Twenty-four hour access to social workers and multi-agency practice are among the issues that will feature in the first pilots to outsource social work services for looked-after children.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families announced last month that Blackburn with Darwen, Hillingdon, Kent, Liverpool, Sandwell and Staffordshire councils would begin piloting social work practices this year.
The six councils must select voluntary or private sector providers or a small group of social workers to run the independent practices, which will each be responsible for between 100 and 200 looked-after children in long-term placements.
Providers are expected to be selected by May, by which time specific requirements will have been built into contracts, in which payments will be made according to the achievement of certain outcomes. The pilots are due to begin in September.
Alan Renshall (pictured), project leader at Liverpool Council, said it would look to include a contractual target to give children 24-hour access to their allocated social worker.
It would also expect young people to keep the same social worker throughout every stage of their time in care, including the leaving-care process.
The government has asked the councils to design the model of care around the views of looked-after children, while also consulting social workers.
Renshall, who commissions children’s services, said young people in care identified areas in need of development in a consultation in Liverpool last year. The council has also appointed three teenagers in care aged 16 and 17 as advisers for the pilot.
Jackie Gower, head of children’s social work services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, stressed the need for a multi-agency practice, encompassing professions such as health and play therapy.
The pilots will run until 2013 and are backed by £6m in funding. The government will decide in 2013 whether to allow councils across England to adopt the scheme.