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Social Worker in Schools project extended with DfE funding

The Department for Education has announced further funding for the What Works for Children’s Social Care Social Worker in Schools (SWIS) programme until the end of the 2021/2022 academic year.

SWIS places a social worker within a school to enable staff to work more effectively with education colleagues, children and families. The current scale-up sees social workers placed in schools in 21 local authorities across England.

A second WWCSC’s programme where a social worker supports and supervises Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) has also received further funding for the same timeframe to provide school staff with regular access to a social worker to discuss any issues or seek advice on situations relating to child safety within their school.

Jermaine Ravalier, Director of Programmes, What Works for Children’s Social Care, said: “The funding extension for both SWIS and DSLs not only enables social workers to stay in their assigned schools longer and continue their work with children and young people, but will also enable us to gather more data and deepen our research, which in turn will provide richer evidence to evaluate and hopefully identify key outcomes to assist in supporting children, young people and their families.”

Research into the progress of the SWIS pilot in its first phase, showed early signs that placing social workers in schools may have positive effects on inter-agency working between social workers and school staff, and on building relationships with children, young people and families.

Greater familiarity and more regular contact between social workers and school staff has created a better understanding of the different contexts in which the two groups operate and the challenges they are facing. School staff appear to value having timely and relatively unrestricted access to social workers to act as a sounding board and reassure them that they are taking the appropriate action.

The pilot also appears to be having a positive impact on the relationships between the social workers and children, young people and families by demystifying children’s social care. School staff reported that students were positive about the social workers’ presence, interested in understanding their work and felt able to approach them with problems they were having.

The DSL was piloted to understand if providing formal supervision sessions with trained social workers can reduce the number of inappropriate contacts with children’s social care and reduce DSL stress and anxiety.

The latest funding announcement which enabled projects to continue until the end of the school year comes after the successful scale-up of the projects in 2020, following promising pilot programmes.

In addition to extending the provision of support to schools, children and families until the end of the current school year, the funding will also allow for the extension of the independent evaluations of the programmes, conducted by CASCADE at Cardiff University, and NIESR. This will allow for greater and richer data to be collected on the effectiveness of the approaches.

David Westlake, Senior Research Fellow, CASCADE at Cardiff University, said: “The Social Workers in Schools scale up is proving to be a fascinating innovation to be involved in. The decision to extend it means our study – The SWIS Trial – will now include data across two full academic years. This will help to ensure we learn as much as we can about how the intervention works and the impact it is having for children and families across many areas of England. Our team of researchers at Cardiff University, along with our colleagues at Oxford, are looking forward to sharing our main findings in January 2023.”

WillisPalmer provides a Schools Social Work Service to support teachers and education staff manage social work issues with support.

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