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I hope to be able to deal with a number of questions in the time that I have. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, rightly asked about social workers. She asked what the Government are doing to promote the uptake of social work positions, given the worrying numbers of vacancies. The Government are investing £73 million in social care workforce development, and our children's workforce review, which was announced in the Children's Plan and which we are currently working on, will address the important issues, such as recruitment, retention, the training of social workers and the support that they need, especially when they are new in the profession. Since 1997, there has been a 29 per cent increase in the number of social workers in children's services. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness that this is a key area of concern for us all.
We have a new, rigorous process of inspection through the joint area reviews, which now take place every three years, and the annual area performance assessment, to which the noble Baroness referred, which took place in Haringey in 2007. That was carried out when a serious case review for Baby P was just beginning, so it was not possible for it to take that into account, but when serious case reviews are undertaken, it is expected that learning from them is fed into the system immediately. Although there are sometimes delays in serious case reviews because of pending court action, we do not
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Joint area reviews take account of serious case reviews as a matter of standard practice. The review taking place in Haringey will take account of this serious case review and will look at whether it is adequate. That will be addressed when they report to the Secretary of State on 1 December.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, made an important point about the remarks of her right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith who has talked about the importance of stability and, I think, about the importance of early intervention, which we all agree are key aspects of the Every Child Matters agenda and safeguarding children globally. I very much welcome her drawing attention to those comments.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, talked about the review being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, which is looking at the implementation ofthe Every Child Matters agenda. We absolutely want his report to tell us whether we doing well enough, whether we are going far enough and what changes need to be made now in the light of this tragic case. Publication of the comprehensive serious case review report is not a matter of rule. The Information Commissioner ruled on that recently and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has looked at that. In order to ensure that Opposition spokespeople in another place have the information that they need to think about and to scrutinise the way in which the joint area review is being undertaken, he has offered to allow them to see that report at the earliest possible stage. I hope noble Lords opposite will understand that we are doing everything we can to make sure that the information is available for people to make their judgments.
The selection of staff for the joint inspectorate to speak to is absolutely unacceptable. My right honourable friend in the other place has made it clear that he would not expect this to be the case. We have been clear that we need action now. The tragic case of Baby P has led to convictions. The serious case review was reviewed by Ministers in the department. As soon as we received it, we sent in the joint inspectors. We will have their report and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will take action, along with the childrens Minister, urgently and promptly.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former social worker as well as chair of CAFCASS. Wearing my professional hat, I am grateful for what the Minister and the noble Baronesses have said about the profession of social work and in recognising the tremendous burdens that such social workers carry. Does the Minister agree that this case is bound to have a serious effect on the morale of that already beleaguered profession? As well as the very welcome initiatives already being taken by the Government, will she consider that they might undertake the kind of promotional programme that they have undertaken so successfully with teachers to address the needs and resources required for social work?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her question. Last year, under the Childrens Plan, we announced a commitment to develop a childrens workforce strategy, to look at all the professions working with children and to create a more holistic approach to workforce development. Central to that will be the focus that we place on intensive development for the social work profession. As my noble friend suggests, that will mean looking at the needs of the profession as regards child and adolescent social workers. Their needs will be looked at from their qualifications and professional development, right through to recruitment and retention, and the support that they need at various points in their careers. It is absolutely right that my noble friend should raise this issue, which we treat very carefully.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, most of the Governments comments so far seem to be related to procedures, reports, strategies and all sorts of things of that kind. My concern simply is about money. Will the brief of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, enable him to report on whether the borough of Haringey had in hand enough money or was it influenced by shortage of money in making the decision that it made?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the report being prepared by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, will be wide ranging. His letter containing the terms of reference is in the Library. Specifically, he will look at the effective implementation of safeguarding systems and procedures, which is about inter-agency working, and the development of a professional workforce, including capacity. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will feel able to report on matters that he sees as important, including, I am sure, resources.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while accountability is crucial, no additional bureaucracy will be placed on social workers and others than is absolutely necessary? Does she agree that if it were, social work and other social care work might be made increasingly unattractive? Does she recognise that some bureaucracy needs to be there, but that it should be as small as possible? I make no apologies for re-emphasising the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, that the Government have been very successful in raising the status of teachers over the past 10 years. It is an immensely encouraging achievement. They have taken many steps to promote the status of social workers. Can they repeat what they have done for teaching? In particular, will the Minister look at the model of the teacher development agency, which has been so helpful in promoting good quality teacher training, ensuring that the highest calibre of applicant is accepted on courses and has been a powerful voice for getting the best for teachers? Will the Minister look at the agency to see how that model can be applied to social work?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, we have been working hard to address the bureaucracy load of social workers through initiatives such as the integrated childrens system, which is very much about streamlining the administration and record-keeping with which social workers are engaged, and the development of the
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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former social worker, a previous director of social services and the deputy chair of CAFCASS, an organisation that employs around 2,000 social workers. I should like to ask several questions that are inter-related to what previous speakers have asked. First, how will we gather through the new review being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, a different understanding of the matrix in which social workers function? They have to be responsive to local communities and to expectations of communities, which often press for children to remain at home, and they are continually criticised for removing children inappropriatelyas against the pressure when something goes wrong and the media immediately hound social workers for not removing children. How is the social worker doing her job to marry that matrix of expectation with the complex demands of bureaucracythere has to be some bureaucracy; records must be kept and information gathered so that we know how many children are of concern and where they are in order to make a comprehensive assessment? This is a workforce that for some time has been bowed by poor pay, the undermining of its professional standing in terms of decision-making, and the sheer horror of worrying about what happens to clients. That is because the person who will suffer emotionally and has to face the press as a result of this case is the social worker responsible for the child.
Faced with an extraordinarily complicated problem, how is my noble friend Lord Laming going to put aside the issues surrounding structures and get to the questions I have been asking recently? These include how to improve practice, the standing of the worker within the family so that advice is acted upon, and ensuring that the nation can be confident about the band of workers in whose hands the welfare of these vulnerable children is placed.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness will understand that I do not want to prejudge what the noble Lord, Lord Laming, will say in his report. In response to her eloquent explanation of the difficulties of striking such a delicate balance between the challenges faced by social workers every day of their working lives, I should say that it is very much about culture. We need people who are trained, confident and able to articulate their professional judgment in what are often difficult circumstances. Procedures and processes are all about providing a framework to support that, as well as good management and encouraging the right culture within the organisation.
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Lord Mawson: My Lords, one of the reasons why I am in this House is to try to make connections between some of these difficult policy matters and the practical realities of what happens on the ground. As many noble Lords know, I spent 25 years working with a group of dysfunctional housing estates. I went on to develop the Bromley by Bow Centre, which arose out of the difficult circumstances of a woman called Jean Vialls, who died at the age of 35 of cancer, leaving two children aged two and 16. She fell through all the cracks of our social and healthcare provision.
One would hope that we had learnt the lessons and moved on, but in many ways we are in the same place. Two years ago I was asked by Christine Gilbert, now the head of Ofsted but at the time the chief executive of Tower Hamlets, to look at St Pauls Way. Millions of pounds were being invested in a new school, in a new health centre and surgery and in housing, but the key professionals in each of those public sector bodies were not communicating with one another.
Perhaps I may share two thoughts with noble Lords that it would be good also to discuss with the Minister outside the Chamber. The first is the issue of culture shift and mindset. In my experience of working with partnerships on the ground, some people in the public sector do not see why they need to work in a more integrated way and still do not understand why they should have to work collaboratively with others outside their particular area.
Lord Mawson: My Lords, my question is to ask the Minister whether we could have a meeting to talk about the issues of culture shift and mindset, as well as the question of the skills and capabilities of staff. How do we enable these workers to relate to staff in other sectors in real and reasonable ways? I ask this because I fear that there are some real difficulties in this area that have nothing to do with bad people, but are to do with skills and capabilities.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the noble Lord has highlighted a key issue of concern for us. There is a lot of talk about integrated working and we have to be clear about what we mean by it. What skills and capabilities do we expect the childrens and the wider social care workforce to adopt in order to create a high-achieving workforce? I would be more than happy to discuss with the noble Lord and others if that is appropriate how we should bring about such a culture shift.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I speak as a Haringey parent and without the expertise shown by others in our debate. From what I have been hearing, in Haringey
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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution. I want to be clear that we in the department are committed to taking action at this stage. Our concern about the approach being espoused by the noble Baroness is that an inquiry of that nature takes a long time to complete. Immediately on receipt of the report of the Baby P incident, my right honourable friend Ed Balls, the Secretary of State, sent in independent inspectors so that we could be clear on the appropriate action to take. That was done because urgent action is required. We are expecting a comprehensive review.
We sought advice from Ofsted about the most reasonable timeframe within which to achieve a report and an intensive two-week period, to 1 December, was agreed. It is the shortest timeframe within which to produce a comprehensive report for the department. The Secretary of State is uniquely focused on taking the right action and is not prejudging what needs to be done. We shall have a fully independent and comprehensive report on which to base our consideration for taking action.
I appreciate what the noble Baroness has said, but we have asked John Coughlan from Hampshire to work alongside the department for childrens services in Haringey to ensure that, as of today, we can be sure that the correct safeguarding procedures are now being followed for children and young people in that borough, since obviously these are matters of great concern to parents. That is our approach and we are not prejudging what steps might be taken later.
Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, I know that everyone feels emotional about Baby P. Unfortunately, I am not so graced that I can keep my emotions to myself. I must ask seriously who was parenting Baby P. We know from the report that three brutes were responsible for the welfare of that innocent child, so my question is: what were the professionals, who are paid to look after the welfare of children in that borough, thinking when they failed to take action after receiving various reports? The case review said that there was strong evidence that agencies failed, singly and collectively, to adhere to the statutory procedures for the proper management of child protection cases. Can the Minister tell the House why those involved in the case are still being paid by the state?
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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, my noble friend speaks with the anguish that many in this country feel and asks questions that we all ask. The Secretary of State is set on taking the right course of action. I know that there is a sense that there are reports after reports, but we must ensure that we learn from this tragic loss of life. There are many ways of learning, but we need to ensure most of all that anything that is learnt from this tragedy is put into action. That is where we must be right now.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of the Select Committee, in particular my colleagues on Sub-Committee B, which deals with the internal market, perhaps I may say how pleased we are that there has been such an early opportunity for debate, particularly as the report was published only on 24 October. There are special reasons for welcoming this early debate, which I will touch on a little later.
The report was designed not only for your Lordships House but for the European Commission, and we very much hope that the Commission and the responsible directorate-general will respond in due course to our comments. Thanks to the encouragement of the chairman of the Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord GrenfellI shall touch very briefly on his impending retirement in a momentwe have taken the liberty of having the reports conclusions and recommendations translated as a courtesy to the European Parliament and to the European Commission.
On behalf of the Select Committee, I thank our excellent clerk, James Whittle. I am constantly heartened by the great quality of the clerks who service Select Committees in this House, and I echo the views of all your Lordships in commending the quality not only of our clerks but of the clerk to Sub-Committee B. I also thank Dr Robert Gross, our special adviser from Imperial College, for his expert advice. Our report was a voyage of discovery. We certainly have not completed our understanding of the complicated issues involved in energy conservation, and indeed in meeting such targets as greenhouse gas emissions and in improving the output of renewable energy, but at least we have learnt a great deal from our deliberations.
I now pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who is at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today and cannot be with us. I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Roper, to taking on the important roleI
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The House is very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, the Treasury Minister, for standing in for the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heathwho I know has to be in Brazil today as Minister of State for Energyand for responding to this brief debate.
I welcome the opportunity to have this debate, first, because next month the Council of Ministers in Brussels will be invited to agree the renewable energy targets for the European Union and individual targets for each country. Ministers in this country have assumed a target of 15 per cent of total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. That is the issue which our report seeks to address. It is a very narrow issue. It does not deal with greenhouse gas emissions or energy savings; it deals simply with the consequences of this specific target, which our Ministers will consider and, presumably, agree.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has now finished its consultation on renewable energies, and I understand that it will publish its conclusions some time in the spring, so it is apposite to put the views of your Lordships on to the record. I also understand that it is likely that the Economic Affairs Committee will publish early next week its conclusions on some of the financial implications of an increase in sourcing energy from renewables. I hope that our report and its report will not duplicate each other too much.
Our report has not dealt with the very important issue of nuclear energy. Nor has it dealt with the 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent and by significantly higher percentages in later years; so its scope was limited. One can be a strong proponent of nuclear energy. I speak as someone from the county of Suffolk, which already has Sizewell B and perhaps Sizewell C. Who knows, it may have Sizewell D in due course. I am a strong supporter of nuclear power, but I should point out to your Lordships, as we received evidence on this subject, that even if we were to complete the planning and construction of new nuclear power stations by the end of the next decade, we will largely be replacing what is already there because it will run out of operating capacity. The nuclear issue is extremely important but is not part of our inquiry.
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