County Hall – photo © the Eye Snapper
A new service launches tomorrow (October 17) that will improve how agencies in Norfolk work together to keep children safe.
Norfolk County Council has created the new Children’s Advice and Duty Service to help ensure that all children are getting the right support, as soon as safeguarding concerns are raised.
The new team of senior social workers will provide advice and support to other professionals who are worried about a child, talking through the risks and strengths within families and agreeing together who is best placed to meet the child’s needs.
It will mean the end of written referrals and the creation of a new direct line to social workers.
Elsewhere in the country, the approach has been successful in improving the experience of callers, and reducing unnecessary assessments, giving social workers more time to work with the families that really need their help.
Cllr Stuart Dark, Acting Chairman of the Children’s Services Committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “We want our social workers to be spending their time working with families where they can make the greatest difference, whilst recognising that other agencies and other services can offer support too. This is a never do nothing approach.
“At the moment we are doing too many unnecessary formal assessments where families do not need a social work service and this takes up valuable time and resources. This new approach, which supports our partners by providing expert advice, has worked well in other outstanding authorities. It will help us to keep children safe by giving social workers more time to work with those families where children are at real risk.”
Norfolk County Council has been working with national expert Professor David Thorpe to develop the new service.
Prof Thorpe has worked successfully with other high-performing councils in England, where both unnecessary assessments have reduced and local partners work together more successfully to meet the needs of children.
The new service is one element of the council’s £12m transformation of Children’s Services, aimed at getting help to families earlier on, using evidence to better target services and reducing demand on social workers.
The number of experienced social workers dealing with initial contacts and calls will increase as part of the new service, ensuring callers get straight through to a named social worker. The service will also have extended hours, running from 8am to 8pm.
Elsewhere in the country partner agencies have supported the approach because they have welcomed the support and advice of a senior social worker at the outset. Moving to telephone conversations and away from written referrals means social workers can find out all the information they need early on, and families receive the help they need earlier.
Members of the public who have concerns about the safety of a child should continue to call the same number 0344 800 8020. If it as emergency, dial 999.