New model for children’s social care launches

20th November 2019

Social work charity Frontline and the Centre for Public Impact, a not-for-profit foundation focused on government innovation, have launched a blueprint outlining a new model for children’s social care, with the backing of leaders in the profession. The model puts relationships over bureaucracy, and provides a practical path for how a local authority in England could do children’s social care differently.

The model was developed hand-in-hand with a group of social workers and through the consultation of over 80 leaders in the profession. The model takes inspiration from the principles of the Dutch Buurtzorg nursing model, which has been successful in devolving decision making power and creating a culture of trust and support, as well as the innovative efforts many local authorities are pioneering

A recent BASW survey[1] found that social workers only spend 20% of their time in direct face-to-face contact with families, with one out of every three social workers not working directly with children[2]. The key benefits of adopting the blueprint model would be:

  • For social workers to spend c.60% more time with children and families and a 20% reduction in average caseloads
  • Social workers who are empowered to make decisions for children and families, while maintaining access to support, expert advice and supervision via their peers and a dedicated team of advanced practitioners

In the longer term, this model could create a more sustainable system, with social workers spending more time with families and standards improving through increased supervision and transparency. Ultimately, this would increase the quality of care, help families stay together safely and reduce the number of children going into care.

Michelle Hayden-Pepper, Assistant Director for Safeguarding, Children’s Social Care, Lambeth:

“It is our job to enable social workers to build meaningful relationships with children and families, and to use their skills to do their best work and we know that the current system has some limitation in creating that space. Lambeth contributed information and data in the preparation of the blueprint and we are keen to see how the proposals are taken forward, whilst thinking through some of the inevitable challenges. I am really excited about the potential results this could have for children and families.”

Josh MacAlister, Chief Executive of Frontline:

“Social work changes lives but only if we free up highly capable professionals to get out of the office to do complex, rewarding and inspirational work with children and families. This blueprint represents a chance to give social workers greater freedom and responsibility and get thousands of professionals back to doing what they came into social work to do.”

Sue White, Professor of Social Work at University of Sheffield:

This blueprint is to be welcomed. This model moves social work away from cycles of assessment and commissioning, emphasising instead devolved decision-making to confident and highly competent practitioners. There will be challenges in its implementation, which will require a resurrection of trust and reciprocity and a resolute shift from command and control models of management.”

Nadine Smith, Director of the Centre for Public Impact, UK:

“Government and public services are under increasing pressure today to address the twin challenges of bringing about the results people expect while remaining trusted and relevant. This new model for children’s social care recognises that the future of government is one where relationships will come first and where power is shared, so that the faces of government are increasingly welcomed into people’s lives to help them overcome the complex challenges they face.”

[1] BASW (2018) 80-20 Campaign Final Report

[2] DfE (2019). (2018) Children’s Social Work Workforce