edtimpsonThe government's Children & Families Minister hopes to replicate the success of the Teach First initiative by giving graduates the opportunity to work on the frontline of healthcare services.

Speaking at the NSPCC's 'How Safe are our Children?' event [18-19 Apr], Edward Timpson (pictured) laid out his goals for the 'Frontline' initiative.

Challenge like no other issue
"It’s by investing in people working on the frontline that gives us the best chance of driving the decisive shift in culture that’s needed to truly put children’s needs at the heart of the child protection system," he said.

"Which is why we’re so supportive of Frontline, a brilliant idea by a TeachFirst Graduate, to get talented, committed graduates into social work.

"I’m hopeful that we can get it up and running so some of our brightest and most committed graduates can start making a difference to our most vulnerable children and provide a welcome boost to the profession. There’s little doubt that the fight against child cruelty continues to challenge and test us as a society as no other issue."

Turnover and burnout
The idea received some support from Shadow Children's & Families Minister Lisa Nandy, though she warned: "Many of the best social workers have had personal experience of dealing with care, so we should be careful about making university the only path into care.

Reporting that six in 10 social workers consider their caseloads 'unmanageable', Nandy also called for greater support on the difficult decisions care staff face every day in order to reduce high levels of burnout and turnover in the profession.

Great opportunity for change
The opposing party representatives, who spoke on seperate days at the inaugral NSPCC national safeguarding conference, generally agreed on policy with both suggesting that recent child safeguarding incidents such as Savile and Rochdale offer the opportunity for "a culture shift in child protection".

"Children face a wider range of dangers than ever before but are still most likely to come to harm at home from someone they know," Timpson added.

"That’s why we’re fundamentally reforming the child protection system to put the needs of children at its heart – so the system fits in the needs of children and not the other way around."

Nandy suggested that the focus of all parties in the education sector should be more on safeguarding as opposed to free schools and curriculum changes, calling for "a strong [education] department championing children".

To this end, Timpson announced another new initiative: the appointment of a chief social worker to lead the debate nationally about reform and ensure the profession has a strong voice at a national level.

Seismic safeguarding impact
Reflecting on both speeches, day 2 conference chair Tam Baillie welcommed both parties commitment to improving child safeguarding.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland concluded: "You cannot underestimate the seismic impact of recent [child safeguarding] incidents on society.

"I have never seen such a level of media coverage and public awareness of abuse before and it is encouraging to see all sides of the political spectrum commit to make long-term changes, because if we don't achieve effective safeguarding change now, then we never will."

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Posted 23/04/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com