Special Report: Social Work With Children and Families

Social workers are among the most important people in the lives of vulnerable children, so a number of initiatives are aimed at re-energising a profession dogged by high caseloads and recruitment difficulties.

It is nearly a decade since the tragic death from neglect and abuse of 17-month-old Peter Connelly in Haringey, which created a media and political furore over failures in the child protection system.

Much of the blame from politicians and newspapers was placed at the door of social workers and their managers at the London council, who were accused of failing to properly protect Peter from his mother, her boyfriend and his brother who were jailed in connection with his death.

The case led to a review of child protection by Professor Eileen Munro in 2011, and has been instrumental in shaping the climate in which social workers now operate, influencing their professional identity, status and ways of working.

Children's social work struggled for a number of years to attract sufficient people to it, with the results being seen in rising caseloads and job vacancy rates, which in turn affected stability for children and families and the relationships they formed with practitioners.

A drive in recent years has sought to address that. The government has put funding into developing innovative ways of working that free social workers from red tape and prioritise relationship building. This focus on professional skills is, along with a number of policy initiatives, aimed at raising the standards and status of the profession.

CYP Now's special report on social work with children and families summarises the key policies influencing the sector, highlights four pieces of recent research that explore understanding of the profession, and details four examples of innovative, relationship-based children's social work in practice.

Social Work With Children and Families: Policy context 

Research evidence

Exploring Communication Between Social Workers, Children and Young People

Researching Social Work Practice Close Up: Using Ethnographic and Mobile Methods to Understand Encounters between Social Workers, Children and Families

Child Protection Social Work in England: How Can It Be Reformed?

Exploring How Social Workers Experience and Cope with Public Perception of Their Professions

Practice examples

Leeds City Council

Brighter Futures, Ealing Council

Children's Social Work Matters

Hampshire and Isle of Wight councils

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