The Department for Education has confirmed that it is awarding Hampshire and the Isle of Wight almost £4 million from its Innovations Fund in order to reform children’s social work.
The funding will be used to introduce a series of measures that challenge the traditional ways of working, significantly reducing bureaucracy while improving outcomes for children in need of care and protection, and reducing spiralling demand for children’s social services in the longer term.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of the Isle of Wight Council and Executive member for children’s services, said:
“We are really pleased to learn that our joint bid with Hampshire has been successful. The additional funding will contribute to the ongoing work with Hampshire County Council to drive up standards in children’s services.”
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight bid sets out seven interlinked elements, which taken together have the potential to remodel social care services across the county and establish a new standard of good practice for other authorities to follow. These focus on the creation of new specialist family intervention teams, making much better use of voluntary support to reconnect with communities and improving the support to social workers so they have more time to spend with vulnerable children and young people.
Specifically, the elements include:
• Creating Family Intervention Teams of practitioners that specialise in domestic abuse, substance misuse or mental health for example, to provide a service for adults but with a clear focus on outcomes for the child;
• Building a robust network of volunteers to work with children and families in their communities and support the Family Intervention Teams;
• Developing a team of highly skilled administrators to become Social Work Co-ordinators to undertake all the recording for Social Workers and reduce the time that they are office based;
• Establish a multi-agency Missing, Exploited and Trafficked Team (MET) specifically to address the needs of children and young people who repeatedly go missing.
The driver for systematic change will be a change in focus, by social care services, moving from the sole needs of the individual child to include those of the child’s family. For example, in cases where a child is in need of care or protection because of the parent’s actions, such as drug or alcohol addiction, providing support to overcome those problems can avoid a child being taken into care long term, if at all.
Councillor Bacon added:
“With Hampshire’s continued support, we aim to develop the foundations for a whole system change to create the right conditions and capacity for professionals to work even more effectively with children and families in order to get it right first time and further reduce the number of referrals or repeated interventions.”