Professionals need convincing about joint working

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A lot of people need convincing that education working together
with social services will work, Carole Bell warned at Community
Care
Live Children and Families today, writes
Natalie Valios.

Questioning whether it was possible to work in the context of
standards versus inclusion and targeted versus universal, Bell
said: “We have a lot of people to convince that working together
will work.”

The head of commissioning, quality assurance and review at
Hammersmith and Fulham children’s trust added: “If we don’t, we
won’t be able to fulfil the five outcomes in the green paper and
the Children Act.”

Julie Jones, the director of social and community services at
Westminster Council, who was also speaking at the session, agreed
that the challenge would not go away.

“The best outcome for all children is to achieve well in
school,” she added. “The complexity of what we are being asked to
do is overwhelming.”

She explained that Westminster has between 320 and 350
looked-after children in the borough.

Of these, two-thirds are in out-of-borough placements, attending
schools in over 40 Local Education Authorities.

Twenty per cent of the looked-after population has special
education needs and a quarter are unaccompanied asylum seeking
children.

This provided challenges for its multi-disciplinary specialist
team EPIC – education of children in care – such as dealing with
numerous other LEAs, lack of school places and placement moves,
said Jones.

“I asked my social work managers what was the most important
thing to deal with and they said it was the lack of school places.
I don’t think a couple of years ago they would have said that.”

“The director of education and I have stayed joined at the hip
on all occasions. We expect our managers to do the same and then
that to run right down to front line staff but it’s very
complicated,” she added.

But working together on the ground can be hampered by several
issues including the high turnover of staff in both social services
and teaching. “Building relationships and doing common assessments
work much better when you know each other,” said Jones.

“This isn’t an either/or, we share the same ambitions for
children.”

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