Social work changes
Professor David Thorpe’s Safeguarding Review is the biggest piece of research ever undertaken into referrals to children’s social care. To inform social work changes, it was commissioned by the region across all 15 local authorities to develop a better understanding of:
- How requests for help from social care are dealt with and
- Whether there are ways in which the response to families can be improved.
The Review looked at the challenges faced by a number of our local authorities after a series of high profile cases put child protection services and social work practice under a spotlight.
In recent years there has been a major increase in referrals to social care across the country. It wasn’t clear whether the exact needs of families and any specific concerns about a child were always clearly identified at the earliest stage to ensure the most suitable response. Too many cases get referred where families need support and help, but do not necessarily need extensive services or investigation. This can make it more difficult to respond to real incidents of concern.
The Baby Peter case (Haringey, London), increased existing national and local concerns. It strengthened our desire to ensure our social care sector had well developed mechanisms for supporting improvement and innovation. To make sure that significant concerns are picked up effectively and the right services and support are provided, we need to ensure that our social care can provide the right expertise to protect children.
External inspections and our own individual teams had highlighted areas for improvement. But to ensure we were devoting our efforts in the most effective ways, we needed a focus. So, two key questions were asked:
- How do we know whether we are dealing effectively with initial child care enquires and the first stages of contact with people needing help? Are systems in place to spot those children at greatest risk? And, when so many agencies are involved, is the focus where it is most needed?
- How do we recruit and retain the best possible workers? And how do we counter the lack of understanding about social care work and the damage done by the Baby Peter case, which has undermined the confidence of staff nationally and our ability to attract people into this vital area of work?
And so, building on earlier work done in Hull, a two-year project was devised across Yorkshire and Humberside to analyse referral pathways and improve outcomes, working with Professor David Thorpe and his team. The conclusion was that to effect the biggest social work changes, we would need to work collaboratively across the whole region – learning from and supporting one another.
The results from all the authorities in the region have allowed us to compare best social work practice. Further research has been commissioned to find out more about how social care can work even better with partners and other agencies. This work concentrates very firmly on children’s needs, and parallels the focus on the child’s journey emphasised by the national report from Professor Eileen Munro.