A big county with diverse challenges
So you’d like to know more about social work in Staffordshire.
Well – to give you some context, we’re a big county. Staffordshire covers 1,000 square miles and has a population of over 870,000 people living in eight districts and boroughs. We are the eighth largest county in England by population and we’re growing further.
This means that we face some significant challenges when it comes to social work. Whilst Staffordshire is a relatively prosperous county, we have areas of real rural isolation as well as pockets of extreme deprivation with approximately 13,500 residents living in areas that are in the top 10% most deprived nationally.
Like many other authorities, we are seeing an increasing number of families needing our support.
Officially ‘Good’ and striving to be better
We’re proud that Staffordshire’s children’s services are rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted after we put ourselves forward to test the new Ofsted inspection framework in summer 2017. We’re one of only three authorities in the West Midlands who are in this enviable position.
Our most recent focussed Ofsted inspection looked at support for vulnerable adolescents and highlighted areas of excellent practice in supporting children who go missing, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and in our work to keep some of the most vulnerable children safely with their families through our Intensive Prevention Service. However, the inspectors also expressed concern at the size of the caseloads carried by some social workers.
We’re tackling this issue head on in two main ways:
- Investing over £1million to increase the size of our social work teams
- Continued innovation in the way we work with partners to meet the needs of families at the earliest possible point
A community based approach to early help
In Staffordshire, our aim is to give children and families a network of support to help manage their own needs and stay safe and well.
In practice, this translates to a community-based approach to early and earliest help, underpinned by a safety net of professional social work practitioners whose expertise is reserved for those families who need it.
Our evidence-based approach builds on what we’ve learned from our successful Building Resilient Families Programme (Staffordshire’s Troubled Families programme) which aims to address the root causes of issues impacting on the whole family by drawing on the early help and family support available in local communities.
Over the past eighteen months, we’ve launched a new, more robust Early Help strategy and processes in partnership with Staffordshire’s Safeguarding Children’s Board.
We’ve also run several pilots across the county where partners in a district have taken responsibility for recognising local need and commissioning early support and where our Local Support Teams and social work teams are working more closely together in our Safeguarding Units.
We’re now looking at how we embed what we’ve learned across the county.
Prevention at all levels of need
Not only are we focussed on earliest and early help in our communities, we’re innovating in our practice around prevention at the edge of care too.
We’ve received national recognition, being shortlisted for both MJ and LGC Awards, for our intensive prevention work which includes:
- ‘Breathing Space’ for women who have had previous children permanently removed from their care;
- reunification of children in the care system with their families,
- ‘step down’ from residential care to fostering and
- intensive family support for families with drug or alcohol dependencies.
Our track record of success has also supported recent bids to the Department for Education for Earned Autonomy for Building Resilient Families and Communities, and a Regional Adoption Agency, securing £5.3m of funding and allowing us to continue to innovate in this area.