Children’s social workers need to work closer with Sure Start children’s centres for parenting support to have a significant impact on child protection, according to a sector expert.
Speaking to delegates at Community Care’s Children and Families Live conference today, James Blewett, of King’s College London, said parenting support should be part of the package of support in child protection cases.
“Parenting programmes on their own can be very effective in tiers one and two cases, but as soon as you start to go up the tiers, these programmes can fall short,” he told delegates.
“What these programmes can be is an important part of a wider package of support and we need children’s centres and social workers both working on this solution.”
Blewett said social workers working half weeks in children’s centres and half weeks in social services departments would support the integration of parenting programmes in child protection, as well as reduce the stigma of social services for parents.
“One of the weaknesses of Sure Start has been that it’s often in a parallel universe to social care,” he said. “In some areas, connections between the two have even been actively discouraged because social work was considered to carry a stigma that would make people reject services.
“I think getting more social workers into centres would actually reduce this problem. Stigma is definitely an issue and something that needs to be managed, but social workers having a presence in children’s centres will mean parents will get used to interacting with them about lower levels of need and that can lead to better relationships when a crisis does occur.”
Blewett added that spending more time in centres would benefit social workers as well, as they would come into contact with those lower levels of need and not be limited in their practice to extremely high risk cases only.
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