After overcoming initial concerns, Amada Pascall found that collaborative working offered variety, flexibility and new skills.
Under the Every Child Matters agenda Shropshire Council has established several multi-agency teams to work more collaboratively on prevention and early intervention with children and young people in need. During a reconfiguration of children and young people’s services in Shropshire early this year, social workers and senior social workers were incorporated into these teams.
In recent months I have seen some of the many benefits to multi-agency set-ups. Working alongside professionals from other disciplines, including mental health, education welfare and substance misuse, has helped me develop a broader perspective of their roles (particularly because we regularly talk about our work and share information).
The team is relatively new but I can see the previous boundaries between agencies already being transformed as we all develop a better understanding of our roles and responsibilities.
I am already seeing a more rapid and seamless response for families: referrals are made within the team to colleagues in other disciplines and the sharing of information is quicker and more effective.
I was initially concerned that I might lose some of the skills and knowledge I had developed in assessing and managing risk in my previous posts.
But I have discovered that moving into a multi-agency team has given me further opportunities to develop my skills in this area and develop my career. I now have opportunities to help other agencies gain awareness of child protection thresholds, particularly as one of my responsibilities is to provide consultations with professionals who have concerns or who need advice about the families they are supporting.
I now have more awareness of what support services are available in the local community and can develop good links with them. I have found my role as a social worker in a multi-agency team to be more varied than previous roles. It’s also given me greater flexibility in my role as I have opportunities to be more creative.
Part of my responsibility not only involves holding a caseload of children and young people who have a TAC (Team Around the Child) Plan but to attend TAC meetings when plans need to be reviewed. Rather than managing and reviewing plans, I directly work with children and families.
I also have responsibility to certain TAC meetings, either as the lead professional or to provide a consultation to those attending the meeting.
These meetings are an effective way of bringing together those professionals who are working closest with a family. They can be small and informal and the family is central in deciding who attends and how the plan is formulated. The family can decide, along with those professionals supporting them, the frequency of the meetings.
Families have commented that having a lead professional, someone who acts as their first point of contact, is less confusing and this has been echoed by other professionals supporting families.
This is an exciting time for the development of multi-agency teams in Shropshire and I am looking forward to the way in which the social worker role continues to develop.
Amanda Pascall is a social worker at Shropshire CouncilMore information
This article is published in the 18 September issue of Community Care under the headline Multi-agency Working is Key to Expanding Professional Skills