Munro plaudit for Hackney’s Reclaim Social Work model

The London Borough of Hackney’s Reclaim Social Work model cut the cost of children’s social care by 4.97%, according to an independent evaluation still to be officially published in full.

Commissioned by Hackney and co-written by Professor Eileen Munro in her role at the London School of Economics, the evaluation found many “significant positive differences” between traditional social work teams and Hackney’s social work units. The savings were attributed in part to a 30% fall in the number of looked-after children in Hackney between 2005-6 and 2008-9. Improved staff retention also saved money, as did the replacement of team managers with consultant social workers.

The units, which comprise a consultant social worker, social worker, a child practitioner, a clinical therapist and a unit administrator, support reflective learning and practice, the report said.

Although more than half of the respondents from old-style teams said they had no time for critical reflection, less than one in five staff from Hackney’s units felt similarly.

The model resulted in a significant fall in days lost through staff sickness from 15.66 on average in 2008-9 to seven in 2009-10.

Improved outcomes for children and families were apparent from the interviews with service users. “Everyone agreed that it was easy to get hold of their social worker,” the report stated. “If they were not there they were comfortable talking to someone else from the unit and the social worker would get back to them quickly.”

Children felt listened to and interaction with other agencies proved easier under the new model. However, the evaluation found other agency professionals felt they needed a better understanding of the structure.

There was also the potential for heavy workloads for the only two staff qualified to respond to Section 47 cases in each unit.

Although stress levels were reported as lower than in traditional teams, the evaluation said the units could present different types of stressors, such as those resulting from the close personal interaction required in the model.

The report was completed in April 2010 and an executive summary is available on Hackney’s website. Community Care acquired the full report through a reader’s Freedom of Information request.

Munro has yet to make any formal recommendations to the government, but her endorsement of the Hackney model in this evaluation implies it may feature strongly in her review of children’s services.

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