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The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the municipal child welfare service and the use of public policy instruments

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Summary

Background and goal of the investigation

The purpose of the investigation was that the municipal child welfare services have for many years had problems meeting the requirements in the Child Welfare Act, and that there has been significant growth in the number of children subject to child welfare measures.

The goal of the investigation has been to assess to what extent the municipal child welfare services ensure that children who require necessary help and care receive these services at the right time, and assess what the possible causes of the weaknesses in the municipal child welfare service could be. The goal has also been to study how public policy instruments can be used to improve goal attainment in the municipal child welfare service.

Method

The investigation is based on statistics, interviews, reviews of dossiers, a questionnaire for the offices of the county governors and an assessment of a selection of shelved notifications. In addition, documents such as budget propositions, governing documents, research and supervisory reports have been reviewed. The survey covers the period 2007–2011.

Results

The investigation shows that many children who need help from the child welfare service do not receive assistance at an early stage. The child welfare service has erroneously shelved many notifications of concern, and in many municipalities it takes a long time before a child receives help. Many inspections are conducted where the child welfare service has not spoken with the child or conducted home visits.

It emerges from the investigation that there are deficiencies in the municipalities’ own offer of measures and the offer of public assistance measures from Bufetat (Children, Youth and Family Affairs Agency). In the opinion of the Office of the Auditor General, there has not been sufficient clarification of which public assistance measures the municipalities can expect from Bufetat. The survey also shows that there is a need for research that can increase knowledge of the effects of the assistance measures the child welfare service most often use, and research that can contribute to developing new assistance measures.

There has been an increase in the percentage of children subject to assistance measures who have action plans and children in foster homes who have care plans. At the same time there are weaknesses in both the child welfare service’s follow-up of children subject to assistance measures and follow-up of children who live in foster homes.

The investigation also shows that there is a need to strengthen expertise in relation to management and internal control in the child welfare services, including to ensure that statutory requirements and procedures are complied with. It is also necessary to strengthen the professional units in many child welfare services. It emerges from the survey that the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion has given the Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs few tasks in the area of child welfare other than management of Bufetat. The role of a specialist directorate has therefore been limited. Guidelines have been prepared in several areas, and in 2011 and 2012 earmarked subsidies have been appropriated for positions/expertise measures for the municipal child welfare service. The survey shows that there is nevertheless a need for further measures to improve goal achievement in the municipal child welfare service.

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Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843