Munro Review

This is an opportunity not to set the ‘right’ system in stone, but to build an adaptive, learning system which can evolve as needs and conditions change. It is only by seeking well-balanced flexibility that the system can hope to retain its focus on helping children and families, rather than simply coming to serve its own bureaucratic ends.

Eileen Munro (2011)

The Munro Review of Child Protection has applied a complex adaptive systems approach to review the child protection system in England. The review has used this analysis to argue that a range of drivers, including well intentioned reforms, have produced a defensive system that has created obstacles to achieving the primary objective of protecting children.

Having carefully studied all three of the Munro Review reports, it seems essential that the reports and the recommendations are viewed and implemented taking full account of the systems perspective from which they were written. Whilst the report will require national changes, the nub of these changes are about reducing centralised control and returning professional decision making to the local system. To be effective, the changes Munro is proposing will need to be locally driven. This in itself is a very different approach requiring local areas to make sense of the findings in their own local context.

We were delighted to see that that as part of her analysis, Professor Munro cited a chapter that Alex Chard Director YCTCS ltd wrote with Patrick Ayre from the University of Bedfordshire:

A central tenet of managerialism is that workers are self-seeking and, in absence of the profit motive, this suggests that artificial incentives must be created to drive up attainment. Targets, performance indicators and assessments have therefore been constructed to motivate the workforce, failing to appreciate that, for most who work in the helping professions, altruism is a strong motive.

In that chapter we recognised that the primary motivation for the social care workforce was to deliver quality services and argued for a move away from a managerialist response towards learning or competent organisations that harnessed this motivation. This approach also recognises that teams can develop knowledge and know-how to improve the whole of the service response process. We can help you to achieve these cultural shifts and adopt these ways of working in your organisation.

Outlined below are initial developmental services we can provide to assist local areas to implement the Munro Review.

Strategic Management

The Munro reports are underpinned by a range of academic thinking. They are also proposing an approach to strategic service development and management that may be unfamiliar to many managers. With an academic understanding of the thinking that underpins Munro and our practical knowledge of applying these approaches, we
are in a position to offer orientation days for leadership and management teams.

An initial day would provide an orientation to the underlying thinking relevant to service re- development which would include:

 Viewing the child protection system as a complex adaptive system;

 Systems thinking and tackling wicked issues;

 The impact of managerialism;

 The concept of the learning organisation;

 Intuitive understanding and tacit knowledge (the practice wisdom of the workforce);

 Systemic perspectives, how context impacts on decision making.

We would stress that this should be seen as an introduction to such thinking as most of these areas are disciplines in their own right. The learning objective would be to provide a sufficient understanding to place the Munro Review in context.

Following the initial orientation day, a second day would build on the learning and consider the implications of these ways of thinking for local management and practice.

These orientation days can be offered at the Institute of Directors in London or at your workplace. We are of course happy to discuss the precise content and ensure it meets your particular needs and context. We are also able to devise more advanced learning packages and provide ongoing learning support.

Front-line Management

The review recognises the critical role that first- line managers have in creating the cultural and practice changes it will advocate. They have the key role in supporting individual social workers in their practice, allocation of work, facilitating social workers in developing their analytical skills, identifying learning needs and creating reflective thinking. Managers will need to be provided with support and training that provides them with the supervision skills that enable reflective practice, skills that enable, encourage and question the evidence base on which their social workers are practising.

Eileen Munro (2011)

Responding to the Munro Review will also require a significant investment to change the orientation of management of frontline practice. With regard to frontline managers we would see some of their immediate needs as:

 The concept of the learning organisation;

 Developing the professional expertise of staff;

 Understanding intuitive understanding and tacit knowledge;

 Developing reflective practice in the workplace and through supervision;

 Systemic perspectives, how context impacts on decision making.

Again we can offer an initial one day course to orient managers to the underlying thinking on front-line practice that underpins the Munro Review. We can also devise more advanced learning packages and provide ongoing learning support.

Analysing Referrals

The Munro review has recognised that there is a need to effectively manage the interactions between universal services, early prevention and referral through to social care services. She notes that:

There has been a steady escalation of numbers referred to social workers over the decades but there has been a perceptible steep rise in referrals (11 percent in the 2009/10 year) since the publicity around the tragic death of Peter Connelly ... Managing this high rate of referrals has become so problematic that it is seriously affecting all other aspects of social work.

Work we undertook in analysing referrals to an assessment service showed the impact on the system of inappropriate referrals as well as the impact of re-referrals which created systems churn. As was noted earlier, taking a systems perspective and meeting need rather than gate-keeping high thresholds can actually reduce workloads.

An analysis of previous referrals linked to dialogue with social workers and managers can help to constructively challenge existing ways of working and help to identify the local factors that are creating such inefficiencies and assist with system re-design. Such work can also be used with partners to work to identify appropriate responses to the needs of children and families and again aid inter- agency systems re-design.

Such work can be powerfully linked to system modelling, using local data to create a simulation of the possible impact of proposed changes.

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