Seven more councils chosen to test family support and child protection reforms

    Latest pathfinders will join existing three in testing specialist child protection social worker role and merger of targeted early help and child in need services

    Reform sign on a desk with a blurry background of a court room
    Photo: Polarpx/Adobe Stock

    Seven more councils have been chosen to test the government’s family support and child protection reforms.

    They will join the existing three families first for children pathfinders in testing the changes, which are designed to ensure families receive better and earlier support to help resolve their needs and strengthen the quality of child protection practice.

    What the reforms comprise

    The reforms, set out in the 2023 Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy, comprise

    1. Setting up multi-disciplinary family help teams, through the merger of existing targeted early help and child in need services, to provide more effective and non-stigmatising support to families. As part of this, non-social workers will hold child in need cases.
    2. Appointing experienced and skilled social workers as lead child protection practitioners (LCPPs). They will hold all child protection cases, working in tandem with family help practitioners already involved with the family and supported by practitioners from other agencies – notably health and police – who are also particularly skilled in safeguarding.
    3. Making greater use of family networks when families need help, through increased use of family group decision making and the provision of support packages to remove financial and practical barriers to networks providing this support.
    4. Strengthening multi-agency safeguarding leadership, including through ensuring members of strategic partnerships are sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agency, and increasing the role of education.

    Dorset, Lincolnshire and Wolverhampton councils started testing the changes in September 2023 and will be joined, later in 2024, by Lewisham, Luton, Redbridge, Walsall, Warrington, Warwickshire and Wirral.

    This means there are no pathfinder authorities from the North East, South East or from Yorkshire and the Humber.

    Controversial workforce changes

    The reforms are controversial, with the British Association of Social Workers and Ofsted having raised concerns about the safeguarding risks arising from removing the requirement for social workers to hold child in need cases.

    Meanwhile, both Ofsted and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have voiced misgivings about the impact of the lead child protection practitioner role on social work retention, in the context of mounting vacancy rates in local authority children’s services.

    The three original pathfinders also shared early challenges on implementing the lead practitioner role in a conference session last autumn, including retaining staff, maintaining safeguarding skills among other social workers and avoiding disruption to families

    The DfE has allocated about £37m to the pathfinder programme from July 2023 to March 2025.

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    4 Responses to Seven more councils chosen to test family support and child protection reforms

    1. Matt April 12, 2024 at 4:53 pm #

      The challenge would be having non-social work practitioners being able to manage the complexities of CIN cases….could backfire with more cases progressing to CP!

    2. Alec Fraher April 13, 2024 at 9:23 pm #

      What are the information management requirements of such arrangements?

      Has the Information Commissioner been asked to clarify what, in legal terms, the definition of the term ‘to hold’ actually means in practice? And, critically during any redress sought by a child or their family?

      Detailed details, please.

    3. Maria April 14, 2024 at 5:53 pm #

      Local authorities can’t even recruit & retain experienced SW’s as they are leaving the profession in droves & deregistering from SWE!

    4. Heather April 15, 2024 at 6:16 am #

      When social workers make mistakes the authorities hide behind a cover up culture until this is addressed with accountability, openness and honesty the number of children whose lives are damaged by the state will continue to rise. We are all capable of making mistakes it is what we do to rectify them that is important.