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Children’s minister pledges to capture good news stories of social work

The new children’s minister has pledged to capture the good news stories happening in social work every day.

In a Parliamentary discussion, Brendan Clarke-Smith said that children’s social care is central to the government’s aim to level up the country and enable all children to make the most of their abilities.

“I was in Worksop in Nottinghamshire on Monday where I had the opportunity to speak with social workers on the frontline. I want to capture the good news stories that are all too often overshadowed by the tragedies. I saw the excellent services and dedicated professionals that the hon. Member has focused the debate on,” said Mr Clarke-Smith who replaced Will Quince as children’s minister after he stepped down.

The debate on the children’s social care workforce was introduced by Labour MP Ms Marie Rimmer.

"It is not right that social workers feel their work is undervalued and overlooked. It saddens me to think that those working to protect our most vulnerable children are stigmatised in such a way. Unfortunately, the public only hear about social workers when something goes terribly wrong. They do not hear about the hundreds of thousands of cases where children and parents are empowered and supported to create a better life. Those are the stories that we should hear continually, to remind us of the crucial role that social workers play in protecting the lives of vulnerable children,” added Mr Clarke-Smith.

“Importantly, it is because most social workers do their jobs so well that we are able to overlook them in such a way. That is a national scandal, because dedicated social workers are essential to keeping children safe. It is impossible to quantify the number of children’s lives that social workers have saved, the number of families that they have helped or the harm that they have prevented.”

“When children are in need, social workers work hard on their behalf to ensure that they receive the love and care they deserve. When families are in awful situations and children are in danger, social workers help to make things better. When a family is able to stay together, a social worker is behind the scenes helping to make that happen. Throughout the pandemic, social workers have continued to meet families in person, helping to turn lives around. That is why the government have invested heavily in training and support for child and family social workers, and will continue to do so,” he added.

WillisPalmer launched #Respect4SocialWork in September to call for a greater appreciation of social workers and for a more balanced portrayal of the work they do in the media.

Despite there being more children and family social workers than ever before with 32,500 children and family social workers employed by local authorities in England in September 2021 - 14% higher than in 2017 – Mr Clarke-Smith acknowledged that the independent review had shown that social worker recruitment, retention and quality are not consistently at the levels they need to be across the country.

“That is why, in addition to continued investment in our programmes, we intend to publish our children’s social care reform implementation strategy by the end of this year. As we develop the strategy, it is an absolute priority to work with the sector to ensure there are sufficient numbers of child and family social workers with the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the families with whom they work. We are currently considering the recommendations from the independent review of children’s social care and the national panel review,” he said.

Mr Clarke-Smith went on to outline that among the ideas currently being discussed were regional staff banks, national pay scales and memorandums of understanding to help to reduce the cost of agency social work, which, he said, “is a problem and something that needs to be addressed”.

The support that social workers receive early on will be set out, when the government publishes their implementation strategy later this year and the plans will have a particular emphasis on child protection, given the challenging nature of that work.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we face significant challenges in the workforce across the country, not just in the social care sector. Regarding funding, as I said, that is why the implementation board will be so important, because these are the things that we really need to focus on. I can assure the hon. Member that this is something that I do take seriously, and we will look at the points she raised as part of this review,” concluded Mr Clarke-Smith.

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