Agents of partnership

An assessment and support service for young
people won the inter-agency work category at this year’s
Community Care awards. Alison Miller reports.

In 1997 Dumfries and Galloway faced a dual
problem – comparatively high exclusion levels and a high number of
out-of-area placements at residential schools, which were costing
the authority around £2m each year.

Poor co-ordination in assessing troubled young
people was resulting in conflicting advice from social workers,
psychologists, teachers and other professionals involved in the

To combat the problem the council set up
Crannog in partnership with Aberlour Child Care Trust. Crannog
provides an assessment and support service for young people at risk
of exclusion from school. The emphasis is on partnership working
and considering the needs of young people first.

Aberlour’s Steve McCreadie is Crannog service
manager. He says that the key to the success of the service is the
partnership between the council and the child care trust, a
partnership that “imposes an imperative to move towards an
integrated service”. He adds: “It’s really a three-cornered hat
between education, social services and ourselves,” he says.

Crannog is divided into three teams. Each team
covers a different part of the region and is made up of a project
manager, a teacher, a full-time social education worker, a
part-time social education worker and administrative support. It
works closely with social services, education, families and the
Children’s Panel.

Crannog provides an initial assessment of a
young person’s difficulties and presents a comprehensive plan to
the area review group, which is Dumfries and Galloway’s
decision-making body for young people at risk. Support is provided
in school, in class or at break time, and also outside school, at
particular pressure points – for example, family disputes and
fostering breakdowns.

McCreadie says Crannog’s first priority was to
create teams that could engage with young people. “We had the
advantage of being seen as something different – we weren’t from
social services or education – and that gave us space to engage
with them. You can only engage with these young people
incrementally. You have to work patiently and with great
persistence. The level of personal commitment and determination the
teams show is a credit to them,” he says.

Many of the young people who Crannog works
with had a low opinion of the help they were previously offered,
McCreadie says. Crannog builds bridges to let them return to
mainstream education. “It’s about being reliable, consistent and on
time, and showing the utmost respect.”

Gerry Brown, children’s services manager at
Dumfries and Galloway social services, is clear about why the
service has been so effective. “Crannog has developed interventions
that impact on young people’s capacity to interact with their home
and school environments simultaneously. It has an ability to
interface between home, community and school, and to stick with
young people and their families where that success has been slow to

More than 140 young people have benefited from
this sticking power. Crannog has also been very successful in
cutting the number of young people placed in residential schools by
more than half.

Winning Community Care‘s award for
inter-agency work has been the icing on the cake. “We were
absolutely delighted, and being at the ceremony was fantastic. To
have achieved this national recognition is an enormous boost,”
McCreadie says. His sentiments are echoed by Stuart Beck, the
education department’s head of children’s services. He says: “It is
particularly pleasing that the award is for partnership working,
which has been at the heart of Crannog. I look forward to
developing our partnership with Aberlour as we move towards
developing a more integrated service for children.”

To further the cause of partnership working,
Crannog plans to spend the £4,000 prize money on producing a
video showing a day in the life of each agency to promote
inter-agency understanding, collaboration and co-operation.

– The inter-agency work category was sponsored
by OLM.

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