Councils split over value of named social worker pilot

Three of the six councils involved in the government scheme for people with learning disabilities will not take part in the second phase

The Department of Health funded six councils to take part in the first phase of the named social worker pilot, which ran from October 2016 to March this year. 
Photo: Ray Tang/Rex/Shutterstock
The Department of Health funded six councils to take part in the first phase of the named social worker pilot, which ran from October 2016 to March this year. Photo: Ray Tang/Rex/Shutterstock

Three of the six councils involved in the government’s named social worker pilot for people with learning disabilities will not take part in the second phase of the scheme.

Nottingham and Calderdale councils have confirmed they will not bid to take part in phase two, which will run for another six months and is due to start later this year.

Community Care understands Camden council is also highly unlikely to participate.

The government invested £460,000 for the six councils to trial the named social worker pilot between October 2016 and March this year. The councils had flexibility over the design of the role, but the aim was to give people with learning disabilities and their families a dedicated social worker to help challenge decisions about their care.

‘Very resource intensive’

Earlier this week, the Department of Health announced it would be continuing the work and was looking for two new pilot sites to join a second phase of the scheme.

Nottingham council confirmed it would not be bidding to take part in phase two.

A spokesperson said the council had concluded that allocating dedicated social workers was not the best way of helping people in the long-term and was “very resource intensive”.

The council found the named social workers had “undoubtedly” had an impact on reducing admissions and speeding up discharge, but were not the “biggest factor”. It said it will now take the useful learning from the pilot and work with colleagues across the Transforming Care programme, “to shape working practices in the future”.

‘Continuing work anyway’

Community Care understands that Camden is also withdrawing from the scheme.

A spokesperson told Community Care the pilot had shown the importance of relationship-based social work, but that to reach firm conclusions about the benefits of a named social worker, the project would need to be run and funded for at least 18 months.

Instead, Camden is now working within limited existing resources to try and ensure people with learning disabilities receive the support of the same social worker where possible.

Calderdale council said it would not bid to take part in phase two because it was “continuing the work started anyway”.

Bob Metcalfe, cabinet member for adults, health and social care, said: “Existing staff within our learning disability team provided the dedicated support to people with learning disabilities – no additional staff were appointed.

“We are continuing to provide this dedicated support through allocated social workers as part of the team’s usual work. We recognise how important it is to ensure that people’s views are heard and that they are well informed and involved.”

‘Positive impact’

Sheffield and Hertfordshire councils confirmed they will be taking part in phase two.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire council said: “As a service, our ‘named social workers’ have continued to work within the parameters set as part of the ‘named social worker’ project. They continue to work with the individuals who are part of the project.

“It was felt important that this approach should continue for the individuals concerned even if the pilot had ceased to provide consistency.”

Andrew Wheawall, head of learning disabilities services at Sheffield council, added: “We’re continuing the work as its had such a positive impact, with good feedback from our customers, their families and carers and other care professionals.”

He said the authority will use the extra resources from the second phase of the scheme to “further develop our approach to provide a better, more joined-up experience”.

A spokesperson for Liverpool council told Community Care it was due to have discussions with the Department of Health in the next week about its involvement in phase two.

‘Trial of promising approaches’

The named social worker pilot was first proposed in the learning disability green paper produced by the coalition government in March 2015. The scheme is supported by the Innovation Unit and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the two new councils joining the second phase, which will run from October until March 2018, will trial the most promising approaches identified in phase one. The deadline for expressions of interest is 25 August.

The spokesperson did not comment on suggestions that three of the original six councils are unlikely to take part.

3 Responses to Councils split over value of named social worker pilot

  1. maharg August 11, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    Here’s a wheel we invented earlier. Dedicated teams moved into generic teams move back again, justification to move into an integrated team is now being justified to move back the other way. Having worked in both dedicated team is more proactive for individuals, but the people worry about, do we have enough knowledge to support others who are not categorised under adult, learning disabilities, mental health, physical disabilities, sensory impairment. Social workers have great insight into key legislation which relates to the specific client group or groups that working with, is the real concern that specialised social workers will be proactive, supporting and demanding improved services which can’t be funded, while generic social workers Will struggle, but put in less of a specific demand.

  2. Sarah Taylor August 13, 2017 at 3:49 am #

    Social workers do nothing what can they do ???

  3. Christine Stringer August 14, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

    This is nothing new, I remember a time when dedicated Social Workers were the norm. It worked extremely well for my Son, now aged 51, and our family. Why do busy bodies keep reinventing the wheel, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it !

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