The Welsh assembly government is to trial the use of multi-agency teams to help safeguard children whose parents have complex needs, with a view to keeping families together.
It is hoping to set up integrated family support teams in all councils over the next five years but will provide £1.8m to each of three councils to test the idea from 2010-13, focusing primarily on parental substance misuse.
The teams will seek to identify families where parents have mental health needs, substance misuse problems or learning disabilities, or where there is domestic violence. The aim is to work intensively to keep children at home or return them to their families if at all possible.
Social work consultant
The multi-professional teams will also test new workforce roles, such as that of social work consultant. In Hackney, east London, consultants have led small teams working with vulnerable children and families and taken responsibility for all cases while continuing to practice.
Deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas, said it was important to give experienced practitioners the opportunity to progress up the career ladder while continuing to work directly with families.
She added: “Evidence suggests that by bringing together a range of skilled staff, a family can get better support and help to overcome the difficult situation they may be in. The highly skilled practitioners will spend more time working directly with families to create positive change.”