'Outstanding' council to help government understand children's social work response to pandemic

Neil Puffett
Monday, December 14, 2020

A council where children's services are rated "outstanding" by Ofsted has been selected to explore how they and other local authorities have worked to keep vulnerable children safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillor Peter Earley: The health and safety of our vulnerable children is a priority for the council. Picture: North Tyneside Council
Councillor Peter Earley: The health and safety of our vulnerable children is a priority for the council. Picture: North Tyneside Council

North Tyneside Council will work with renowned experts in children’s social care, Professor Eileen Munro and Professor Andrew Turnell, to carry out research into the use of networks around a child – such as extended family members, neighbours and other community members – to help keep them safe when professional support became more restricted.

Munro is the author of the Munro review which led to national reform of child protection, while Andrew Turnell is behind the social work practice model Signs of Safety.

The research will form part of a wider Department for Education funded project to understand how children’s social care teams have responded to the pandemic, capturing lessons learned and sharing best practice.

Peter Earley, North Tyneside Council's lead member for children, young people and learning said: “Ensuring the health and safety of our vulnerable children is a priority for the council, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and we’re proud of the services we’ve delivered.

“With our children’s services judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted earlier in the year, we’re well placed to lead this work, and we are delighted to be able to draw on our experience and expertise to help others.”

While the number of children being referred to social care for support dropped nationally during the height of the pandemic, North Tyneside Council’s referrals remained steady, as did the number of children in care.

Jacqui Old, director of children’s services at the council added: “We are pleased referrals to our social care team have remained steady since March, giving us confidence that safeguarding risks continued to be identified. The number of children we are keeping safe at home and in their communities has also remained stable.

“While we can’t directly attribute this to one factor, we believe our focus on identifying these networks before the pandemic and then maximising their use during it is an important factor.

“We will use the insight and research we gather over the coming months to develop recommendations for government, which we hope will improve outcomes for children nationwide.”

Professor Eileen Munro said: “This study gives us the opportunity to find out what helps and hinders good practice in providing support for vulnerable children that will also be of value after the pandemic.”

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