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Social work outside the local authority

Social work outside the local authority

Phone call illustrationLocal authority social work is in a state of flux under the impact of cuts and personalisation. Increased rationing and bureaucracy are causing increased dissatisfaction for users and professionals alike, while some councils are outsourcing social work jobs to other agencies.

The situation has prompted questions over whether the model of having most practitioners employed by councils is fit for purpose, or whether professionals, service users and taxpayers would be better off if independent practices or agencies became social workers’ major employers.

In this special report, we profile six organisations that are delivering social work outside a local authority context and examine what service users want from social workers and how far this can be delivered within councils. Also, three social workers – one council practitioner, one employee of an independent social work practice and one who has left local authority practice to set up his own business – discuss why they are doing the job that they are doing.

The organisations below have been funded to develop their social work services through the Social Care Institute of Excellence’s social work practice pioneer scheme. Natalie Valios looks at the role of social workers within them.

Name About the organisation Aims and objectives Role of social workers Social worker view
Clarifi Consulting Clarifi Consulting Consultancy with nationwide reach which provides specialist support for adult survivors of historic childhood sexual abuse. The organisation also trains professionals and practitioners working with this client group. To help improve parenting and enable families to stay together by dealing with parents’ childhood sexual abuse. It employs one full-time social worker; two students on placement; and four or five social workers on contract. They deliver specialised therapeutic programmes either working one-to-one, with entire families, or through group work. Clare Wilson, co-founder of Clarifi Consulting and its one full-time social worker, says: “I run the group therapy and the training arm of the organisation. The parents I work with don’t meet criteria for adult social services. We are filling that gap because there can’t be change unless you are working with the whole family. They want to be better parents and feel that they can keep their children safe, but how can you expect them to parent effectively if they haven’t been parented themselves?.”
Carers ResourceCarers Resource Charity covering Harrogate, Craven, Bradford and Airedale districts of Yorkshire, which provides information, advice and support to carers, and trains statutory and independent agencies in identifying carers and their needs. To improve carers’ lives by making them aware of services for the cared-for person or for themselves, such as respite care. It employs five social workers to work directly with clients, often in their own homes, making sure they are accessing benefits they are entitled to and receiving appropriate services. Carolyn Eastwood, service manager for the Skipton office and a social worker, says: “It is about being somebody they can ring up and speak to throughout what is often a journey of years rather than a short time of caring. We keep our own caseload so you are a consistent person in their life. We liaise a lot with adult social and health statutory services as well as the voluntary sector for things like setting up respite care or a sitting service. I also have a weekly surgery in a GP practice where doctors and nurses refer people to me if they would prefer not to see me at home.”
Safe and SettledSafe and Settled Social enterprise covering the West Midlands, which provides independent information, advice and advocacy to adults who fund their own care. To help provide smoother transition for people into residential care or a home-based care package to help them feel safe and settled. It employs two social workers to support people to make the right choices at a difficult time, for example when being discharged from hospital or moving into residential care. Managing director Jan Burns, who is also one of the social workers, says: “After an initial meeting with clients we can research local services that meet their requirements and help with a support plan. We can make arrangements for them to visit their shortlisted prospective services, such as a residential care home, and even accompany them if they wish – this is particularly helpful if they have no family to go with them. We can also help them with long-term support needs and provide an advocacy role.”
Lives unlimitedLives Unlimited Volunteer-run user-led organisation, which supports disabled people in York, including through help with support planning and in developing circles of support. To give disabled people more control over their lives, be included as equal citizens and enjoy the same choices and opportunities as other people. It employs one social worker on a sessional basis, to make social work knowledge, skills and methods available to disabled people and families, outside of a statutory context, to give them the confidence to take control of their lives. The project’s social worker, Kelly Hicks, says: “It is hard to be on the service user’s side if you work for a statutory authority. My role is more flexible and because I am only working with 12 people I have a lot more time and freedom. For example, a few young men don’t want respite care in a traditional care home so we are looking at them going on an activity holiday together instead. My role is about helping people make friendships and social networks rather than having to do everything with paid support.”
Coiunter Human Trafficking BureauCounter Human Trafficking Bureau A social enterprise set up in 2011 to develop specialist professional skills, enhance safeguarding arrangements and improve the quality, availability and sharing of actionable information to better identify and protect victims of exploitation, violence and abuse. To identify potential trafficking victims, and provide protection from avoidable harm, an enhanced quality of life, a positive experience of care and support services, and a standard of living capable of ensuring secure accommodation and subsistence. It employs three to six social workers on a contract basis at any one time.On receipt of a police, local authority or health referral, they deliver a floating (outreach) service to suspected victims. This includes carrying out initial risk and needs assessments and signposting people towards obtaining legal advice to help bring perpetrators to justice. Independent social worker Vivien Griffiths says: “This work is about providing advice to police investigating officers on issues around capacity, how best to question the victim in order to get the best evidence, and how to ensure that the needs of the victim are met. In doing this, I would use a range of assessment tools to establish how the person communicates, what difficulties they may have in understanding questions (or in communicating their answers) before deciding what strategies may suit them best. Mostly, this would involve an informal chat and collating previous information about the needs of the victim before undertaking any formal assessment process.”
The Independant Social work partnershipThe Independant Social Work Partnership A social enterprise covering Cheshire, Merseyside, Wirral, Warrington and North Wales, providing social work services for self-funders, independent social work reports and training. It is developing a free social care information and advice service for adults and older people, particularly those who may not be eligible for, or chose not to receive, statutory services, and self-funders. To reduce the numbers of self-funding clients presenting in crisis to social services or health services or making application for funding from the local authority in the future; increase awareness of all care and accommodation options available to enable people to remain independent in their own homes. Jane Hulse and Liz Bruce, the managing partners, are both social workers. There is one associate partner who is a social worker and ISWP is currently recruiting self-employed social workers to become associate partners. Associate partner Kay Kent says: “A lot of people come to us because they are challenging a continuing health care assessment or local authority eligibility criteria; others just want to be signposted to other organisations. I spend a lot more time doing the assessment, speaking to people, meeting family members. It’s far more in-depth than if you were working for a local authority. I have no time restrictions so I can treat people as people, listen to them and be more creative.”
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