully.
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said:
Professor Munro has identified areas where professionals’ time is being wasted and children’s needs are not being properly identified. I welcome her approach to getting help to the neediest children and families as early as possible, and recognising that child protection is not just the responsibility of social workers. I look forward to receiving her final recommendations in the spring.
In her interim report Professor Munro identifies that too much time and effort is being spent by all the professionals working in child protection preparing for inspections, and meeting the bureaucratic requirements for Ofsted evaluations of SCRs. This has meant that too often SCRs have not offered enough analysis of why things have gone wrong and the lessons that can be learnt.
At this mid-stage Professor Munro is clear this needs to change and is therefore recommending;
- Ofsted no longer evaluate SCRs, with external scrutiny provided by publishing all SCR overview reports
- moving from announced and unannounced inspections to unannounced inspections only, which cover all children’s services and take into account the quality of learning provided by SCRs
In the next stage of the review Professor Munro wants to test out how to give frontline social workers greater autonomy so they can better exercise their professional judgment. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is considering using his powers to grant five local authorities temporary suspension of certain aspects of statutory guidance, subject to conditions.
Social workers in Cumbria, Knowsley, Westminster, Hackney and Gateshead would be able to complete certain assessments and hold child protection conferences within timescales they think would best meet children’s needs. The trials would be rigorously monitored to ensure the safety and welfare of children and to minimise delays.
The trial would last beyond the period of the Munro Review, and evidence available at the end of the period would be considered by the Department when responding to Professor Munro’s final report.
NOTE; the final report is due in April 2011
She finds that processes and procedures, and the unintentional consequences of previous reforms, are getting in the way of social workers spending time with vulnerable children and families.
The early scoping review explains that while previous reforms have been well-meaning and well-informed, they have not delivered positive long-lasting improvements at the front line. Changes during the past 40 years have been made in reaction to high-profile cases and have focused on parts of the system in isolation rather than looking at the system as a whole.
Professor Eileen Munro said:
I want to be clear from the start that there are no simple quick-fix solutions to improving the child protection system. A key question for the review is why the well-intentioned reforms of the past haven’t worked. Piecemeal changes have resulted in a system where social workers are more focused on complying with procedures. This is taking them away from spending time with children and families and limiting their ability to make informed judgements.
Professionals should rightly take responsibility when things go wrong but they need more freedom to make decisions, more support and understanding, and less prescription and censure. Too often social workers are either criticised for breaking up families or for missing a case of abuse. But the system they work in is built around predicting a parent’s ability to look after their child, which is never certain.
We need a system that constantly looks to do things better. Any solution must prioritise meeting the needs of children.
The problems identified by Professor Munro in the report include;
- professionals too focused on complying with rules and regulations and so spending less time assessing children’s needs
- a target-driven culture meaning social workers are unable to exercise their professional judgement
- too much emphasis on identifying families and not enough attention to putting children’s needs first
- serious case reviews concentrating only on errors when things have gone wrong, rather than looking at good practice and continually reflecting on what could be done better
- concerns about the impact of delays in the family courts on the welfare of children
- professionals becoming demoralised over time as organisations fail to recognise the emotional impact of the work they do and the support they need
Professor Munro wants to improve the serious case review (SCR) process so that lessons learned can be put into practice more effectively. The Government has published two research reports on SCRs today, which have fed into Professor Munro’s review.
The research shows that;
- SCRs highlight important issues but there is a greater emphasis on getting the report right rather than learning the lessons
- SCRs should look at good practice and not just when things go wrong
- there is confusion and debate about what leads to an SCR as professionals are overwhelmed and struggle to make good decisions
NOTE; the final report is due in April 2011
Within early intervention she will look at:
- How the interaction between social work teams and universal services can be improved
- How Sure Start centres and children's centres can ensure at-risk families are identified effectively
- The barriers to consistently good social work practice
- How other agencies can better help
Within the area of trusting frontline social workers she will examine:
- How regulation can be simplified and bureaucracy reduced
- How targets have got in the way of good practice
- How recording of cases can support the work of professionals
- How social workers can be given greater professional freedom
- What can be learned from other countries
- How poorly performing areas be brought up to the standard of the best
- Best practice in information-sharing between councils
Within the area of transparency and accountability the government wants her to consider:
- How more transparency in the system might be achieved to build greater public confidence
- How serious case reviews can be strengthened and what can be learned from other sectors in this area
- How risk can be managed so there isn't a blame culture
- How inspection can be improved
- How the system can champion professionals to increase their status
Professor Munro is expected to report back within six months.
by Alex Bateman
Eileen Munro is a Prof of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and is a prolific producer of academic papers in the child protection area.
Professor Munro qualified and then practised as a social worker for several years and has since gone on to gain a wide range of research experience in child protection; mental health risk assessment; and building professional expertise in child abuse.
She completed her PhD in 'The role of scientific methods in social work' and undertook a study of child abuse inquiries. This work was taken up by many child protection services in several countries. She has also written and published extensively on child protection including Learning Together to Safeguard Children, Learning to reduce risk in child protection and co –authored a report on Children’s Databases: Safety and Privacy among others.
Prof Munro has also had a number of comment pieces on issues related to child protection and safeguarding children published in the Guardian and Independent newspapers in the past: