In her final two reports Professor Eileen Munro highlights best practice in England and further afield. Here, Community Care profiles initiatives that she considers are leading the way
COMMUNICATING with CHILDREN
Three Houses: This is a tool for interviewing children created in New Zealand. Children draw three house outlines on separate blanks sheets of paper – the house of worries, the house of good things and the house of dreams. Children are asked to explain what they are drawing and explore their feelings.
Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board: All children over the age of 12 who have been involved in child protection services in the previous two years are offered the chance to meet other children in the same situation and meet up once a month. The sessions are usually two hours long and consist of one hour of “fun”, such as cookery classes, followed by an hour of “work”, including producing videos to help multi-agency training.
Cumbria: As part of a redesign of children’s services in Cumbria four key questions are now asked of every children’s services referral: Did we get it right, from the child and family perspective, the first time? What has been the length of time from first contact with the child and family to them actually receiving a service to help? How many professionals have been involved in the case? How often has the child or family been passed from one professional or part of the system to another?
Bath and North East Somerset: A set of questions for children and families has been devised as a thread for all service delivery: How do I make first contact? How will I be received? How will I get across all the information that I need to? What will happen next? How will I be informed and involved? Will somebody see me as part of this? Will I be given somebody’s name and contact details? How and when will the help I need be provided? Will I have a clear understanding of this?
Knowsley: The council has bolstered partnership work by co-locating common assessment framework teams and children’s social care duty teams. It is now carrying out research looking at how social care, police, health services, education and early years settings interact, with the aim of improving child protection. The research will also examine how to provide channels for feedback so that the unintended consequences of managerial decisions can be identified.
London’s Metropolitan Police Multi-agency Critical Incident Exercise: Local safeguarding children boards are able to send delegates from social care, education, health, police and higher level strategic leaders on training courses run in the police Hydra simulator. This recreates live incidents through the use of video, audio, photos, operational radio traffic, telephone, maps, intelligence, documentation, background noise, choice of problems and the sequencing and timing of events.
Merton: ‘1789″>’The 0-12 Supporting Families Service sees requests for early intervention services made by parents or professionals through children’s centres. They are considered by a multi-agency panel (including health, education, disabilities services, and child and adolescent mental health), overseen by a qualified social worker. Of the six services commissioned to provide support, three are managed by social workers.
Devon: The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (Mash) consists of a team, including police, health, education and social care professionals, co-located in one office alongside the various IT systems attached to each agency. All referrals to children’s services are risk-assessed by the team. Information, including sensitive information, is shared freely, but only within the hub. A social work manager makes a decision as to what further action is required. Referrals from Mash to children’s services list the source of sensitive information, but not the data itself, which should prompt further investigation from social workers making assessments.
Westminster: The Family Recovery Project consists of a co-located multi-agency team incorporating adults’ and children’s social care services. It works with families who have a history of non-engagement with services. The team works intensively with the family to devise a contract – a family care plan – with consequences. Westminster has also co-located social workers within universal settings to improve early identification of child protection issues.
Tower Hamlets: The Integrated Pathways and Support Team is a multi-agency team that triages all children’s social care referrals and provides a helpline for all those with questions or anxiety about children who could possibly be at risk. The Tower Hamlets Model of Assessment has also been highlighted as an innovative way of re-designing current ICS forms to help social workers assess risk rather than side-track them with the collection of information.
Gateshead and Signs of Safety assessment framework: The Signs of Safety assessment framework was created in Australia and at its simplest can be understood as containing four domains for inquiry:
1. What are we worried about? (Past harm, future danger and complicating factors)
2. What’s working well? (Existing strengths and safety)
3. What needs to happen? (Future safety)
4. Where are we on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 means there is enough safety for child protection authorities to close the case and 0 means it is certain that the child will be (re) abused (Judgment)? Gateshead has applied the system across the full range of its interventions, which has helped professionals put children’s voices at the centre of assessments and work to find solutions to problems.
Hackney: The Reclaiming Social Work model sees all cases held by multi-disciplinary social work units consisting of a consultant social worker, social worker, family therapist and unit co-ordinator to provide administrative support, among others. All cases are discussed at weekly meetings and this is the key mechanism for information updates, analysis, reflection, planning and decision making. It requires a highly skilled workforce but has reduced the numbers of children needing to be taken into care.
Camden, Islington and Westminster’s Family Drug and Alcohol Court: A specialist multi-disciplinary team attached to the court includes substance misuse workers, child protection workers and adult and child psychiatrists who work with a family at risk of having children taken into care. A plan is approved by a judge with a set timescale for change to be delivered. The team works with the family to implement the plan. The same judge deals with the case throughout its life and regular court reviews of parental progress are held with legal representatives involved.
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