Social workers to be placed in schools to support vulnerable children

Social workers will be placed in schools to help staff spot signs of abuse and neglect as part of a new package of government measures to support vulnerable children.

The project will see the government fund social workers in 150 schools in England
The project will see the government fund social workers in 150 schools in England

Announcing the initiative at a virtual Hidden Harms summit, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it would give greater protection to at risk children by introducing professionals trained to identify warning signs more quickly.

Williamson said £6.5m funding for the project would be drawn from a £10m fund allocated for schemes aimed at protecting vulnerable children and boosting their educational outcomes.

Placing social workers in schools reflected that educational settings make up the second largest source of referrals to children’s services, at nearly 20 per cent, the government said.

The project, which involves more than 150 schools, has been launched in response to reports of rising domestic abuse incidents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Children at home due to lockdown measures are also experiencing exposure to drug and alcohol misuse or at risk from online harms, it added.

It cites research from studies carried out by What Works for Children's Social Care where social workers were placed in schools in Lambeth, Southampton and Stockport, indicating social care support offered through schools helps keep children safe.

The initiative also builds on the findings of the Department for Education’s Children in Need review, helping to develop a stronger evidence base on what interventions are most effective, it said.

Williamson said as schools in some areas prepared to reopen to certain year groups from 1 June, it was vital to take steps to protect vulnerable children.

“The stark reality is that too many children are growing up at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“These are the most vulnerable in society, and the ones that most need our help. For these children schools offer a safe space to get support, develop resilience and fulfil their potential.

“By bringing social workers into schools, we can spot the warning signs more quickly,” he said.

Chief social worker for children Isabelle Trowler said keeping social workers close to children and their families would help build essential relationships known to be the “bedrock” of effective family support and child protection.

Michael Sanders, chief executive of the what works centre, said the project would allow it to support children and their families both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will allow us to build up the evidence about whether these approaches really make a difference to the families supported,” he said.

The virtual Hidden Harms summit, announced by the Prime Minister to support vulnerable people, brought together representatives from police, charities and the justice system.

The new programmes included a pledge of £3.7m to continue support for 11 local authority-led projects in England through the Trusted Relationship Fund, to support young people identified at high risk of sexual or criminal exploitation.

A £2.8m child sexual abuse support services transformation fund was also launched to improve support available for children and young people affected by sexual abuse.







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