Why this council handed the running of children’s social care to the NHS

Trafford says the move is part of plans to deliver an all-age community health and social care model

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Big changes are afoot in Trafford. This month the council integrated its children social care service with its adult social care and community health services, and handed the running of them to an NHS trust.

Council social workers will still be employed by the council but the day-to-day management of social care in the borough will now be handled by the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. Until now the trust delivered the child and adolescent mental health service and other community health services.

The move is part of Trafford’s plan to create an “all-age community health and social care model” and the transfer of control was done under section 75 of 2006 Health Act. Section 75 partnership agreements allow councils and health bodies to exercise each others functions.

Whole family

Cathy Rooney, director of safeguarding and professional development at the new service, says the move will mean better support for children whose parents who need help with issues – such as mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence – because all relevant professionals will be in the same team.

“At the moment the risk with the traditional model of working is that each person in that family gets approached by a different professional in a different way and different plans are developed for them,” she says.

“What this will create is the opportunity to look at the whole family, [and] look at the whole workforce and be able to consider, together, how do we meet the needs for the whole family and not have them have to face in different directions, depending on what they need.”

As part of the changes children’s social workers will be co-located with colleagues from health and adult social care. Rooney says this could help enhance the skills of professionals in the team since they will learn from each other while maintaining their professional independence.

“We will still be wanting social workers to be social workers, and be excellent,” says Rooney.

“We’ve had health visitors, education welfare officers, social workers and youth workers sitting together, working the same patch, working the same families together and that has already created excellent outcomes. What we want to do is extent that even further so that we’re looking at the whole family.”

By the end of the year the service intends to establish three teams: a ‘keeping families together service; an ‘all-age front door’, and a ‘all-age learning disability’ service. This, according to a council proposal setting out the changes, may have an “impact on staffing levels”.

Efficient

In its last inspection in May 2015, Ofsted graded Trafford children’s services ‘good’ overall and rated its care leavers’ services ‘outstanding’.

Rooney says the new approach would take the council beyond good and be more efficient.

The model is also part of Trafford Council’s plan to shift from being a provider to a commissioner of services. Richard Spearing, integrated network director at Trafford Council and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, adds that the move is also another step on the path towards creating an “integrated community care model”.

In the future, primary care will play a large role in all-age model being developed in Trafford, says Spearing. “Not just [general practitioners] but care in general, then we will be working more closely with [primary care] as things progress,” he says.

“We wanted to think about whole-person care. For us if you start to detach services and look at them separately – for example [if] you’re just focused on older age people and getting services right for them, you miss the opportunity to think about place, family and prevention the way that you need to, to develop a model that is sustainable.”

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