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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meg is interviewed by Epolitix about children and government

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Munn on Priorities

Question: Does the focus on university funding mean the government has moved away from younger children's issues in education?

Meg Munn: One of things that's been very clear is that the government has given a very high priority to education; saying "we've put a lot of money into this because we know that's important to children's life chances". They've done it right from the early days with things like Sure Start.

On social workers working in schools

Question: As a former social worker, what did you think of plans to bring members of the profession into schools?

Meg Munn: I feel it was a very positive signal and it gets away from the stigma of children in care; lots of families have problems from time to time.

It gives teachers a bit more confidence that they've got some expert help and support to decide what it is kids actually need.

The other thing it will do is help teachers to have a more holistic view of children - to use a trendy phrase.

Things have moved on but I remember teachers would say "I know we got a problem so we'll ring up the social worker" and when they put the phone down they would say "phew, done my bit".

One of the things about bringing this under one person in the DfES it that it says something which is very important in terms of children's abilities - and the statistics bear this out - is that children who've got problems at home don't do well educationally.

The achievement levels of children in care are appalling. When you work with these kids and you know what kinds of things they are struggling with it comes as no surprise.

So I think that recognising that actually you've got to look at this if you're going to help children achieve it's very helpful.

Professional gains?

Question: Is having a children's minister going to help social workers and teachers?

Meg Munn: I would want to see it not just as being something that breaks down the professional barriers but something that breaks down the financial barriers as well.

Educational achievement is also about supporting children's emotional and family well-being as well.

Having that under one minister at the DfES should be a very, very positive message to social workers.

One of the things the government is keen on is to be seen to be delivering and starting to make a difference.

If that can be proved to be the case there might even be more money flowing that way.

Question: Would you like to give some advice to children's minister Margaret Hodge?

Meg Munn: I'd love to.

The number one thing that she needs to do is to give some very positive messages to all professionals who work with children.

There's certainly been a feeling among social workers - just because they're a small profession and they tend to get a bad press when things go wrong - is to really ensure they feel valued.

That's also in terms of breakdown those professional barriers and getting them to work in this way it will be important that they are not seen as second class and worth less than teachers.

The other thing would be to focus on how schools involve parents. It makes such a difference to the whole process of working with families and children if parents feel the school is a good place to go.

That's already an issue but it will increasingly become an issue as schools will be seen as where the social workers are. Let's be realistic the stigma and the problems aren't going to go away over night.

Having a real partnership and parents feeling there is that help and support there is going to be pretty important.

The Victoria Climbie inquiry

Question: What's been the impact of the Victoria Climbie inquiry?

Meg Munn: Much of what came out of it was about bad practice. It wasn't new.

It was about situations where there were problems. I think the aspect of the Climbie inquiry which was enormously important was a sense that the local authority should take over ownership of dealing with children who had problems.

Good practice in relation to child protection takes place all the time. Children are being protected and fewer are dying in Britain.

There's lots and lots of good stuff but that never comes out. What you hear about is when people aren't doing things right. We have to make a difference between saying we don't know how to do it - when in fact we do - and poor practice.

Question: The new appointment is a major step. Why hasn't more been made of it?

Meg Munn: It has been lost in the noise of the reshuffle and that's a shame.

I think that there are times when things go wrong and people say "why aren't we doing more about children". It's much more difficult, because children don't vote, to be proactive about it.

We have to look back to the time when the government did get really proactive about it - 1998 when Frank Dobson launched a whole new programme for children in care. He said "these are your children and you're not doing enough by them".

Having that approach and saying that loudly is enormously important. That's what this is really saying. Children are really important but we have to bring everything that goes with them together under one roof.

And we have to push it forward. We as adults have to think twice about what's important for children - they are the future generation after all.

It is a significant move and it deserves to have more debate, more discussion about it.

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