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Multi-disciplinary approach to children on edge of care

Children on the edge of care remain a concern for social workers and local authorities alike.

Unhappy Children Sitting On Floor In Corner At Home

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi recently said in December in a debate following the sentencing of Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes over the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: “We have to make sure, if there is any evidence, any inkling, any iota of harm to any child, that the child is taken away immediately.”

While Mr Zahawi’s commitment to both vulnerable children and social workers is commendable, the ambition does not match the budgets allocated to local authority children’s services departments, which have been the cause for concern for many years.

In 2014, a report by the National Audit Office showed that the average spend for a residential placement for a child in care is £131,000 to £135,000 per year eight years ago while a foster placement at that point was £31,000 to £33,000 per year. Costs will have significantly risen since that point.

Yet at the same time, in response to the Independent Care Review’s Case for Change, Association of Directors of Children’s Services Charlotte Ramsden said in June last year: “Over the last decade central funding for these vital services has fallen dramatically and so all too often we are now only able to intervene when problems have escalated to near crisis levels. This is not in children’s best interests and it is certainly not sustainable.”

Frequently, early help and preventative services have been pared back due to constraints on local authority budgets, despite it being widely acknowledged that early help is financially a much more viable option and less stress on the family who can make changes before problems become entrenched. Indeed, Action for Children recently reported that an estimated 64,000 children a year are missing out on early help services and then being re-referred to children’s social care within 12 months.

Unless the deficits within children’s services budgets are addressed, there is no easy option. A health injection of funding into preventative services would no doubt ease the crisis-led approach that local authorities have been forced into.

But a family support service can go a long way to ensuring that children for whom social workers have grave concerns about are safeguarded while assessments are carried out.

This is why we launched our Family Support Service to work with families on the edge of care, missing out on early help services, who need work to prevent the children from entering the care system.

There are two options available.

  1. Family Support Service

Family Support Workers can be placed within the family home 24/7 if necessary to support families experiencing difficulties and where social workers have concerns about the children.

We work with children of all ages but have two specific projects: The ABC Family Support is a service for parents with babies from birth to 12 months, aimed at promoting the development of Attachment and Basic Care skills and routines. The PEP Family Support is a 10-week Parenting Esteem Programme for parent/carers with children aged 2 to 10 years. During the first half of the intervention, the Family Support Worker supports the parent to complete a structured programme of positive parenting skills/strategies at home. In the second half of the intervention, strategies learned during the programme are modelled and reiterated to the parent and family for a further five weeks.

2) Multi-disciplinary Family Assessment

Expert social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and family support workers work with a family over an eight to 10 week period to assess the family in their own home to avoid costly residential units or mother and baby placements. Family support workers can provide 24/7 support to assist families experiencing difficulties and their observations are fed into the final assessment.

For more information about Family Support Service or Multi-disciplinary Family Assessments  contact Dave Wareham, Head of Services on dave@willispalmer.com.

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