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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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The Munro Report and its implications for child protection

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A debate was held in the House of Commons to discuss child protection. Professor Munro undertook a review of the child protection system and her final report, ’A child-centred system’, was the subject of the debate. Meg started and is Chair of the Child Protection All-Party Parliamentary Group and before becoming an MP was engaged in social work for over twenty years – her contribution is below.


Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome this debate and this report. Child protection is an important issue that has been given too little attention, generally having periods of intense focus following the death or serious injury of a child or children. No one could disagree with the aims set out by Professor Munro, but I want to look at some issues that are perhaps more nuanced than the Minister set out in his speech.


Looking back, we have had investment in the past. From 1998, we had the Quality Protects Programme, which made a big difference to social services; I speak from personal experience. More recent work done by the previous Government should be built on. Indeed, Professor Munro identifies the need to build on the firm foundations of reform created by the Social Work Taskforce and the Social Work Reform Board. Let us not reinvent the wheel where we do not need to.


Importantly, Professor Munro recognises the multi-agency nature of this field. There is a danger of other Government policies making child protection more difficult. I am concerned not only about the cuts but about the proposals for how things are to be done. The All-Party Child Protection Group, which I Chair, and of which many members are present, will be carrying out an inquiry into the proposals on vetting and barring, and I hope that that is helpful. The next session is on Monday—a little advert there—and I hope to see many Members attending to look at this in detail.


We need to be aware of the importance of child protection for children in all settings. Looked-after children have been mentioned, and the residential sector is important. On health, what is going to happen as result of the abolition of primary care trusts? The PCTs have played an essential role in local safeguarding because they can give an overview and they are able to get involved in the wider issues of what is happening in their local area. I fear that the proposals do not deal with ensuring proper, effective child protection policies for the future. I also have worries about the role of the police.


I have great concerns about education. I will not go into those in detail now, as I have raised them with the Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), who was here earlier. Certain aspects of the Education Bill put children at risk, and the Government need to deal with that.


I am also concerned about the localism agenda. The recommendations in chapter 4 on accountability lead us to believe that there are clear tensions in this respect. We should be able to specify what needs to be done, and there should be ways of following best practice while ensuring some local flexibility. The Government need to address that properly.


I want to speak briefly about the recording of information and time scales. That debate has been conducted in a one-dimensional way. Poor IT systems have made life difficult. However, it is significant that every major inquiry into child deaths has identified two things at fault: poor information-sharing between different professions in contact with children and poor recording of information. Not only is good recording essential to enable effective continuity of support for children, sometimes over years or when somebody is on leave, but it is part of the process that social workers need to go through to reflect on a family’s situation.


The idea that the only work of a social worker is direct face-to-face contact is false.

I echo the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) about moving to the use of all localised forms. Frankly, that would take us back round the circle. Thirty years ago when I started in social work, every local authority used a different form and a different process. Not only did that involve lots of people writing those forms and producing guidance, but it meant that when people moved authorities, it took even experienced staff a long time to understand the systems and procedures. I know that the Minister is genuinely committed to this agenda, and I commend him for that, but I urge him to consider a middle way.


I also urge the Minister to consider a middle way for serious case reviews. He and I have disagreed on the publication of serious case reviews in full, and I will not rehearse those arguments now because I do not have time. However, I think that he should have held back, carried out a review, and put in place a new system. In my experience, not only are full case reviews poor learning tools, but sometimes their publication means that people do not come forward. There was a well-publicised case in Sheffield only a year ago of serious intergenerational abuse. The people in that family would not have come forward if they had thought that their information would be put into the public domain.


This is an important review in many ways, and we need to go into it in more detail. I ask the Minister to give more detail on how a wider group of people beyond his implementation group can have an input into the recommendations to ensure that we get the best possible things out of the review for the benefit of children, social workers and all who work in this important area.



To read the full Munro Report visit: http://www.education.gov.uk/munroreview/


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