Two of the UK’s biggest social work agencies providing Independent Social Work services have merged.
ISWA Ltd, located in the West Midlands, joined forces with Essex based WillisPalmer on 1st April. The merger means that the new organisation is now the biggest provider of ISWs in the UK. The company will trade under the banner of WillisPalmer.
Former ISWA Director, Phil King said: “The merger represents an exciting development whereby the great expertise and geographical spread of both agencies have been brought together proving beneficial to commissioners, our contractors and the children and families we serve”.
ISWA Ltd was one of the first independent social work agencies to emerge in the late 1990’s. Over the past 20 years it established itself as a quality provider of expert social work services, specialising more recently in fostering as well as a provider of expert reports for lawyers working on child abuse litigation cases.
In addition, ISWA was a pioneer of so-called ‘End-to-End’ (E2E) fostering recruitment services for local authorities providing them with marketing, response handling, training and assessment of all prospective foster carers.
WillisPalmer Managing Director, Mark Willis said: “The merger is great news for our customers – especially local authorities and solicitors - as we now have significantly increased coverage of the UK having grown our ISW capacity by over 20% mainly in the Midlands, the North and also in Wales. In addition, the expertise ISWA brings in terms of fostering and expert reports will add great value to the work we are already undertaking”.
Talks about a merger emerged following years of cooperation between the two companies. “WillisPalmer and ISWA already have a long history of tried and tested collaboration leading to many positive outcomes such as the Oxford University research about ISWs in care proceedings by Julia Brophy.
While previous collaboration has been with both agencies operating as ‘competitors,’ however now as one united force, the potential is immense,” added King.
The newly merged company will be based in Essex, the home of WillisPalmer for the past 12 years, but as Willis explains the company will have a truly UK-wide feel. “While WillisPalmer has a strong customer base in London and the South, ISWA has predominantly provided services in the Midlands and the North. The unification of the two companies means we have almost 400 registered ISWs covering the whole of the country; meaning we can work with even more vulnerable children and their families across the UK in a variety of contexts”.
King believes the coming together of two like-minded companies will only be of benefit to the children and families sector. “When the foundations of the two agencies have been built with the same core values – with a child-centred focus in all the work we do - a merger not only makes sense, but is a natural fit”.