How three projects are transforming social work in the Midlands

Community Care discovers how three innovative Midlands projects are fostering services for personal budget holders, improving links with schools and smoothing the transition into adult social services

How three projects are transforming social work in the Midlands

Project: Micro-providers
Location: Nottinghamshire

Initially part of Nottinghamshire’s push on personalisation, the Micro-providers project was started in 2010 to simulate a marketplace for those with personal or direct budgets to buy services from. It was so successful the pilot has now been extended until next year.

Project co-ordinator Rebecca Stanley says the starting point was sitting down with service users and asking them where the gaps in services were and what services they would like provided. “It’s actually seen many of those service users providing the services themselves and becoming small businesses with our help,” she says.

“For example we had a girl with disabilities who really wanted to work in a posh restaurant. Her mother knew that was unlikely to happen but wanted to know what else was out there. Both the mother and daughter are now a team who take those pedal-powered, smoothie bikes around festivals and concerts.”

Stanley’s job is to signpost providers to help and finance and ensure they have the right checks, insurances, policies and procedures in place. “Basically, I make sure they are operating legally, safely and sustainably so it gives the whole system quality assurance.”

Currently Nottinghamshire has 58 micro-enterprises supporting over 800 people, who are either self-funded or using direct payments. Some of those enterprises are now supporting volunteers and employing staff, which is helping with economic regeneration in the area.

Project: Pod teams
Where: Worcestershire

The beginning of Worcestershire County Council’s Pod Team stemmed from the frustrations local schools were experiencing in getting referrals through social care thresholds, says Sonya Miller, group manager for safeguarding services.

“I spoke to one head teacher who felt we didn’t understand her community, which included a large traveller population. I asked her what she would do if she had a magic wand. She said she would have a social worker based in the school permanently. “I initially didn’t think it was possible. But when I looked at the data, such as the number of referrals from the school and the number of issues being dealt with, we decided to trial the idea for a year. We freed up two social workers and two family support workers to be based in the school.”

Miller says part of the success has been that parents and children have got to know and trust the social workers before they need them. The social workers help with manning the school gates and running breakfast clubs for example. The workers also hold weekly or fortnightly consultations when any teacher, or other professional in the area, can raise a concern they have about a child and talk it through with a social worker.

The system has seen problems diverted before a crisis occurs. Of 117 children visited only 57 have gone onto become the subject of assessment or intervention. The pilot has now expanded to six social workers based across three schools, working with the Troubled Families team. Miller says the social workers like it because they have their own office in the school and work very autonomously. “But because there are two of them in each office they are not isolated and they are still line-managed and regularly supervised by me.”

Project: Transitions Team
Where: Northamptonshire

Awareness of the less than smooth, and often expensive, journey that many vulnerable children make into adult social care services led to the creation of a specific Transitions Team in Northamptonshire, which holds the cases of young people aged 14 to 25 years old.

The team is a three-year programme and the first year was spent creating the team, co-locating it within adult’s services and sorting out internal processes. “The second phase will be integrating with health and year three will be getting better links between education and housing,” says Ann McGale, service manager for the team. “We do a lot of work with children with disabilities to prepare them for holding a personal budget. So we’ve held an event where all the local providers had a stand with a price list on it for their services. The children were given some money and went virtual shopping.”

She says the Transitions Team is itself part of a longer-term aim to have a seamless whole-life disability service in the county. However, the team also deals with care leavers considered at high risk to try and avoid crisis situations happening in the years after leaving care. “There have been challenges, particularly around how we work better with child protection and unpicking budgets, but so far the feedback has been very good and we feel we’re succeeding in improving the transition.”

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