It seems that for years emergency duty (or out-of-hours) teams have
been in the sights of modernisers who view such generic teams as
social care dinosaurs. And yet they continue to defy extinction. As
parts of their traditional work disappear they seem to have become
busier not idler.
Five years ago, Derby City Council (which had become a unitary
authority in 1997) set up its own out-of-hours social work team,
having previously contracted the service from Derbyshire Council.
The shaping of the service was delegated to its service manager,
“I was appointed on 1 April 2001 and had to have the service
operational by 4 June,” smiles Hadley. “It was really exciting
because I had a blank sheet of paper. I needed to appoint six
staff, set up all the protocols and working arrangements between
daytime services and out of hours, and introduce interagency
arrangements with health, police and so on.”
The challenges didn’t stop there. “Another was resourcing 128 hours
a week, longer if there’s a bank holiday, with such a small team,”
Especially when you consider that most daytime social work teams
might have five or six staff to cover 37 hours a week. Being a
practitioner manager is certainly useful at times.”
However, such challenges for Hadley were outweighed by the
opportunities afforded by supportive senior management. She says:
“My line manager said: ‘We’ve got faith in you – get on with
It’s almost a clichŽ to say that any service’s best resource
is its staff. But it is true. Says Hadley: “Finding the right staff
was crucial. I needed people to be flexible, who could work shifts
within working time directives, work for a comparatively low
enhanced rate of just 10 per cent, and be able to provide a
continuity of service.”
For Hadley, recruiting tried and tested staff was pivotal. “I
managed to appoint two senior practitioners from the Derbyshire
team who act as my deputies.”
Having previously worked with them – as well as another former
colleague from the county – Hadley knew they were experienced,
reliable and competent approved social workers and child care
practitioners who were also well versed in adult care and court
work: good old fashioned generic all-rounders. “It was a good
blend,” she says. “It started us off on a sure footing – everyone
was up for it. It was a new service; it was exciting. And the
support we get from sessional staff has been excellent.”
Looking back at that time, Hadley regrets that there wasn’t an
official launch. “We should have had some sort of launch event,
where we could have said this is who we are and what we do.
Especially given that we weren’t being called an EDT but Care Line.
It was a missed PR opportunity,” she says.
The team’s next challenge is the ever-present problem of how to
respond to evolving services. Things have changed, agrees Hadley.
“There’s the separation of adults and children’s services – and yet
we still cover both. There is a contractual arrangement with Sova –
a voluntary agency – to take on the non-looked after children, but
we act as a handling agency for police and criminal evidence (Pace)
interviews. Family support now works some unusual hours. The youth
offending team now attends magistrates’ court but we do the bank
holidays. The crisis resolution team now covers mental health but
we still do the statutory mental health work.”
Despite aspects of its work being transferred out, Care Line’s
workload is increasing. “I don’t know whether that is because we
are becoming more well-known or whether there’s a perception that
people can access services more quickly through us,” Hadley says.
“We are getting through about 11,000 referrals a year which is a
lot for a small team. When we first started it was probably
something like 7,000.”
So, although the team’s inauguration passed largely unheralded, it
is certainly making the right impact now. But, says Hadley, the
team isn’t resting on its laurels. “We actively go out during the
day to provide training to social care staff on things like risk
assessment and to nurses and the universities. We like to get out
there to broadcast what we do. I think we’re a valuable resource to
Name: Chris Hadley.
Job: Service manager, Derby City Care Line.
Qualifications: CQSW/DipSW, MA Policy and
professional studies, NVQ5 Management.
Last job: Social worker, emergency duty team,
First job: Residential care worker with adults
Network – get other people involved.
Make sure staff have oodles of goodwill.
Invest in a launch event.
Confine yourself to office hours to set up an out-of-hours service.
Team identity is automatic.