10 tips for successful children’s social work

See how your workplace measures up against these characteristics of effective children's social work departments

Photo: Gary Brigden

The latest update on the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, published on Thursday, included research by consultancy Deloitte Social Care and the Department for Education on the challenges facing children’s social care and how they might be overcome. It lists some of the characteristics of successful children’s social work teams.

1 Give opportunities for teamwork and reflection

Social workers in successful organisations get the opportunity to reflect on cases and develop alternative hypotheses in discussion with managers or in team meetings. As the paper says: “Supervision isn’t just about agreeing a ‘to do’ list.” The team shares responsibility for cases so everyone can work together on a case where necessary. The researchers say that traditionally social workers often worked alone without managers directly experiencing their work with the family or cases being discussed in team meetings, but this deprived them of an opportunity draw on the support of others to solve problems.

2 Provide good administrative support

The paper says successful organisations have a good administrative team, which acts as “an all-round trouble-shooter who gets the practical things done for families”.

3 Reduce bureaucracy

Leaders in successful organisations reduce the impact of bureaucracy on social work. The report says social workers in bureaucratic organisations can become tied up with monitoring and assessing children rather than intervening to help them.

4 Encourage creativity

Staff in successful organisations are able to try new approaches and encouraged to learn, the paper says.

5 Give some budgetary control to frontline staff

Front-line staff and first line managers in successful organisation have a reasonable degree of control over budgets and authority to make decisions, according to the researchers.

6 Set up interdisciplinary teams

Teams in successful organisations are either interdisciplinary – for example they include CAMHS – or workers have easy access to clinical and therapeutic services for families

7 Enable senior staff to work with families

Career paths in successful organisations enable experienced staff to progress while remaining in practice, the report says. It adds that managers are involved in direct work and mentor staff on how to do it well.

8 Small teams

Teams in successful organisations are fairly small and have a “flattish” structure, according to the paper.

9 Shared values

The paper found successful organisations were clear about the type of relationship they wanted the social worker to have with families or the outcomes they wanted them to deliver. They had shared values and a shared theory underpinning the way all social workers worked with families.

10 Focus on the most vulnerable families

The report says social workers’ time is focussed on the most vulnerable families in successful organisations and they provide them with intensive support.

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