Council halves child protection plans after radical service change

Chief social worker hails “incredible outcomes” of Hertfordshire council’s family safeguarding teams and says model could have national impact

Photo: tashatuvango/fotolia
Photo: tashatuvango/fotolia

The number of children on child protection plans in Hertfordshire has halved thanks to a new family safeguarding model, according to the council.

The chief social worker for children praised the “incredible outcomes” achieved by the project, which has also seen a drop of 67% in the number of repeat police call outs for domestic abuse incidents among the families it works with.

The family safeguarding teams bring children’s social workers together with professionals specialising in working with adults around mental health, drug and alcohol and domestic abuse. The teams work with shared caseloads and provide intensive support to both parents and children.

Hertfordshire introduced the model following a a successful bid for £4.9m in funding from the Department for Educations’ innovation programme. The council said child protection plans had fallen from 1032 to 530 since January 2015, a reduction of 49%.

‘Incredible’

A full evaluation report on the Hertfordshire model is expected in coming weeks. At an event held in December to celebrate the project’s progress, Isabelle Trowler, said the report would evidence “incredible outcomes”.

She praised the “herculean effort” of staff involved and said the impact of their work would “ricochet around” the social care system in England.

“It is so important that we learn from what they have done. The impact this overarching care framework in child protection might have on the national system could be quite profound. I think Hertfordshire might just be our national treasure.”

Richard Roberts, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said the new approach had helped more families keep their children at home.

He said: “It has been no small feat executing this ambitious project in a big shire county like ours, but everyone has been so enthusiastic and pulled together to make it happen.

“So we would like to thank our social workers, drug and alcohol workers, mental health workers and all other parts of the family safeguarding teams across the country – you are helping make this possible.”

18 Responses to Council halves child protection plans after radical service change

  1. londonboy January 9, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    I’m a bit taken aback that this is seen as a radical initiative – surely it is common sense?

    – ‘The family safeguarding teams bring children’s social workers together with professionals specialising in working with adults around mental health, drug and alcohol and domestic abuse. The teams work with shared caseloads and provide intensive support to both parents and children’.

    What has the DfE been doing these last years?
    Hmm. Troubled Families?

  2. Deborah McIlveen January 9, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    What is the model they are using? Is there some information available about this model please? What is different about their response to dv that has reduced repeat call outs? Are the dv perpetrators on perps. programmes and changing their domestic violence behaviours? is there evidence of this? I see that there is an evaluation and welcome the opportunity to look at that when it is available.

  3. Freya Barrington January 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    Well done Hertfordshire

  4. Chrissie January 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    I worked as a social worker, team manager and conference chair for over 20 years in Hertfordshire. In the early days we sat with the CMHT and LD teams and would frequently do joint visits and share information. When I did Systemic Practice training, I along with a colleague who had also completed the training would together identify families who we thought could benefit from our intensive intervention which involved visiting daily for up to two weeks to prevent cases coming to conference or children coming into care. This was extremely rewarding and families felt that someone was “doing something” and responded positively.

    Hertfordshire is an innovative Local Authority and I am not surprised at this new innovation. The worst thing that happened was when teams became separated and the informal joint working ended. So sad as we learned such a lot from each other.

  5. Vivien Freeman January 9, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    This is so obvious . Children’s and Adults’ Services should never have been separated. Specialists may be required to work with particular difficulties but how can any child be helped if a SW has no understanding of parents’ difficulties. Likewise a Mental Health worker needs to understand that a parent who might be well enough to look after her/himself may not be able to care for a young child.
    It is common sense.

  6. Borstal Boy January 9, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

    File under “No shit Sherlock” in the Dept of the Bleeding Obvious then sit and weep.

    • Lin Simmonds January 10, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

      Well said borstal boy!

  7. Londonboy January 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    From my jaundiced perspective one has to wonder if the DfE had taken more ‘responsibility’ and less ‘ownership’ of Children’s services and figured out how to work with the DH (Adult services) with joint responsibility for families, whether this ‘radical initiative’ would ever have been needed?

  8. Londonboy January 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    ….and if the DH and DfE could now work out how to co-produce co-ordinated legislation so that for example it were clear how the Care Act sits with responsibilities to Care leavers who have autism etc at transition I might just be a little less jaundiced about the ability of these two departments to work together without ‘radical initiatives’.

  9. kirsty bailey January 10, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    Wish this was in leicester. I needed support like this to keep my kids at home. My youngest 2 were removed from home on thr final day of care proceedings for forced adoption. Had this been available I would have GLADLY taken it.

    I don’t know who I am without my kids.

  10. Patrick Crawford January 11, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    Such developments are always good news but how was a situation reached where there were 1032 young people subject to CP plans?

  11. Polly January 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    The idea of all relevant professionals sitting down together to share information and create intervention plans is not new: we call it a CiN meeting or a CP core group.
    Clearly something is working well at Herts and one hopes that the government and Ms Trowler are not going to take these positive aspects and demand that they are rolled out as a poorly funded expectation of already overstretched social workers and other professionals.

  12. Chris January 11, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    Sorry to put a damper on this, but they gave nearly£5m for this project in one authority. Across the country, even allowing for special project costs we must be talking nearly £750m. Can anyone see that happenning? How many vested interests are there keeping tight to their little boxes and cost centres? I wish it was different.

  13. Safeguarding sw January 12, 2017 at 5:51 am #

    I think you will find most local authorities practice Care Management led practice, we safeguarding social workers in Birmingham have been using this model for the last 3 years or more. Here it’s known as working in partnership with services, parents and families nothing radical about that surely

    • Steppingup January 12, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

      There’s a big difference between working in partnership compared with shared caseloads. The latter being far more collaborative with joint supervision, joint assessments and joint interventions.

    • Ivan January 15, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

      Dear Safeguarding SW ,

      Exactly WHICH Birmingham are you working in? Having worked in Birmingham in a number of roles including senior roles, there is NOTHING like the Heartfordshire model in place in Birmingham.

      Teams work in silos, there are NO mental health, drug professionals, police, DV professionals co-located IN the teams in Birmingham like in Heartfordshire. In the Birmingham I worked in over several years, there were staff working in isolation without good management, bullied, without IT equipment, a phone, basic information or even a desk. Caseloads horrendous, staff demotivated, overworked or just plain lazy, a HUGE admin team in EACH of the main offices but no admin support for social workers, incompetence beyond compare (The good staff who were few and far between were unfairly overloaded because they could actually do the work), fragmented teams, endless “re-designs” and a turnover of staff that meant nobody knew who anyone really was. Hence SURPRISE constant inadequate ratings!…. Hmmmm……Were you having a dream of utopia for Birmingham? lol

      I say, “Well done Hertfordshire”,

  14. Londonboy January 12, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Thinking aloud..

    It would be interesting to compare costs with the Troubled Families Programme costs – payment by results. I think £200M?
    Any change needs a ‘transformation/change cost’ – almost running 2 systems side by side for a while and then running costs thereafter.
    The actual running costs for this model may be cheaper than the existing model once the cost of CP proceedings are factored in and when the largely ineffective Troubled Families programme budget is set against the cost of change then the whole model could ‘stack up’ financially.

    I hope someone with real expertise is looking at this because we have to get a working system that can cope the complexity of service provision that comes with localism, privatisation and fracturing/splintering of services, budget reduction that makes multi-team, multi-agency work almost impossible?

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