Teachers and social workers must overcome long-standing cultural barriers before they can improve children’s well-being through successful partnerships, professionals have warned.
John Chowcat (pictured left), general secretary of the Association of Professionals in Education and Children’s Trusts, said some schools were participating well with children’s trusts, which aim to bring together all young people’s services in different areas with a focus on improving outcomes.
But he added it was “no secret” that many had failed to engage with the agenda.
Threats to schools
“Schools say they don’t see the need for [children’s trusts], they don’t understand it, they see it as a threat to their status as education providers,” he said, adding that these barriers were not insurmountable.
“Although it’s an additional responsibility to teachers’ day jobs, I think the cultural differences can be overcome,” he told delegates.
Chowcat said he supported the government’s announcement made in July that a legal duty to cooperate in promoting children’s well-being, which currently exists for local authorities, would be extended to schools.
Chowcat’s comments followed a study by the Audit Commission last week that revealed there was little evidence to show children’s trusts had improved outcomes for young people.
Strong partnerships build progress
Laura Johnston, a senior social work manager at Shropshire council, told CC Live how significant progress could be achieved by building strong partnerships with other agencies without recourse to legislation.
As the head of multi-agency teams in children and young people’s services, Johnston oversaw two partnership pilot projects in the last three years which led to improved understanding of other disciplines, easier access to social care services for schools, and improved information sharing between agencies.
As a result, social work teams were reorganised into multi-agency teams, which strengthened links with specialist services and included professionals such as children’s substance misuse workers, children and adolescent mental health professionals, and health development officers.
Although Chowcat called for greater co-location of social workers into schools, Johnston said this had not been possible in Shropshire due to insufficient staff.