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LGA warns that Laming recommendation on referrals could "overload" social work teams

Implementing some of the key recommendations in Lord Laming’s report on child protection is likely to overload already stretched social work teams and risks weakening the safety net that keeps children safe, the Local Government Association claimed this week.

The LGA identified as particularly problematic Lord Laming’s recommendation that every referral from another professional be followed up by a formal process known as initial assessment.

It said that on average, only 13% of the time taken to complete an initial assessment is spent with the child or family while 87% is spent on paperwork and process.

The LGA  commissioned researchers at Loughborough University to examine the impact of Lord Laming’s report, The protection of children in England: a progress report.

The research team claimed that if the recommendation in relation to referrals and initial assessments was fully implemented:

  • The average increase in initial assessments across the country would be 91%
  • Around 2,000 extra social workers would be needed, and
  • The additional cost would be in the region of £75m a year.

The LGA called for social workers to instead be given more power to process referrals in the way which will best help the child, using their own discretion. The requirement to always do a formal initial assessment should be scrapped, it said.

Other measures the LGA would like to see include having all professionals record information in the same way, increasing the part played by other bodies such as the police and health services, and reducing the 300+ pages of guidance to a target of 100 pages.

The association also said interim funding of £116m was needed to help councils plug the gap created by social work reforms.

Cllr Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Money is an ugly topic to raise when the issue is the safety and wellbeing of children, but it would be irresponsible to pretend social work teams can make major changes to how they operate without there being implications for their workload and resources.

“Children who are at risk, and families which are struggling, will benefit more from additional time with experienced social workers that they will from an increase in the number of forms filled in about them. It is time to show more trust in our social workers to do the right thing for children.”

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