The social work consultancy firm behind the ‘Hackney model’ has been given the green light by government to look at ways of releasing social workers from bureaucratic tasks.
Morning Lane Associates will roll out their ‘reclaiming social work’ model in five local authorities, after receiving approximately £4m from the government’s innovation fund for improving children’s services.
The model, which sees social work teams headed up by consultant social workers, was developed in Hackney by Isabelle Trowler, now chief social worker for children’s services, and Morning Lane director, Steve Goodman.
The consultancy firm will work with the Department for Education and Ofsted to try and reduce the demands they place on councils, with the aim of reducing the time social workers spend on bureaucratic tasks by 20%.
Goodman said this will involve making forms more user-friendly and reviewing authorisation processes, such as social workers having to ask permission to fund a service users’ bus fare.
“Obviously some bureaucracy needs to happen because social workers need to evidence what they are doing and why,” said Goodman.
“But if you do a survey, social workers will often say they are spending up to 80% of their time doing tasks that could be done by other staff or do not need to be done at all.”
“I think the Department for Education are very keen to explore whether our ways of reducing that burden on social workers and local authorities can work.”
Keeping families together
Children’s services departments in the five councils – Derbyshire, Buckinghamshire, Hull, Harrow and Southwark – will also be supported to develop family breakdown units and recruit social workers with the potential to become consultants.
Morning Lane is now running a national campaign to recruit ten consultant social workers for each authority, but the council will have the final say on who they take on and these individuals will then become permanent employees within the organisation.
The firm will also lead on the family breakdown units, which will work primarily with teenagers at risk of coming into care and their families.
“We want to enable change that means far more children remain safely with their families, rather than going into care,” said Goodman.
“Hopefully going forward this will also mean that if the councils are spending less money placing children in care, they can spend more on supporting families.”
The units will be staffed by a mixture of clinicians and consultants social workers from Morning Lane and the local authorities and unit coordinators will also be appointed to take on some of the bureaucratic tasks currently done by practitioners.
Allocation of funds
The final details of how the funding will be allocated is still to be confirmed, but where Morning Lane provide services to the councils, the money will go directly to them.
“If we’ve got a consultant psychologist working across the five family breakdown services then the money for her will be coming directly to Morning Lane for example,” said Goodman.
“But our aim is that where we can identify money is being spent by the local authorities to reclaim social work, the money will be given to them.”
All five authorities were already working with Morning Lane before applying for the funding and had strategic plans in place for implementing the ‘reclaim social work’ model.