The government has granted £1.5 million for three London boroughs to set up and run a new national centre to develop future leaders in children’s social work.
The Centre for Social Work will be based across Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham.
The Tri-borough partnership of the three councils is one of the Department for Education’s eight Partners in Practice – high performing authorities given “academy-style freedoms” to improve and develop new ways of working that the rest of the system could learn from.
The aim of the centre, which was proposed by the Tri-borough as part of their Partner in Practice plan, is to “spot and nurture leadership potential” at all levels from frontline social worker to assistant director.
It will start by developing 15 social workers a year from 2017. The £1.5 million funding is for the first two years; in the long term the centre is expected to be self-financing.
The Tri-borough councils will build on their Focus on Practice model, which was one of the key features noted by Ofsted when it gave two of the authorities an ‘outstanding’ rating in March (the first it has granted under the single inspection regime). A core element of the model is the role of clinical practitioners coaching and mentoring social workers; a spokesperson for the councils said they would be developing the approach into a systemic practice course for the centre.
The centre will work with up to three other local authorities per year initially. Tri-borough staff will coach the selected practitioners and managers in their own authorities with reflective supervision groups, case consultation and joint visits and those on the programme will also spend time in the Partner in Practice’s services.
Councillor Elizabeth Campbell, Kensington and Chelsea’s cabinet member for families and children, said: “What we are attempting to create is the social work equivalent of a teaching hospital, where future leaders learn from the best and then put it into practice immediately.”
The Tri-borough will also be working with the Department for Education on its development programme for practice leaders using some of the same principles, a council spokesperson said.