We’ve written several times about one of the core problems with the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda – the confusion of child protection with more general child welfare. Via Carlotta comes this eloquent quote expressing exactly the concerns of child protection specialists:
Those at the top promote the view that the role of the children’s social worker is to support families and provides services for those in need. In recent years social services departments have been re-focusing services from child protection to family support. The new organisational frameworks being put in place by the Every Child Matters agenda aims to develop a needs-led approach but this has been associated with a loss of clarity and focus on child protection matters.
In practice this means that more initial referrals are treated as child-care problem enquiries as opposed to child protection investigations. However, it may be hard for the social worker doing an initial assessment to shift the focus to a child protection investigation, if new information emerges. This is a difficult task as the emotional tendency to resist changing direction is very strong, especially if social workers see themselves as having a caring role. Whilst integration of protection and support may often be beneficial, child protection investigations, which require a certain emotional detachment and a more probing approach, would benefit from being separated out.