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School Social Work Service: What do we do?

WillisPalmer is a leading provider of multi-disciplinary assessments for children and families, based in Colchester.

Established for 18 years, we are proud to have been set up in Colchester and continued to be based there ever since, and currently we are based at the University of Essex’s campus.

Due to our roots being firmly established in Colchester, we wanted to give something back to the community and therefore, when the time came to launch WillisPalmer’s Social Work in Schools initiative, we advertised for all local schools in the area to apply for the opportunity to receive a highly qualified and experienced social worker based at their school for one day per week.

The successful candidate was Hazelmere Junior School in Essex after Head-teacher Paula Derwin explained how her school would benefit from such a service.

“The reason our school would benefit is that our school is situated on the Greenstead estate, with many of our families living on the estate, one of the most deprived areas in Colchester. I, as Designated Safeguarding Lead, hold safeguarding records for nearly 90% of my pupils, with several families receiving support on Child Protection Plan, Child in Need plans, through Family Solutions or much lower level support through a family support worker, who is employed/shared across several schools in the area. I regularly attend safeguarding meetings each term to support these families and it would be great to have a social worker in school, one day a week to support us in our role of looking after pupils, whilst giving much needed advice and support to our families,” said Ms Derwin, applying for the pilot.

As a result, WillisPalmer’s Head of Practice Lucy Hopkins was based at Hazelmere for one day per week during the last term, providing advice and support to school staff about any concerns they may have around children at the school.

Because WillisPalmer is a social work managed organisation, we understand the significance of looking after the safety and emotional wellbeing of children, identifying safeguarding concerns and providing support to children and their families who may be dealing with a range of issues. We understand how much of this intervention and support has increasingly become the responsibility of school staff, who may not have the skills, experience, or time in their teaching day to manage all of the challenging issues that children may bring with them when they attend school each day.

By placing expert social workers in school, it can help staff to manage these issues, allowing teachers to focus on providing children with an education and affording children the opportunity to reach their full academic potential.

Paula Derwin, Head-teacher at Hazelmere Junior School, said: “It has been great having Lucy (Hopkins, Head of Practice at WillisPalmer) at the school to provide us with a social work perspective and staff have approached Lucy to gain advice on concerns they may have. Lucy has also signposted me to resources which can help us but which I knew nothing about which has been a great help.”

WillisPalmer will provide a social worker to be based within the school on one day per week, and the school can decide what tasks they wish the social worker to assist with, for example:

  • Provide advice and consultancy to school staff on issues including the following:
  • Mental health of children
  • Mental health of adults
  • Domestic abuse in families
  • Parental drug and alcohol misuse
  • Child drug and alcohol misuse
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Gangs/County Lines
  • Meetings with parents to discuss non-educational issues relating to their child.
  • Observations of children in the classroom.
  • Discussions with children, with a parent’s consent.
  • Attendance at Social Care meetings – child protection conferences, core group meetings, Child in Need meetings.
  • Help schools to access community resources to support children.

WillisPalmer’s School Social Work Service is led by our Head of Practice, Lucy Hopkins, who has worked closely with schools in her previous roles as a Local Authority social worker and Children’s Guardian.

For more information about WillisPalmer’s School Social Work Service visit our website or email

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