Children’s Social Work Sector

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 12:00 am, 25th April 2016

What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy and quality of provision in the children’s social work sector.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

May I begin by apologising if I am unusually slow and gingerly in my efforts to move to and from the Dispatch Box this afternoon? I have the excuse of having run the London marathon yesterday, along with seven other Members of the House and close to 40,000 other hardy individuals. I ask the House to put on record our collective gratitude to and admiration for them, in particular for the more than £25 million that they raised for hundreds of charities up and down the country.

It is the role of Ofsted to assess the adequacy and quality of provision in the children’s social work sector. All local authorities are currently being inspected under the single inspection framework, which assesses arrangements for child protection services for looked-after children and the leadership, management and governance of children’s social care. My Department intervenes to support improvement in services where they are judged to be inadequate.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I thank the Minister for his response. As he well knows, social work is a holistic profession. For example, when I qualified I had knowledge across all social work disciplines, such as mental health, child protection and adult social care, ensuring that I was able to fully grasp all the issues facing my clients. Will he therefore explain why his Government are investing in Frontline and Think Ahead to the detriment of traditional, more holistic university courses, and are creating specialisms in silos, which is bad for the profession and even worse for the clients?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I am afraid that the hon. Lady has given a distorted view of the work being done to improve social work practice across the board. Not only are the Government investing in fast-track graduate schemes such as Frontline and Step Up to Social Work, to which 151 local authorities have signed up, but we have the assisted and supported year of employment and the new knowledge and skills that every children’s social worker will now have to be accredited and assessed against. That is important because for the first time there is a relentless focus on high-quality social work practice rather than a simple theoretical understanding of social work. We need to get that balance right, and that will be at the heart of our social work reforms.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

St Monica’s Catholic Primary School in my constituency has had five consecutive outstanding Ofsted reports. It has a fantastic headteacher, teachers, pupils and parents. Can the Minister tell me what benefit there is to forcing that school to become an academy?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I would answer the question, but I am not sure that it has any relevance to the original question asked by his hon. Friend Mrs Lewell-Buck.