Ambitious plans recently put in place to transform our support for vulnerable children will be considered by the Children and Young People Committee next week.
The report outlines the Change for Children programme developed to address some long-standing challenges in delivering children’s social care and sets out how the impact of the changes will be measured. In May The Children and Young People Committee unanimously agreed the package changes to better meet the needs of children in Cambridgeshire.
Cambridgeshire currently has more than 700 children in its care but by 2020/21 we are aiming to reduce this by around 100 so that Cambridgeshire is in line with similar local authorities.
Changes are evidence based - following a series of reviews over the past year by Oxford Brookes University, OFSTED, and a LGA peer review which showed the council’s model of 32 units spread across the county led to less urgent issues slipping down the priority list.
Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children and Young People Committee, said, “The changes are expected to deliver improvements in quality and consistency. They will mean that more families with children in need of help and protection will access the support they need in a timely way and better planning for children in care will result in more children moving into permanent arrangements more quickly than is currently the case.
“Given that these changes have involved 200 members of staff and the wholescale redesign of the delivery model in Children’s Social Care, achieving implementation within six months is a very substantial achievement, and is testament to the dedication and hard work of all our staff at all levels. Unlike previous changes, this has also been achieved without the use of external consultants which has been welcomed by our staff.”
Change for Children will see:
- Social work teams based in districts led by non-case holding team managers who can provide more support and challenge; linking in to early help teams who already work in this way and are working well with our partners in schools and health to meet the needs of vulnerable children at the most early stage
- Easier referrals into the council’s contact centre, with trained call handlers able to make faster decisions on all clear cut cases, and referring only complicated or unclear issues on to social workers
- Lower caseloads for social workers overall, with more resilience built in to larger teams
- Two new dedicated teams focused on adolescents in the north and south of Cambridgeshire
- The introduction of children’s practitioner roles who are not social work qualified but instead have a range of qualifications relevant to working with children and young people. They will hold case responsibility for some of our children in need work and also provide support to qualified workers working with families where children are subject to child protection plans.
Reducing overall numbers of children in care will be achieved by more children moving more quickly into legally permanent arrangements - returning home when this is safe for them to do so, or moving through to permanent care under Special Guardianship Orders and Adoption. We will be monitoring not only the numbers involved, but also the time taken between a child first coming into care and leaving care via these routes.
Changes are also aimed at improving recruitment, offering more attractive and specialised roles with lower caseloads, at a time of national shortage of qualified children’s social workers.
Some aspects of the change programme, including the move to a new children’s information system – Liquid Logic – will not be completed until later in 2019, meaning that some benefits will not be fully realised until then.
The full report is available here