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Aberdeen children’s services set for major boost
Aberdeen city councillors have agreed a major restructuring of Children's Services to improve the life chances of vulnerable youngsters.
The Social Care and Wellbeing Committee supported proposals known as the 'Reclaiming Social Work' model, which will see services redesigned over a three-year period.
The model was developed by senior social work managers in the London Borough of Hackney, who then set up the social enterprise Morning Lane Associates (MLA) which has since successfully advised a number of UK local authorities on reshaping services in line with the model.
Hackney saw a significant reduction in the number of children being placed in care and/or having to be subject to child protection plans, reductions in staff turnover and staff absences, and £3million in savings, after adopting the model. Other councils have achieved similar results. One of the founding directors of MLA is now the first Chief Social Work Officer for England and Wales.
A key element of the model is moving away from individual social workers supporting families and children to small teams working with a number of children and families, using a consistent theoretical approach to children's services practice.
A report to councillors from Head of Children's Services Susan Devlin said: "Adopting this approach could mean an innovative and effective change to the delivery of children's services.
"The adoption of a small unit as the service vehicle will mean that there are no families dependent on the service provided by just one practitioner. The new model ensures a sharing of assessment, planning and review within a group of staff.
"Staff are overwhelmingly positive about the potential and are showing enthusiasm and commitment to the model and their part in the implementation."
The report also points out that in recent years in the UK there has been a presumption that improving child protection can be achieved by better policies and procedures but that has led to social workers spending more and more time on paperwork. The 'Reclaiming Social Work' model maps out ways in which practitioners can spend more time working directly with families to resolve their difficulties.
Social Care and Wellbeing Committee members agreed the planned restructuring of Children's Services after receiving a report outlining the target outcomes, including:
* better outcomes and more consistent support for children and families;
* more children remaining at home with their families;
* fewer children needing child protection plans and needing residential care;
* less staff turnover and sickness absence among social workers;
* high quality candidates applying to be social workers in Aberdeen because of its progressive and supportive approach.
The restructuring of the service is expected to cost £400500,000 over three years, including extensive staff training, to be met by realigning existing budgets. Using MLA throughout the implementation period will cost £30-50,000, spread over three years.
Committee convener Councillor Len Ironside CBE said: "Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children is one of the most important duties of a local authority. We have to get it absolutely right because the quality of these youngsters' whole futures depends on us providing excellent supportive services for them and their families from the outset.
"The proposals are full of positives for children, for families, for wider society and for our own staff and the fact that we will have acknowledged experts in the field on board to help guide us through the process at a modest cost compared to the potential improvements and savings is an added bonus."