Social Services: Children

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th June 2021.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of being a child of a victim of (a) domestic abuse or (b) sexual assault on likelihood of entering the care system.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that child protection investigations are centred on working with and supporting families.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the implications for its policies of the increase in child protection section 47 enquiries from 43,400 in 2010 to 134,620 in 2020.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support both parents and children separated in child protection cases where abuse is ultimately unproven.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure that social workers build relationships with parents built on trust and partnership to improve the effectiveness of child protection services.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

‘Working together to safeguard children’ is the statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-safeguard-children--2. It clarifies the core legal requirements, making it clear what individuals and organisations should do to keep children safe and promote their welfare. The guidance is clear that every assessment should focus on the needs of the child, taking into account their family and wider community.

Regarding the increase in section 47 enquires, the guidance is also clear that, at times, intervention is necessary to keep the most vulnerable children safe. Where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, it has a duty to make such enquiries as it considers necessary to decide whether to take any action to safeguard or promote child welfare. Where an inquiry has been initiated under section 47, the guidance sets out the expectations of social workers in the event that a significant concern has not been substantiated, including discussing the case with the parents and securing any additional help if necessary.

The department publishes information on the number of assessments that identify domestic violence, available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/permalink/eea28f53-c9d9-402c-b7dd-28bb1d9bb7c8. The department also publishes information on children that are looked after in England, including adoptions, available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoptions/2020. However, the department does not have an assessment of the effect of a child being a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault on likelihood of entering the care system.

The department is investing in the social work workforce, and in leadership at all levels, to ensure that social workers have the capability and capacity to support and protect the most vulnerable children and families. We have introduced clear post-qualifying standards, setting out the knowledge and skills expected of children and family social workers, including building effective relationships with children, young people and families, and the National Assessment and Accreditation System, to provide a mechanism to assess and accredit against these standards. Additionally, we are supporting local authorities to develop evidence of what works, through the completion of the Children’s Social Care Innovation programme and the establishment of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care.

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is a manifesto commitment and a fundamental part of the government’s commitment to levelling up across the country. It is taking a comprehensive look at what is needed to make a real difference to the needs, experiences, and outcomes of the children supported by children’s social care. The review will look at the whole system of support, safeguarding, protection and care, and the child’s journey into and out of that system. This will include children throughout their interaction with children’s social care, from referral, Child in Need and Child Protection Plans, through to becoming looked after.

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