Our Story - a big county with diverse challenges;
We’re a big county. Staffordshire covers 1,000 square miles and has a population of over 870,000 people living in 8 districts and boroughs. We are the 8th 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. We have approximately 13,500 residents living in areas that are in the top 10% most deprived areas nationally.
And so, 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.
Our most recent focused 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 our work to keep some of the most vulnerable children safely with their families through our Intensive Prevention Service.
However, we’re always aiming to improve and we’re doing this 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 them manage their own needs and stay safe and well.
In practice, this translates to a community-based approach to early and earliest help. This approach is 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 18 months, we’ve launched a new, restorative practice model which focuses on relationships and connections.
We’ve also run several pilots to learn and develop innovative practice. We’re part of a Social Workers in Schools programme funded through the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care and we also piloted the introduction of adult specialist workers into our teams.
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 focused on earliest and early help in our communities, we’re innovating in our practice around prevention at the edge of care too.
We’ve invested in our Family Group Conference service to offer this provision to children and families at an earlier stage. And going that step further our Intensive Prevention Service and Breathing Space Teams continue to support children in creative and innovative ways to enable families to stay together.
It might seem odd that in children’s services, we talk about our vision being to keep children out of the social care system, but it’s true.
Most children and families would rather not have the involvement of statutory services. They want to be supported by their families to solve the day-to-day challenges they face. As long as they are safe, we want this too.
Making lives better
Building family and community resilience and reducing the number of children who become Children in Need or subject to a Child Protection Plan is the right thing to do because evidence suggests that outcomes for those children who need statutory intervention are poor compared to their peers.
Their lives will be better if they are part of strong, resilient families and communities.
What’s more, by meeting the needs of families at the earliest possible point, we can afford to support others in the future.
Network of support
In Staffordshire, a key priority in our Strategic Plan is therefore to ensure “children and families have a network of support to help manage their own problems 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.
The reality is, there will always be a small number of families who need intensive, professional support and our priority is to keep children safe. But our social work ethos is about supporting independence and resilience, not creating dependence.
Together with our partners in Staffordshire’s Family Strategic Partnership, we’re busy building this new relationship between families living in Staffordshire and the organisations who support them.