Practices ‘could set social workers free’

The introduction of social care “practices”, similar in style to GP practices, is one of the more radical ideas in the green paper.

The Department for Education and Skills believes there is an “inherent tension” for social workers operating within a local authority.

Although they want to do what is best for the child, they have limited freedom to act as an advocate and must work within the authority’s policies and practices.

To address this, the department will explore the idea of social workers working in autonomous organisations, commissioned by an authority but with the freedom to concentrate on the children in their care.

Each practice would hold a budget, provided through a contract, to spend on placement and support.

The green paper says this would give social workers “a genuine financial and personal stake in a small organisation centred around them and the children in their care”.

But Hammersmith and Fulham children’s trust director Andrew Christie said the looked-after children budget was very volatile and practices would need to be very large to manage it.

David Hawker, director of children, families and schools at Brighton and Hove Council, said contracting services to the independent sector could increase costs.



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