Working in Milton Keynes children’s social care teams

A feature sponsored by Milton Keynes Council

At Milton Keynes, we have reviewed the structure of our social care teams to lay the foundations for effective, supportive and consistent practice for the families we work with and for our workforce.

Milton Keynes Council has less than 20% agency social workers as of October 2015 which is significantly lower than all our neighbouring authorities. This is a clear reflection of the strong workforce we have but also the stability we have in place, which enables us to provide an effective service to children and families residing in Milton Keynes. Social workers in Milton Keynes feel secure knowing that there is the stability of many permanent practitioners working alongside them.

Family support approach

The Milton Keynes Family Support Approach involves getting alongside the family, understanding the situation from their perspective and helping them to identify the key issues which lead children’s needs being compromised.  Our practice ethos reflects the Signs of Safety model (Turnell & Edwards, 1999) which promotes partnership working with children and their families.

We help families find safe solutions to their own problems and seek their involvement at every step along the way. We ensure children’s needs are paramount through the careful implementation and review of safety plans. The family are included from the outset in the intervention used and participate in setting goals and evaluating what has been achieved.  Milton Keynes children’s social care teams work with many families in this way, using children in need/family support plans.

As a consequence, we have fewer children who are subject to more formal child protection plans. We work in an assertive and authoritative manner with families, making clear the requirements needed to improve the parenting and wellbeing of the children and taking robust action, including timely care proceedings when improvements are not delivered, but at the same time working with parents to enable change.

The work of the operational teams


Our aim is that there will be ‘no wrong door’ for a family to gain appropriate support. Our integrated referral hub works across Milton Keynes and uses the ‘levels of need’ – a document all agencies in Milton Keynes have signed up to which is designed to ensure that children receive help from the most appropriate source available.

The team currently consists of a team manager, deputy team managers, senior practitioners, social workers and social work assistants.  The hub provides social work oversight of all children in Milton Keynes requiring additional services.

MASH was launched in September 2014 and it is proving to be a success. Milton Keynes MASH improves decision making, reduces delay and prevents re-referrals. The MASH applies multi-disciplinary expertise to identify and prioritise children and young people where there is a risk of significant harm and assign them to an appropriate professional/s for assessment. MASH is designed to improve safeguarding for children by co-locating key partners (social care/health/police/probation) and their data in a secure assessment, research and referral unit which receives notifications of possible risk to children and takes timely decisions.

The purpose is to provide a more informed response to assessing risk to children at an earlier stage, including signposting to early intervention services or other appropriate resources.

Family Support Teams

Milton Keynes has three family support teams, geographically based, each consisting of a team manager, a deputy team manager, senior practitioners, social workers and social work assistants. These teams offer the opportunity to join an established group in a forward-looking structured and supported environment. The teams work with a variety of cases transferred from the MASH.

In the often stressful, high risk environment of children’s social care it is easy to lose sight of our purpose and our values and to behave in punitive, risk averse ways towards vulnerable children and their families. In our work with families we seek to stop, listen and think about what has been said and the meaning this has for the child’s welfare. Our adoption of the Signs of Safety approach to family support supports the achievement of family-centred solutions, promoting a more proactive, child-centred role for our workers with a clear focus on the safety of the child.

Family support teams require able and skilled practitioners. The role of our social care practitioners is a challenging one, requiring a range of complex skills and a sound practice knowledge base. Recognising the complexity of this work, we maintain caseloads of 11 families per worker. We value and develop the social work skills and knowledge required to carry out high quality assessments and implement effective interventions with families. The teams have a family support ethos and focus upon developing effective family support plans and working with children who are newly looked after or in the course of care proceedings, as well as with children subject to Child Protection Plans. We empower families to generate (whenever it is possible and safe to do so) their own solutions without the stigma of the child protection process. This approach is supported by our well-developed Family Group Conference Service.

As well as direct work provided by the allocated social worker, the social workers in the family support teams have access to additional services provided by the family assessment and support team (FAST) to support their families in achieving the best possible outcomes. FAST will provide home help services, practical help and monitoring, therapeutic interventions and specialist assessments and intervention seven days a week, which includes out of hours work with families.

Family Assessment and Support Team (FAST)

FAST provides three key services: our contact service, the emergency social work team and the intensive family support team. The intensive support service was developed to provide seven days a week family advice and support, including a rapid response service to prevent family breakdowns.

The intensive support service works with families whose children are on the edge of care and/or who are on CIN/child protection plans. Families are provided with time-limited regular support, sometimes on a daily basis. The team work closely with allocated social workers in the family support teams to ensure that the child’s plans are focused and delivered effectively. FAST deliver direct work with children and families, including parenting assessments, protective behaviours work, specific work with teenagers and their families to prevent family breakdown. The team will also provide practical support within family homes to ensure that parents are able to meet their children’s basic needs.

This support provided also includes therapeutic support to parents to address some of the emotional and psychological difficulties that get in the way of effective parenting. Primary mental health practitioners work intensively with parents on identified issues. Clear plans of work are identified and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure intervention is successful. Should there be agreement that progress is not being made, evidence from the intervention demonstrates that all avenues have been tried to support the child in the home environment.


Corporate parenting team

Corporate parenting team is a large committed enthusiastic and passionate multi-disciplinary team working with children in care, unaccompanied asylum seekers and care leavers.

Corporate parenting team is committed to delivering a high standard of care to all our children and young people. Our core responsibilities are undertaking all statutory responsibilities for looked after children and care leavers, including producing effective care plans and pathway plans. We strive to support and encourage our children and young people to reach their potential and achieve their dreams by working with other professionals to ensure the right support is provided.

Permanent social worker benefits

Salary and financial benefits

Salary up to £36,571 per annum for social workers

  • Salary up to £41,140 per annum for senior practitioners
  • Market supplement of £4000 per annum
  • Final salary pension scheme with an employer’s contribution of approximately 18.5% (equivalent to as much as £6620 for QSW per annum)
  • Annual leave entitlement of up to 31 days, excluding bank holidays
  • Occupational maternity pay in addition to statutory maternity pay
  • Occupational sick pay in addition to statutory sick pay
  • Childcare vouchers scheme
  • Relocation support up to £8000

Valuing our staff

We fully recognise that this career is a demanding one in both a personal and work life capacity, in return for your commitment we offer:

Job sharing

  • Affordable housing
  • Flexible working
  • Working together
  • A strong workforce
  • Career progression
  • Induction and professional development
  • Appraisal and supervision
  • Clinical supervision
  • Enhanced practice skills
  • Signs of Safety
  • Parenting Assessment Manual Software (PAMS)

If you feel that Milton Keynes Council could be the right fit for you, we’d like to hear from you.

Please contact Vikki Blakeston on 01908 253169 (MASH Positions), Candice Boatswain on 01908 254008 (Family Support Team Positions) or Sharon Godfrey on 01908 254004 (Corporate Parenting Team Positions) or view our current vacancies here.



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One Response to Working in Milton Keynes children’s social care teams

  1. Peter Durrant December 16, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

    Great stuff. Very close to community social work theory and practice and, especially, the small work-loads for individual practitioners. Based, hopefully, in area and/or locality teams close to where people need help and the FAST scheme, again, seems first class.