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PAPER C

Purpose: For Decision

Committee CABINET

Date TUESDAY, 12 APRIL 2011

Title RECLAIMING SOCIAL WORK: RECONFIGURATION OF


SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE

Report of CABINET MEMBER FOR CHILDREN’S SERVICES

PURPOSE

1. The purpose of the report is to seek Cabinet approval for a programme of


transformation within the children’s social care workforce.

OUTCOMES

2. The recommendation is that a new model of delivering social care services for
children and families is implemented, with the intention of leading to a step-change in
performance.

BACKGROUND

3. Nationally, the children’s social care workforce is beset with difficulties. Staff carry
high caseloads and are singularly responsible for managing risk relating to a number
of complex family problems. There is a high level of criticism of social workers in the
national press as a result of several high-profile child deaths. Levels of stress,
sickness absence, staff turnover and vacancy rates are high, while job satisfaction is
low. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of social workers’ time is spent undertaking
administrative tasks. As a result it is often considered that the role has been de-
professionalised, which serves to further erode social work confidence and
competence.

4. The Isle of Wight has experienced significant difficulty in recruiting and retaining high
quality social workers, leading to the decision in July 2010 to bring social work
salaries in line with the regional average via a market supplement. This decision was
taken at a time where vacancy rates were running at 40 per cent. As a result of this
decision, social work vacancies are now at a more manageable eight percent.
Nevertheless, this still represents an almost ten percent reduction in capacity.

5. An Ofsted inspection of Safeguarding and Looked After Children Services


undertaken between 7 – 17 September 2010 found these services to be ‘Adequate’
ie a service that only meets minimum requirements. The number of children
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subject to child protection plans and within the Looked After system is higher than in
similar authorities. There is also a high level of reliance on high-cost mainland
placements in order to respond to the high demand that can’t be met by in-house
fostering placements. The level of staff sickness absence over the last financial year
within the social work teams equates to an organisational cost of £250,000. The Isle
of Wight’s reputation with the courts has been negatively affected by the repeated
inability of social workers to meet court deadlines and a number of examples of poor
casework planning.

6. The proposal is to implement a new model of delivering children’s social care


services, known as the ‘Reclaiming Social Work’ model, with a number of
professionals working together in a unit. This team approach has been embedded
within Hackney Borough Council since 2006/07 and has been recognised as a model
of outstanding practice by Dr Eileen Munro within her first and second interim reports
into the child protection system in England and Wales. The approach has yielded
significant benefits which have been evaluated as enduring over time. These benefits
are as follows: 4.97 per cent efficiencies within social care budgets; 55 per cent
reduction in staff sickness; lower turnover of staff; improved decision-making and risk
management; reduced numbers of children subject to child protection plans, in the
Looked After system and in agency placements. Feedback from families was
extremely positive – they felt that this new approach meant less changes of social
worker, was more effective in avoiding problems escalating, meant that families felt
‘listened to’ and that someone ‘knew their story’ meaning that they did not have to
repeat sensitive family information to a succession of strangers.

7. In essence, this model replaces the approach where social workers operate as lone
professionals and have their own caseload, and instead introduces the concept of
‘social work units’ comprising consultant social workers, social workers, family
therapists, child practitioners and unit coordinators. Collectively, these units will be
responsible for a much larger caseload (approximately 40 to 60 children) but will
have a collaborative approach, drawing on the different skills and experiences within
the unit. This will also introduce a culture of reflective practice and greater level of
challenge to decision-making, resulting in improved risk management. Medway
Council has also implemented this approach and Cambridgeshire and Stoke are in
the implementation phase. A number of other authorities are also considering
applying this methodology. Hackney was assessed in its most recent annual
assessment of children’s services (December 2010) as ‘performing well’ ie
exceeding minimum requirements.

STRATEGIC CONTEXT

8. This proposal will assist the council in meeting the following corporate objectives:

• Delivering better services through the council business transformation programme.


It is intended that the revised approach set out in this report will also be highlighted
in the forthcoming update to the Corporate Plan.

It also corresponds to corporate outcomes numbers 9, 10, 11 and 12: improve


performance and value for money; keep children and young people safe; raise
standards and increase skills; enhance the council’s reputation.

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CONSULTATION

9. A full consultation has been undertaken with the workforce and ideas for further
developing the model to reflect local circumstances have been built into the most
recent version. Consultation with staff has included the involvement with recognised
trade unions. There has been consultation with the Children in Care Council, the
Corporate Parenting Board, with foster carers, health commissioners, children’s
centres, the Children’s Trust Board, the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, the
Cabinet Member for Children and the Chairman of the Children & Young People
Scrutiny Panel.

10. The outcome of these consultations has been positive. Many staff and partners are
enthusiastic about the proposals and anticipate that this will have a positive impact
on outcomes for children and their families. Looked after children were particularly
pleased with a model that might reduce the high turnover of social workers they have
experienced. The staff group recognise that the model provides not only an
opportunity to develop new skills and alternative progression routes aside from into
management, it also responds to all those issues that have made social work a
stressful and unattractive profession: it has been found that within this approach 70
to 80 per cent of social work time is spent directly with families rather than being
desk-bound; it reduces stress levels and re-values the profession, injecting
confidence in the role from top to bottom of the organisation.

FINANCIAL / BUDGET IMPLICATIONS

11. There are no significant financial implications to introducing this approach. The cost
of the model is within the base budget allocated to the children’s social care teams.
Currently around £3.8m is budgeted within children’s social care salaries and this
model remains within that envelope. Its affordability has been assisted by the fact
that the model requires fewer managers – reducing the number at ‘team manager’
level from 8 to 5, and taking out the roles of deputy team manager and senior
practitioner. It also provides more coherence to the overall structure by streamlining
roles and responsibilities across the workforce. There are likely to be some
redundancy costs; these will be borne by the children’s social care budget partially
by budgeting at the top of scale whereby in reality some posts will be recruited
through a range of social work salary points.

12. A number of these existing posts are on fixed term contracts. Some staff have or are
in the process of requesting voluntary redundancy. Altering the way the teams work
should also reduce the significant spend on agency staff in the workforce.

LEGAL IMPLICATIONS

13. The main duties of the local authority in respect of children arise from the Children
Act 1989 which has led to a raft of subsequent regulations and legislative guidance.
Specifically Section 17 of the Act imposes a duty on the local authority to safeguard
and promote the welfare of children in need in its area by promoting a range and
level of services, and section 20 imposes a requirement to provide accommodation
for children in need in the area. Section 11 of the 2004 Children Act also imposes an
obligation on the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
The local authority is also required to adhere to government guidance – ‘Working
Together to Safeguard Children 2010’ which states that ‘safeguarding and promoting
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the welfare of children is the responsibility of the local authority, working in
partnership with other public organisations, the voluntary sector, children and young
people, parents and carers, and the wider community. A key objective for local
authorities is to ensure that children are protected from harm. ‘

14. The internal selection process will be carried out according to due process (Council
Policy) and with regard to equal opportunities legislation. Unions have been involved
throughout the consultation period.

PROPERTY IMPLICATIONS

15. There is likely to be some staff movement between the St James site and the
Children’s Services Centre. The Property Services team is aware of this. In the
longer term, this approach is entirely compatible with the longer term strategy of
moving all staff into County Hall, once the phasing of moves has been finalised.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

16. This proposed internal reorganisation is covered under the equality impact
assessment relating to the wider restructure of community wellbeing and social care,
see Appendix A.

17. Key points that emerged from the equality impact assessment are as follows:

(a) There might be a negative impact on staff of certain age groups which could
affect their ability to find suitable alternative employment on the Island.
(b) There is a potential negative impact on staff sharing jobs as statistically
women are more likely to share jobs than men.
(c) There could also be a universal negative impact on some staff in terms of pay
scale due to redesign of posts and reduction in staff numbers.

18. Aside from the above no disproportionate impact on any particular equality groups or
categories has been identified. Feedback from consultation indicated no areas which
required further attention.

19. The summary of findings that emerged from the equality impact assessment are as
follows:

(a) The reorganisation of the staffing structure of the community wellbeing and
social care directorate has a universal impact.
(b) Careful management of the changes to be undertaken, including meaningful
consultation prior to changes through an agreed timeline, will ensure minimal
disruption to staff and service users.
(c) Individual consultation meetings with staff to address changes in role, training
needs and other concerns will be addressed, including information support
sessions.
(d) Engagement will be maintained with recognised trade union and staff
representatives (non union)

20. Summary of recommendations and key points of action plan

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(a) Changes to future service delivery will involve managers ensuring that up to
date equality and diversity training takes place and updating the Equalities
Impact Assessment as and when required.
(b) To mitigate the short-term disruption caused through the re-design of
services.
(c) For managers to address the changes with staff and work on ways of
addressing issues relating to career pathways, development opportunities and
future workload etc.
(d) Promotion of new structure to Council directorates, the public (if necessary)
and strategic partners.
(e) In particular, consideration will be given to section 17 of the Crime and
Disorder Act and the 2004 Children’s Act.

SECTION 17 CRIME AND DISORDER ACT 1998

21. The role of children’s social workers has a direct bearing on the Crime and Disorder
Act 1998. Social work staff are working with some of the most complex and
vulnerable families within the community in order to reduce the risk of crimes, such
as abuse or neglect against children. This approach is intended to improve the
quality of social work practice, thereby reducing risk and increasing the level of
support to families. This in turn will lead to children being safer on the Isle of Wight.

OPTIONS

22. Option 1: Proceed with an internal restructure in line with the Reclaiming Social
Work model. To be implemented by the end of the summer 2011.

Option 2: Agree in principle but delay implementation.

Option 3: No change to existing configuration.

Option 4: Agree with a restructure in principle but seek an alternative model of


delivery.

RISK MANAGEMENT

23. Each of the above options carries its own associated risks; these have been
highlighted in Appendix B.
24. In terms of overall risk management Option 1 represents the lowest risk to the
council as it is a proven innovative methodology of achieving results and within
current budgets. Additionally consultation has confirmed full buy-in from all
stakeholders. The individual risks identified in Appendix B are considered acceptable
and manageable in terms of the achieving the overall objectives.

25. Options 2 and 4 are a higher risk as any potential delay or non identification of a
superior model to adopt would greatly impact on staff moral and not address the
current issues within the service.

26. Option 3 represents the greatest risk as currently there are pressures to meet
statutory duties and potentially failing in our responsibilities in safeguarding creating
an exposure to litigation and severe damage to our reputation.

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EVALUATION

27. The Recommendation is that the Cabinet accepts Option 1 for the following
reasons:

a) There is a long-term precedent set for this approach, significantly raising the
effectiveness of social work practice.
b) It will lead to a number of additional organisational benefits such as reduced
sickness and turnover of staff, positive feedback from families, plus the potential
for some financial savings.
c) The Reclaiming Social Work model was evaluated favourably by Dr Eileen
Munro, who has been charged with overhauling the child protection system in
England and Wales. Dr Munro cites the approach as a model of good practice in
both of her interim reports.
d) The staff and management group can see the benefits to families and to their
practice and have been highly engaged and motivated in the consultation phase
to date.
e) It can be achieved within budget.
f) It will be more difficult to deliver sustained organisational improvements without a
systematic overhaul of existing structures.
g) A number of other authorities are now starting to adopt this methodology.
h) The local authority has many statutory duties towards children and young people
and operates within a number of legislative frameworks. At the present time the
council’s ability to adequately discharge its statutory duties needs improving. This
approach does not constitute any fundamental alteration to the statutory powers
but should enable the authority to improve performance and undertake its
responsibilities more quickly and at a higher level of quality.
i) Furthermore, it is anticipated that the Reclaiming Social Work model will have a
significantly positive impact on the quality of court work currently undertaken and,
thereby, improve the reputation of the IOW council with the courts and partners.

RECOMMENDATION

28. Option 1 - Proceed with an internal restructure in line with the Reclaiming
Social Work model. To be implemented by the end of the summer 2011.

APPENDICES ATTACHED

29.
Appendix A - Equality Impact Assessment
Appendix B - Risk Management Matrix

Contact Point: Ali Matthews, Deputy Director: Safeguarding,


01983 823601 e-mail ali.matthews@iow.gov.uk

IAN ANDERSON COUNCILLOR DAWN COUSINS


Director’s Title: Director of Community Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
Wellbeing and Social Care

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