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Posts from the ‘Campaign: The Munro Report’ Category

Munro Campaign Reflections

PeakCare Queensland is pleased to release reflections by Gayle Carr following her meeting with Professor Eileen Munro at a roundtable discussion in late 2011.

Gayle Carr is the co-ordinator of the Family Inclusion Network – Brisbane.

Gayle draws parallels between the messages promoted by Professor Munro and her experiences in the Family Inclusion Network.

Now that you have watched the video do you have any comments you would like to share on Gayle’s observations? You are also invited to enter queries or comments about other aspects of the Munro Review that you would like PeakCare to feature in forthcoming editions of our E-News.

Click here to comment on the YouTube Video or comment on this blog post below.

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Revisiting Reflections on Munro

After watching the reflections of Lindsay Wegener’s attendance at a roundtable meeting with Professor Eileen Munro in late 2011, please feel free to enter comments about the issues he discussed.

You are also invited to enter queries or comments about other aspects of the Munro Review that you would like PeakCare to feature in forthcoming editions of our E-News.

Do Tools Rule?

The Munro Review of the United Kingdom’s child protection system promotes a vision for “child-centred” practice where professional expertise in individualising the services to be provided to children, young people and families is properly valued.

Underpinning the reforms recommended by Professor Eileen Munro were concerns about the UK’s use of “one-size-fits-all” approaches to the delivery of child protection services.  In particular, this included concerns about an overly rigid and routine use of electronic assessment tools as a substitute for the exercise of professional judgement and decision-making.This can be seen as symptomatic of the concerns described in my previous posts about “procedure driving practice” (i.e. the “tail wagging the dog”) in place of “good practice” remaining in charge (i.e. the “dog wagging its tail”).

Concerns about the application of standardised approaches to the assessment of children and families’ needs including, in particular, the use of “electronic assessment tools”, are not confined to the United Kingdom.

You may like to read and consider the linked Gillingham and Humphreys (2010) report on the use of “Structure Decision-Making (SDM) Tools” in Queensland.

This research identified that none of the specific aims of the SDM tools in relation to assisting decision-making, promoting consistency and targeting children most in need of service provision had been met.The research found that, rather than assisting the process of decision-making, the tools were often completed in retrospect to match the outcome that had already been determined.

Practitioners who were consulted in the process of conducting the research were critical of the tool “over-simplifying” and failing to deal with the complexities of casework.   The tools were viewed as an “administrative burden” that were being chiefly used for purpose of ensuring accountability for decision-making, rather than as an aid in assisting appropriate decisions being made.

What are your thoughts about the concerns raised by the Munro Review and the Gillingham and Humphreys research in relation to current use of the SDM tools?

Do the findings of the Gillingham and Humphreys report match or differ from your observations and experiences in relation to ways in which the SDM tools are currently being used?

If you have concerns about the SDM tools, are they about the design of the tools or about the ways in which the tools are being used?

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

It’s all about the sum of the parts, isn’t it?

Amongst the range of changes to be made to the United Kingdom’s child protection system, Professor Eileen Munro recommended that there be a shift away from conducting inspections of individual organisations to police their compliance with various guidelines, rules and performance measures.  In place of this, she recommended that an inspection system be created that allows for an examination of the contributions being collectively made by all key services in achieving an effective child protection system at a local level. 

Professor Munro noted that this should include an examination of the contributions being made by local health services, education, police and the justice system to the creation and maintenance of an effective child protection system.  According to Professor Munro, if “rules” are to exist, those that should be focussed upon are those that are developed to ensure that organisations are effectively working together.

Can you imagine what it would look like if a similar shift in approach was to occur within Queensland? 

For example, what would it be like if, in place of evaluating the compliance of individual non-Government organisations with the outputs stipulated in their “service agreements”, there was a shift towards regularly assessing the contributions being made by all key services – both Government and non-Government owned – to the achievement of agreed-upon outcomes being sought for children, young people and families within a particular community?

Non-Government organisations often report to PeakCare Queensland that their capacity to meet the requirements of “service standards” associated with the licensing of care services is often impinged upon by other organisations such as Child Safety Service Centres, if they are not adequately fulfilling their defined role and responsibilities in relation to a number of practices or procedures.

What would it look like if the approach taken to the assessment of services in relation to their licence applications was changed to also incorporate an evaluation of the collaborative performance of Government organisations (such as Child Safety Service Centres, Youth Justice Services, public health and education services) in meeting the requirements established by licensing?

How could these approaches be best managed in ways that promote a shared “learning culture” in preference to a “compliance culture”?

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

When the tragedy of youth suicide strikes, will you know what to do?

During recent weeks, a series of articles by The Australian has shone a spotlight on the deaths by suicide of two teenage girls from Maryborough – both aged 16 – in 2009.  Their deaths in such sad circumstances and at such a young age are, of course, a tragedy and our sincere sympathy is extended to their families and friends.

The articles published by The Australian serve as vivid reminders of the complexity of child protection work, the high and often life-threatening stakes involved in delivering child protection services and the onerous responsibilities held by both Government and non-Government organisations and their staff in exercising their roles to the best of their abilities.

A clear message that can be obtained from the reporting of their deaths is to always remain vigilant in looking beyond what may be perceived as difficult behaviours of young people and hearing their underlying pain and cries for help.  This underlines the need for a properly qualified, knowledgable and skilled workforce who are professionally supervised, challenged and supported in their decision-making and work with young people.

The contentious questions

Beyond this essential message arising from the tragedy of these girls’ deaths, an area of contention highlighted by The Australian articles concerns the ways in which:

·     the deaths of children and young people are to be properly investigated

·     organisations and individuals can be held accountable for their decisions and the actions they take in affording children and young people the protection they need, and

·     the transparency with which the findings of such investigations can or should be made known to the families of these children as well as the general public.

As reported within The Australian, the Minister for Child Safety, Phil Reeves has been resistant to making any public comment and was reluctant to release findings of the three inquiries conducted in relation to the deaths of the two girls. In response to calls by Tracy Davis, the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Child Safety, to make public the investigation findings including any disciplinary proceedings or procedural changes instituted as a result of these findings, Minister Reeves has argued that legislated privacy provisions have prevented him from doing so.  It is noted that in response to the ensuing impasse, Premier Anna Bligh has recently requested that Minister Reeves re-visit his refusal to release the investigation findings and the Department’s Director-General has been instructed to arrange a meeting with the mothers of these girls to inform them about the investigation findings.

PeakCare’s views

PeakCare’s view is that Minister Reeves was correct in giving importance to the privacy and dignity of the two girls – even in their death.   However, it is also PeakCare’s view that Tracy Davis, the Shadow Spokesperson was also behaving appropriately in asking what lessons can be learned from this tragedy.  The contention surrounding this issue appears to be one of degree – to what extent can or should the findings of investigations of this type be made known publicly in the interests of accountability and transparency and to what extent can or should levels of information be withheld from public scrutiny for reasons of respecting the privacy of children who have died, their families and/ or other parties.

What Munro would say

In considering the ways in which these issues may be best balanced and managed, it is beneficial to consider recommendations made by Professor Eileen Munro in her recent review of the United Kingdom’s child protection system.

Professor Munro highlighted the shortcomings of reactive responses to a number of investigations of child deaths within the United Kingdom that focussed on identifying and blaming “professional error”.  The Munro recommendations set out a challenge to look beyond “professional error” and ask the more and difficult and challenging questions about the characteristics and features of the system that allowed for the “professional error” to occur.

These are not questions for the Government only – they also concern you!

It should not be regarded that the ethical and moral dilemmas likely to be encountered in answering the questions about the best ways to conduct investigations and manage their findings are ones to be wrestled with by Governments only.  Similar dilemmas may also be encountered at any time by a non-Government organisation.

For example, in the sad event that a child who has been a client or residing in the care of your service, dies:

·     What responsibilities may be held by your organisation to commission its own investigation?

·     How will the interface between your organisation’s own investigation and those which may potentially be undertaken by the Police Service, the Department of Communities, the coroner and/ or the Child Death Review Committee be managed and by whom?

·     To whom will your organisation disclose the findings of its own investigation, how will this be managed and what will be the extent of information that should be provided to certain parties (such as members of the child’s family or the general public)?

·     Does your organisation have articulated policies in respect of the above and to what extent are they driven by a fear of litigation or by other ethical considerations?

·     To what extent are your policies focussed in identifying and blaming “professional error” or conversely, focussed on addressing the systemic issues that may have enabled or contributed to “professional error”?

Subject to your interest in further exploring these questions and arriving at the best answers, PeakCare would be pleased to organise a forum where relevant issues can be discussed and “expert advice” from guest presenters provided.

If you have an interest in participating in such a forum, please indicate your interest by emailing groberts@peakcare.org.au.

It is by honestly and openly dealing with the challenges posed by questions raised in The Australian articles that we can honour the two Maryborough girls whose lives tragically ended in 2009.

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

Solution: Suprise Visits?

It is important to consider that Professor Munro did not recommend the removal of all frameworks and systems for managing and monitoring service quality in the UK.  What she recommended however was a shift in focus away from “compliance” to what “really matters” – that being, whether or not children and families are actually being helped.

In particular, Professor Munro recommended that the system of scheduled “inspections” that are conducted in the UK be replaced with inspections conducted on an “unannounced basis” to reduce the administrative and bureaucratic burden currently involved in preparing for an inspection.

  1. What might it be like within Queensland if, in place of “planned external evaluations” of care services, these were replaced by “unplanned inspections or assessments”? 
  2. Could this be managed in ways that reduce the bureaucratic burden of preparing for evaluations?  
  3. Would “unplanned inspections or assessments” provide a better picture of the true quality of services being provided to children, young people and families?

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

Warning! Scaffold With Care

Interestingly, those responsible for implementing recommendations of the Munro Review within the UK are now concerned that when shifting away from an over-reliance on “guidelines, targets and rules” that they not “kick away the scaffolding” without safe transition plans in place.

Follow along the discussion in the UK and have a read of the minutes of the Munro Review Implementation Working Group, then consider the questions below. Don’t forget to share your thoughts!

  1. If Queensland were to reduce our reliance on the various guidelines, targets and rules that we have in place to ensure service quality, might we similarly be at risk of kicking away some necessary scaffolding? 
  2. If we were to reduce our reliance on “procedure”, do we have the level of “professional expertise” needed to fill the gap?

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

Guidelines, Targets and Rules, Oh My!

If we were to track back in time, some very good reasons could be found that explain why certain systems and processes were established in Queensland for ensuring the quality of services that children, young people and families are entitled to receive.  For instance: The system of licensing out-of-home care services, arose out of recommendations contained within the 1998-99 Forde Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions – this Inquiry having discovered a significant lack of accountability and consistency in relation to the quality of services being provided for children and young people living in out-of-home care.

We need to think carefully about systems and processes to ensure we do not ‘toss the baby out with the bathwater’. Here’s some questions to consider:

  1. Has Queensland “over-regulated” our child protection system? 
  2. Do we, like the United Kingdom, have too many statutory guidelines, targets and rules? 
  3. Do these guidelines, targets and rules support and assist good child protection practice or are they distractions from, or perhaps a substitute for, the exercise of professional expertise and judgement that is now in short supply?

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

Is The Tail Wagging Queensland’s Child Protection System?

Let’s think about key features of the United Kingdom’s child protection system that were criticized in the recently completed review conducted by Professor Eileen Munro and how closely they resemble the image of “a tail wagging its dog”.  Then let’s think about Queensland’s child protection system and ask ourselves, “Is the dog still wagging its tail or has the tail taken over?”

Key features of the UK’s child protection system noted by Professor Munro included excessive “bureaucratic demands” and a “standardisation” of services that has resulted in these services being unable to flexibly respond to the variety of needs held by children, young people and families, excessive “statutory guidance, targets and local rules”, many of which are “unnecessary”, “unhelpful” and “distort practice”, and an over-reliance on “compliance” in place of valuing and promoting “professional expertise” in ensuring good child protection practice.

Importantly, the Munro Review did not recommended a complete abandonment of all systems and processes that are in place to guide, monitor and evaluate the quality of the UK’s child protection services.  Rather, Professor Munro recommended a radical reduction in the number of centrally prescribed “rules” and their replacement with “essential rules” only –rules that are essential in allowing organisations to work effectively together.  Her recommendation was that, instead of “procedures” driving practice, there be a shift in focus towards a more active observance of the “principles that underpin good practice”.

Within Queensland, both Government and non-Government organisations providing child protection services operate in a regulated environment.  For example, non-Government organisations providing out-of-home care services must be licensed and demonstrate their compliance with certain service standards.  Non-Government organisations that are Government funded are generally required to regularly report on their performance in delivering defined outputs and achieving certain targets.

There are some key questions we can use to guide our thinking about these issues. Join me across the next week to consider my questions, add your own, and leave your comments!

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

Who Wins According to the Munro Report?

The recently completed Munro Review of the United Kingdom’s child protection system found that the “demands of bureaucracy” had become so great that the capacity of child protection organisations and their staff to work directly with children and families was being hindered.  Practitioners and managers told the review that the demands of observing statutory guidelines, meeting targets and adhering to “local rules” had become so extensive that their ability to stay “child-centred” was compromised.  In addition, complaints were received that, in becoming “so standardised” through the requirement to comply with these guidelines, targets and rules, UK services were no longer able to provide the range of responses needed to respond to the variety of needs with which children and families often present.

So the question is…Are these features of Queensland’s child protection system?  And if so, are they features of Government child protection services only or do they also apply to non-Government services?

A while ago, a child protection practitioner commented to me that he had left his employment with a non-Government organisation to return to his former job with the Department of Communities because the non-Government organisation was now even more “bureaucratic” than the Department.  What do you think this worker meant by those comments? 

In response to these concerns, the Munro Review recommended a “radical shift” away from a “central prescription” of statutory guidelines, targets and rules towards helping child protection professionals to exercise “more freedom” in making use of their professional expertise in assessing need and providing the “right help”.  In place of “unnecessary or unhelpful prescription”, the Munro Review recommended that this be replaced by a focus on firstly, only the “essential rules” that enable multiple agencies to work together effectively and secondly, the “principles that underpin good practice”.

Professor Munro noted that these recommended actions were necessary to move the UK child protection system away from being a “compliance culture” towards becoming a “learning culture”.

How would you describe the culture of Queensland’s child protection system – as a “compliance culture” or as a “learning culture”?  Is this a description that applies to the child protection system generally or is it one that is confined to your organisation only or maybe a bit of both?

These are not easy questions to ponder and answer – they require debate.   Your answers to this survey can assist us in generating the ideas that can inform this debate.

Click here to take the survey!

Lindsay Wegener – PeakCare Executive Director