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Social workers in school pilot shows promise

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, a report has suggested.

Following pilot projects in Lambeth, Stockport and Southampton, a report of its findings said there were "early signs of improving" inter-agency working.

Chris McLoughlin, Director of Children’s Services, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council said: "Although relatively early days, we are already seeing a significant impact in terms of our ability to respond more swiftly and effectively to the needs of our children and families. Locating social workers in schools is showing real benefits in promoting collaboration, building stronger and more productive working relationships and ultimately improving the social care and early help offer within the community. We are very encouraged by the early findings.”

The report, which is published by the What Works for Children’s Social Care in association with its research partners at Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE), Cardiff University, found:

- 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.

- School staff reported that students were positive about the social workers’ being in school and were interested in understanding their work and felt able to approach them with problems they were experiencing.

- One social worker reported that being visible at assemblies, in the playground and dropping-off and collecting time was helping to build a familiarity with parents, and demystifying children's social care.

Social workers and school staff across the three pilot areas were positive about the pilot and its potential for future beneficial impact, as well as dedication to overcoming the challenges of implementing a new approach. Some school staff even expressed an interest in having a dedicated social worker just for their school.

The report acknowledges that there have been challenges during the pilot including issues around mobile working, IT access, data sharing, caseloads and cultural differences between school and social care cultures on subjects such as a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to discipline. However, these are being addressed and resolved.

Michael Sanders, Executive Director of What Works for Children’s Social Care, said: “This is our first major project at WW-CSC, and it’s exciting to see results begin to come in – and show so much promise. We’ll be following up early next year to see if the potential impacts are being realised, but for now, the indications are very positive.”

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