Social work contract lays the foundations for an outstanding children’s service

A feature sponsored by Kent County Council

At Kent County Council, we are ambitious for all the children we work with and we want to build the best children’s service we can. Since 2010, we have laid the foundations for an outstanding service and at their recent inspections (2013), Ofsted has recognised the significant improvements which have already taken place in Kent.

However, we want to go further in transforming both the performance and the culture of our staff and as part of that we have drawn up our innovative ‘Social Work Contract’. This is a new approach to achieving excellence in social work practice.

We recognise that social work is one of the hardest jobs in the public sector. We need our social workers to build effective relationships with families in very difficult circumstances and we want them to use those relationships to bring about change for children. However, this contract also recognises that in order to be able to do that job to the best of their ability, our staff have to expect that we, as an organisation and as managers, will enable, empower and support them to do it. This means the best supervision, managed caseloads, opportunities for professional development and career progression, as well as committed leadership.

The contract is based on eight core priorities:

Professional leadership

  • Effective supervision
  • Quality management
  • Manageable caseloads
  • Opportunities for learning and development
  • Career progression
  • Better systems, processes and IT
  • Quality assurance

Kent is different to other authorities in taking these standards and expectations, informed by the leading national documentation, and building them into a single contract which it expects both managers and frontline staff to help develop and deliver. We believe that what we are offering in these eight key areas when taken together will support our social workers to do the best they can for vulnerable children in Kent.

We are committed to giving our staff real opportunities to develop and this means access to the latest research and thinking in social work. Part of our drive to transform our children’s services is a new programme of Social Work Masterclasses, inviting leading lights in the field to Kent to share their expertise. So far we have heard from Professor Eileen Munro, Professor Marian Brandon, Professor Sue White and Professor David Shemmings and Isabelle Trowler.

These masterclasses are designed to give our social workers access to some of the best thinkers in the field and provoke informed debate about the way they work and how they practice.

These opportunities build on a massive effort by Kent council staff and members over the past three years and a significant investment to improve the vital services provided for children, families and carers.

Ofsted has acknowledged key improvements to the service which are showing real results:

The new Central Referral Unit, which brings several agencies together, has improved the response to children referred with child protection concerns

  • Early intervention services have improved
  • Huge efforts have gone into recruiting social workers
  • Caseloads have been reduced to ‘manageable’ levels
  • Identification of children at risk has improved
  • Social workers have high morale
  • Leadership at the council has been praised for the high level of priority it has given to improving services for Kent’s vulnerable children.

It is not only Ofsted that has recognised the changes in Kent. Our social workers tell us they feel supported in their work, they benefit from close-knit teams and better caseloads, and that training opportunities are ‘second-to-none’.

Kent is changing and it is an exciting time to join us to help turn our ambitions into realities. We are proud to offer a supportive environment in which our staff can work with confidence and inspiring leadership and development opportunities which empower them to make a real difference to children’s lives.

View our current vacancies

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