Troubled council scraps Reclaiming Social Work model

Isle of Wight (Credit: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex Features)

The Isle of Wight is to scrap its “Reclaiming Social Work” model after it asked Hampshire Council to take over the running of its children’s services department.

Reclaiming Social Work (RSW) is model of child protection successfully pioneered in Hackney and praised by the Munro Report. It has been adopted by numerous councils and one of its founders, Isabelle Trowler, is England’s chief social worker for children.

However, part of Hampshire’s plan of reform for the troubled island council includes getting rid of the model, alongside doubling the number of frontline social worker posts.

John Coughlan, director of Hampshire’s children’s services, said they were not against the RSW model and in fact were trialing it in Basingstoke with early signs looking promising.

“However the implementation of the system in the Isle of Wight was flawed and in our opinion was not retrievable.

“We’re not closing the door on introducing Reclaiming Social Work in the Isle of Wight forever but the situation was such that we felt we needed to ensure we had good managerial control over the social work structure to begin with.”

Steve Goodman, co-founder of the model and director of Morning Lane Associates, agreed that although the Isle of Wight had called their model Reclaiming Social Work, the implementation of it had ignored many key elements of the system.

“People see what’s visible and the most visible part of RSW is the units as opposed to traditional teams. So people think if they just create units then they have implemented RSW and that’s not the case, it’s actually quite a small part of what is a whole operating system. Before you even introduce the units you need to increase the practice skill of social workers and reduce case-loads for example.”

He said Morning Lane Associates had not been involved in the Isle of Wight’s implementation of the model.

Hampshire’s plan of reform for the Isle of Wight’s children’s services also includes:

  • cutting senior manager posts by 40%

  • increasing other related frontline positions by 28%

  • embarking on a drive to recruit more foster carers and adopters

  • creating new services for children in need, children leaving care or at risk of coming into care

  • creating a new central point of contact for all professionals and the public to reach social workers.

The proposals are out for consultation until the 23 October after which staff will be appointed to posts in the new structure.

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