Introduction from the Principal Social Worker • Our Context • Our Values • Our Model of Practice • Our Model of Social Work • How We Work Together • How We Work with Partners • Our Future Plans People and Resilience Children’s Care and Support Practice Framework Barking and Dagenham’s Approach to Social Work with our Children and their Families January 2019 Version 2.0
Introduction from the Principal Social Worker (PSW) In Barking and Dagenham, relationships are at the core of our practice. We are strengthening our ability as a workforce to move forwards together in the belief that our social workers can improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families. As we do this, it’s crucial that we also consider just how we work with our families and with each other. Barking and Dagenham is a very exciting place to be a social worker but also a challenging one, with the fastest growing population of 0-19 year olds, serious deprivation, a changing demography and significant physical redevelopment. With this context, we have to think even more carefully about what our families need and how we can help them achieve it. Many parents have explained that although they don’t always agree with the things they feel are done to them, they appreciate when social workers are upfront and transparent with them about the possible outcomes. This is key to our relational approach. Our value base as professionals needs to respect a collaborative approach where workers can act as the change agents for children’s welfare, working closely with both children and families. As well as treating our children and families with openness and respect, and building relationships with them, we need to do the same with each other as workers. We know that if we want to continue our success then relationships must be at the centre of all we do, as colleagues, in meetings with partners and other professionals and of course during direct work with our children to maximise our capability and ultimately improve the outcomes of all Barking and Dagenham’s families whom we work with . We have already invested a lot of time and resource in developing our relationship-focused practice framework, but we know there is more to do. We also know that social workers need to be flexible and have as many tools as possible available to them and therefore our practice framework is also underpinned by Restorative Practice and Strengthening Families approaches. We know that these ways of working fit together well and encourage workers to draw on these practice models to support their relational practice. Russ Bellenie, Principal Social Worker
Our Context Our Values Our vision is simple. No-one left behind. It is at the heart of our new kind of council and everything we do. It means a relentless focus on creating the conditions, partnerships and services that support improvements in the lives of our residents, ensuring they have opportunities to succeed and thrive. Our Corporate Plan describes this in more detail here. Everything we do as an organisation to serve and support our community is guided by our DRIVE values and behaviours; Deliver, Respond, Inspire, Value and Engage. All employees should embody and demonstrate these values always and in all circumstances. The DRIVE values and behaviours set the minimum standards our children and their families should expect from us. Excellent service and high standards are vital to meet the challenges we face and to deliver the services residents need and deserve. Our relational practice framework feeds into this council-wide vision and values and we feel that practice based on kindness and compassion, showing warmth to each other and our families, as part of a non-punitive, helpful and genuine, authentic system, will help to support our children and the borough as a whole.
Our Model of Practice Work with our partners and providers Children’s social workers in Barking and Dagenham follow a relational approach to their work with children and families. This means we build strong relationships with our families and help them to do the same, increasing safety and resilience. In Barking and Dagenham, we understand that social workers cannot work alone and therefore our relationships with internal and external partners, and providers are crucial to supporting our professional practice. Range of Social Work tools Relational Social Work Our Values Children and families are all different and therefore our social workers need a range of tools to help them in their work. In Barking and Dagenham, these are predominantly Strengthening Families approaches and Restorative Practice. Our DRIVE Values underpin everything we do, and are organisation-wide. They compel us to Deliver, be Responsive, Inspire, Value and Engage. These values clearly apply to what we expect of social work in Barking and Dagenham.
Our Model of Practice – Relational Social Work • Recognising that each social work encounter is unique. • Emphasising ‘the use of self’ and the relationship as the means through which interventions are channelled. • Recognising that family complexities are changing rapidly in the current socio-economic and political climate in the UK and responding contextually to this, by shaping financially creative and problem-solving techniques as part of the professional to client relationship. • Moving away from solely psycho-dynamic case-led assessment which takes a more neutral stance to social work. • Recognising the power differences in a social work relationship openly but seeking to collaborate with everyone involved as much as possible. • Understanding relationships in the context of an individual’s internal world (emotions, motivations etc.) and external worlds (poverty, power, social exclusion etc.) • We collaborate with families as much as possible, using relational techniques to promote change for the child. • Our relational approach focuses on the whole journey of the child, and aims to build relationships and permanence at every stage. • We encourage workers to use reflective practice as much as possible, and to see themselves as catalysts for change. • Relational Social Work focuses on the idea that the relationship is the means by which a parent can be helped to effect change for their children’s lives. • It is in this relationship between the worker and the parent and child that interventions become successful and practice is celebrated as being meaningful. • The core values of our relational practice are:
Our Model of Practice – Relational Social Work For our children and their families relational social work means: For practitioners relational social work means: • At every point of access, they should have a Practitioner who is trained in and is utilising relational skills • They should experience practitioners who collaborate with them at every stage of their journey with services. As far as is possible, practitioners will use open-ended questions and professional curiosity to ensure families’ voices are heard and that the child’s voice especially is privileged. • Children and families should experience practitioners who are able to use reflective, observational, analytical and advanced listening skills to evaluate levels of both potential and actual risk, in accordance with government guidance, policies and procedures to ensure the best outcomes for children are achieved. • Children’s social workers will be equipped to address unresolved trauma and loss, as the first port of call prior to therapeutic services • They will help a parent’s ability to mentalise their children’s needs. • They will not only experience external interventions such as parenting groups and therapeutic services, their assigned practitioner will also act as a catalyst for change through their use of self. • As part of a more collaborative approach, the lead practitioner will coordinate a multi-agency team around the relationship s/he has with the family. • Their social worker will use guided parenting interventions with families. • That they are equipped with the skills needed to undertake their role and that these are updated regularly via skills auditing. These skills should become foundational to their core business with children and their families and will have the forming of relationship at their heart. To help practitioners achieve this we will closely monitor caseloads and work to keep them at a manageable level. • That our electronic data systems of recording also need to have relationship at their heart, to provide ease of support; also, that practitioners see the administrative part of their role as a continuation of their interventions. • Workers will be able to access support services including business support, brokerage, commissioning and finance. • That our quality assurance and auditing process values a relational and anti-oppressive delivery, whereby auditors collaborate with workers, support and challenge practice and help in ongoing practice development. • There will be an emphasis on the journey of the worker, parallel to that of the child, so that practitioners can manage their own career development and retention within the Council. • The emphasis will be on adopting the same relational approach to teams and management structures.
Our Model of Social Work: a range Restorative Practice Like Relational Practice, Restorative Practice is a way of behaving which helps to build and maintain healthy relationships, resolve difficulties and repair harm where there has been conflict. When we work with and alongside people, rather than make decisions about them in isolation, there is strong evidence to say that outcomes for children and their families are improved. We use formal and informal processes which focus upon removing barriers, proactively promoting a sense of community, understanding, social responsibility and shared accountability. Relational Practice also provides positive challenge and sets clear ‘bottom lines’ i.e. holding people to account in a meaningful and constructive way and agreeing clear boundaries to work within. This is called ‘high challenge’. Alongside this it provides the right support and encouragement to enable others to reach agreed goals. This is called ‘high support’. Whilst it is crucial that a relational approach underpins all our social work, we also recognise the fact that children, families and the contexts in which they live are all unique and therefore social workers need a range of approaches with associated skills and tools and at their disposal to do their best work with children and their families. Using their reflective and relational skills, our workers will draw on many of the following to support their relational practice. • Intensive Edge of Care work • We continue to use our innovative Access to Resources Team (ART) alongside therapeutic interventions to work effectively with families where children are on the edge of care. This involves intensive work that is very flexible, not always undertaken by social workers, and often out of hours. We are exploring the possibility of extending this work further across the child’s journey. • We also access Functional Family Therapy and Multi Systemic Therapy through our social impact bond, this is specifically to support families with children at risk of coming into care, who may benefit from these therapeutic approaches. • Contextual Safeguarding • In Barking and Dagenham, we are embedding this approach as we recognises the shift, particularly for adolescents in where and how they experience risk. The system, which includes wider partners is developing risk assessment tools, new partnerships and interventions needed to address contextual safeguarding risks including CSE, children who go missing and those involved with gangs and criminal exploitation.
Our Model of Social Work: a range • Signs of Safety • Our Assessments and Child Protection case conferences use Signs of Safety; an approach where honest and respectful relationships between the worker and families, and between all professionals involved, help to achieve a shared understanding of what needs to change and how this will be achieved within a culture where collaborative, appreciative inquiry methods are valued. • To support the risk assessment, 3 questions are asked: • What is past harm: i.e. harm that has actually occurred? • What is future danger: i.e. what children’s care and support is worried could happen? • If there were to be no change in the family’s behaviour, what are the complicating factors: i.e. are there any circumstances that may be associated with risk to children and young people such as poor mental health, substance abuse, domestic abuse? • In addition Signs of Safety asks ‘what is working well’ i.e. existing strength and ‘what needs to happen’? • This final question forms the safety plan Trauma Informed Practice Key principles of this approach include – safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment alongside respect for diversity. Supporting workers to apply a trauma informed approach requires them to realise the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery. Workers will recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma in children, families, staff, and others involved with the system, and seek to actively resist re-traumatisation. In LBBD our Youth Offending Service value and use this associated skills set, and as we embark on embedding a contextual safeguarding approach in LBBD, this approach will be promoted more widely. Strengthening Families The Strengthening Families approach was developed out of the Signs of Safety model of practice and focuses on developing five protective factors: parental resilience and social connections; concrete support in times of need; knowledge of parenting and child development and social and emotional competence of children. The model is based on the fact that when these Protective Factors are well established in a family, the likelihood of child abuse and neglect diminishes. These protective factors are “promotive” factors that build family strengths and a family environment that promotes optimal child and youth development.
Work with our Partners and Providers Internal Partnerships: it is imperative that we work effectively with our key internal partnerships in the council. Working cohesively enables our families to access a broad range of services they need. We expect social workers to engage positively with our partners and providers, building effective relationship and sharing risk where appropriate. These include: Community Solutions: is the front door for all people-based services. We have brought together experts from a number of different disciplines, from libraries to children’s social workers, and Housing Options to youth workers. These integrated teams identify the root cause of problems and help to resolve those problems before they escalate. Community Solutions will help tackle the complex challenges facing the borough, such as our high rates of domestic violence, homelessness and unemployment. Safeguarding and Quality Assurance: services include our Child Protection Conference Chairs, Independent reviewing officers, the LADO and audit services. This team is critical to ensuring the quality and effectiveness of our social work practice . Commissioning: Services work with our social work managers to ensure the right external services are available to support our work with children and families. Performance and Insight: Services provide timely and intelligent information to drive our improvement. Local partnerships: we have a number of local partnerships that both support and share our work. In order for our children and families to thrive, they may need to access services from across the partnership. This work is undertaken at a strategic level through the LSCB, and is supported operationally on a daily basis in the work of our social workers. Social workers regularly engage with colleagues in health, education, the voluntary sector and the police to ensure that we take a joined up approach and work seamlessly together in our separate remits. At its core, this means building effective relationships, and therefore ensuring appropriate referrals and information sharing between organisations and individual workers. Neighbouring boroughs and pan-London partnerships: we work closely with a range of other councils in a number of areas, including the North East London Commissioning Partnership, the Pan-London Secure Accommodation Project Group, the Regional Adoption Agency, and the National Referral Mechanism. All of these partnerships strengthen our work and we know that by nurturing these relationships, we add resilience and flexibility to our social work model. Commissioned providers: we purchase a range of services and products to support our children and families, including from Independent Fostering Agencies, residential provisions, independent social workers and assessment services. We work professionally and collegially with our providers to ensure the best possible outcomes for our children and families.
Our Future Plans Recruitment and Retention: in Barking and Dagenham, we are committed to growing our own talent and supporting excellent workers to stay with us. We will recruit in line with our values and practice framework for both agency and permanent staff and then support workers to continue to develop their skills when they are with us. We have already started using interactive scenario-based technology to assess interviewees’ skills set and we plan to develop this further. In order to embed this practice framework across our workforce we must have the right people and support them to stay with us. Audit and Quality Assurance of Practice: we will monitor practice in line with our Quality Assurance Framework: Traditional Audits: A review of a sample of cases to explore in depth the effectiveness of children’s social care and social work practice against agreed and proven standards for high-quality care. These are likely to be conducted across cohorts of children, such as those looked after, cross cutting themes, such as Child Sexual Exploitation, or common areas of practice, such as supervision. Dip Sampling: High volume, focused review of practice areas of concern against accepted and local standards of good practice and on areas generally requiring improvement, for example, re-referrals or quality of care or child protection plans. Practice Observation: An established approach to support development as social work practitioners. Observation of practice needs focus on themes such as practitioners listening, communication skills, child centred approach, and quality of assessment, direct work and intervention. Training and Development: we recognise the importance of investing in the training and development of all staff involved in the journey of children and families. We will offer a tailored training programme designed to support the implementation of this practice framework and help achieve high quality social care practice for our children. Workers can access the training programme via their Personal Development Plan and supervision process, where training needs will be evaluated and recorded well. The Principal Social Worker will also help to identify training needs through the quality assurance framework. The Practice Learning Leader Excellence Consultant PLECC is a new role created as part of our Teaching Partnership with UEL and London Met. The PLECC will be coordinating teaching consultants to go into the universities to help teach/support their curriculum and will help to link research and theory to frontline practice. Implementing our new Target Operating Model (TOM): as we develop our service into the new target operating model, we will need different skills in different areas of the service. We know, for example, that our new focus on contextual safeguarding, will require us to embed different skills and new models of practice in those areas. As the TOM is embedded, these gaps and practice development needs will be addressed through the training and development described opposite.