Former children’s minister criticises chief social worker’s profile

Tim Loughton says Isabelle Trowler’s role should be much higher profile

The role of the chief social worker should be far more prominent, a former children’s minister has warned, expressing his frustration at Isabelle Trowler’s history in the role to date.

In an interview with Children and Young People Now, Tim Loughton said that while the chief children’s social worker was “incredibly talented” and he had been very enthused when she was appointed to the role given her good track record at Hackney Council, “it’s been a bit disappointing not to see her profile much higher.”

Loughton said that Trowler had indicated that her role was as a “quiet adviser behind the scenes”.

However he said: “That is absolutely not the role. It’s a really important conduit between policymakers and professionals on the ground. To do that [the chief social worker] needs to be high profile, a critical friend and critical of government policy, and a trusted and authoritative face for the public to engage with.”

Trowler was appointed to the role by the Department for Education three years ago under the coalition government to advise the DfE on its ongoing social work reform programme and work with the profession to improve performance, lead frontline reforms and spread good practice.

Prior to her appointment, she was assistant director of children’s social care at Hackney Council between 2006 and 2011 where she was hailed for her work redesigning frontline practice as part of the Reclaiming Social Work model.

Loughton referred to the equivalent role in New Zealand where the chief social worker has a weekly newspaper column so social work practice could come out of the shadows”.

“The role was to be like the chief medical officer, so that when there are big issues there is a public face the public can relate to – someone they can trust, is arm's length from government and who will speak with authority.

“It needs to be high profile if it is to be effective in the eyes of the public and she [Trowler] needs to be all over the news. If you went into the street and asked anyone if they could name the chief social worker I fear 90 per cent couldn’t, and that’s hugely disappointing,” said the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham.




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