How this council helps children and families thrive

Medway Council
Monday, January 14, 2019

Medway Council has now fully embedded the changes made over the last three years. Today the changes are delivering impressive results.

Gillingham Marina, Medway
Gillingham Marina, Medway

The time children and young people spend on child in need or child protection plans has dramatically reduced. Caseloads are reducing too and now stand at an average of 17 cases per social worker.

The council's also tackled the age-old problem of children having constant changes in social workers as they go through the system. ?

"Changes in social worker are not good for children," says Jean Ross, principal social worker at Medway Council. "Children get used to one social worker and then another comes in and they and their family has to tell them everything again."

One social worker from the start

Medway's answer was to redesign how cases move through the system. New referrals now start in the MASH, and are either stepped down to early help or transfer for a child and family assessment within its First Response team.

After an assessment by the First Response Service, children in need and those requiring child protection plans are allocated a social worker in one of the authority's small area-based pods.

As a result social workers in Medway now work with children and young people at all stages of their journey.

Naturally, individual social workers do move on but the pods operate in a way that minimises the disruption if a change in social worker can't be avoided.

"Each pod consists of a practice manager, four social workers and a practice support officer. These work with children and families, following assessment, throughout their engagement with statutory social work," says Jean.

"The expectation is each social worker and practice manager will know each child the pod works with. So, as well as the allocated social worker, there are three or four other social workers in the pod who also know the child."

Services in alignment

To make multi-agency working as smooth as possible, the social work pods are also geographically aligned with other services supporting children and families.

In May 2018, the council set up four Child and Family Hubs, that work intensively with families who have more complex needs, to prevent need escalating and avoid children requiring ongoing social work intervention.

"The recent restructure has integrated our early help and early years offer into one service, providing an integrated service from 0-25 years, working out of a four-area locality model," says Jean.

"Each Child and Family Hub is supported by Children and Family Wellbeing Centres, and outreach centres in each of the four geographical areas, strengthening our ability to work with other agencies, schools and academies to develop stronger professional local networks."

A career escalator

In addition, Medway's invested in the roles of principal social worker and advanced practitioners to work alongside the Quality Assurance Team, Workforce Development and Kent and Medway Teaching Partnership to further enhance the training and development available.

Finally, there's a new career development programme where social workers can progress from social worker through to senior practitioner level, upon demonstrating sufficient skills, knowledge and ability, instead of having to apply for next-level positions.

"During February and March an assessment takes place, where social workers can progress to the next level in the career ladder up towards senior practitioner," says Jean.  

Leadership close to the frontline

Jeans feels that part of the reason these changes are working so well is due to Medway being a unitary authority where senior leadership is accessible and improvements can be delivered more effectively.

"Medway encourages open channels of communication and we often see our director and deputy director talking to people," she says.

Six reasons to join Medway

  • Medway is just 30 minutes by high speed train from London St Pancras
  • Property prices are a lot lower than that of London
  • In February Medway will be securing a fleet of electric cars to make it easier for social workers to undertake visits
  • Every social worker in Medway already has a Microsoft Surface Pro so they can work wherever they need to
  • Medway has 90 per cent of secondary pupils in good or outstanding schools
  • Medway offers 30 days of free festivals and events each year

Learn more about the latest opportunities to become a Medway social worker.

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