Seamless day and night service may signal end of emergency duty teams

Emergency duty teams could soon be a thing of the past, with social
services departments providing continuous cover throughout the day
and night, senior managers believe.

Liverpool social services is to follow Westminster Council’s lead
and direct out-of-hours enquiries through a call centre with
support from a social services manager, so doing away with its
current EDT set-up. Meanwhile, Staffordshire Council is discussing
with the ambulance service whether to develop a joint out-of-hours

Robert Lake, emergency social care lead for the Association of
Directors of Social Services, said recent debate had focused on
whether emergency duty teams should “wither away” because of the
increasing 24/7 culture.

The changes in the Children Bill, which could see adults and
children’s departments completely separated, also threatened EDTs’
existence, he feared

Lake said: “Where EDTs struggle is that very rarely are they locked
into the care plan for individual service users, which can
inadvertently lead them to make the wrong decision.”

However, he said management needed to decide whether it was an
emergency service or comprehensive out-of-hours social work service
they wanted, adding that the latter would have “massive resource

Liverpool is recruiting 64 on-call social workers to form a pool of
professionals working on a rota basis out-of-hours. Some may be
daytime staff, with extra payments linked to being called out.

Terry Hawkins, delivery and improvement manager at Liverpool, said
the new system would create better continuity between day and night
services, with greater emphasis on preventive work. “The current
model generates more work for daytime staff. There are more
children accommodated during the night because it is easier than
supporting the families.”

He added that EDTs’ days were numbered. “We want to break down the
notion that at 5pm another group of staff come on.”

Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, said it was sensible to take a more preventive approach,
but warned: “The danger is that cash-strapped authorities will see
it as a way of making savings.”

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