2022 Fourth Child Welfare Minister appointed

Claire Coutinho (Photo: Her Majesty’s Government)

The government has named its fourth child welfare minister of the year ahead of a critical period for the sector.

Claire Coutinho, appointed minister delegate to the Ministry of Education last month, was in charge of social protection, as well as special educational needs and disability and other issues concerning vulnerable children and young children.

Coutinho succeeds Kelly Tolhurst, who left his post as minister for schools and children in October, just a month after the announcement of his appointment.

Unlike Tolhurst, Coutinho will not combine his child welfare and vulnerable children’s welfare responsibilities with overseeing school policy, while his appointment also brings child welfare under the responsibility of a junior minister. Tolhurst had held the position at the highest level of Minister of State.

The new Minister’s praise for social workers

While her ministerial memoir was confirmed today, Coutinho indicated she would be responsible for child welfare on Friday, when she tweeted her appreciation for social workers ahead of the annual social worker awards ceremony of the year.

As with new Education Secretary Gillian Keegan – who became the fifth holder of the post in 2022 last month – Coutinho’s appointment comes before a period of significant change for the sector, with four major reports in their bins.

The sector faces upheaval and demand pressures

The DfE had pledged to respond to three of them – the final report of the Independent Child Welfare Review, the Child Welfare Practices Review Committee investigation into the murders of ‘Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson and the study by the Competition and Markets Authority on the social protection of children. care market – before the end of 2022.

However, it is unclear how far that timetable will hold under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Welfare Reform Proposals

  1. Independent Child Welfare Review (May 2022): this proposal proposed to increase the skills and retention of social workers by introducing national salary scales, linked to progression in an entry-level framework and the introduction of expert practitioner status for those completing the framework , as well as increased investment in early support and family care, the abolition of the role of independent reviewer and regional commissioning of care placements to reduce the hold of large providers on the market.
  2. Child Protection Practices Review Committee investigation into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson (May 2022) – this called for the creation of multi-agency safeguarding centers to lead child protection cases, to improve inter-agency work and practice skills.
  3. Study by the Competition and Markets Authority on the child welfare market (March 2022) – this has encouraged the creation of national and regional bodies to help councils find the right placements for children, improve value for money and reduce out-of-area placements, and shift the supply of placement agencies independent to board managed services, also to enhance value.
  4. Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry (October 2022) – it proposed to impose on professionals and other people in close contact with children the duty to report child sexual abuse, to fight against the under-identification of the CSA, the creation of child protection authorities for England and Wales to improve practice and advise governments on policy and the professional regulation of staff in children’s homes and care of young people.

At the same time, the sector faces growing demand and financial pressures as it emerges from the pandemic and deals with the impact of the current high rate of inflation.

Child protection inquiries hit record highs in 2021-22up 10% on the previous year, thanks to a 9% increase in referrals to children’s social services, according to figures from the DfE, while the Association of Directors of Children’s Services calculated that The councils are facing an almost £800million shortfall in their children’s services budgets this year.

It has raised serious concerns about the impact of next week’s autumn statement, when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce £35billion in annual public spending cuts. These are due to come into effect after the end of the government’s current spending review period in 2025. However, in the meantime, councils will still have to manage budgets that are lower in real terms than those projected at the time of the spending review, in 2021. , due to the much higher rate of inflation.

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