The government has launched a series of measures it hopes will lead to a reduction in the number of children taken into care. A statement released on 20th March also confirms that Lord Patel, a former social worker, will be the head of the new social work regulation body, Social Work England.

The project has been put together by the Department for Health and Social Care and the Department for Education.

Former Children’s Minister Edward Timpson will be chairing the independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel to analyse and share experiences from the most serious child safeguarding cases.

The new measures also include revised standards for social workers to follow, grants for the social work sector, and a new centre to research and establish best practice in social work, with the government facilitating councils who act as early adopters and take on board the findings.

The appointment of Lord Patel as head of Social Work England (SWE) may be an appropriate choice given his social work background. Lord Patel spent three years working as a social worker in Bradford, and an undisclosed amount of time working with vulnerable children, after that.

Patel’s appointment is the only one that has been made public so far. We wrote to the Department for Education asking for a full breakdown of the Management team at SWE last month, which it did not offer. So we sent a Freedom Of Information request asking for that breakdown. We expect a response by the 27th March, 2018.

The announcement that the government will, yet again, be revising social work qualifications and training in order to improve practice misses a fundamental aspect of practice – those social workers who remain unregistered. This was a point we tried to raise in the Department for Education’s recent consultation on regulating the social work profession. If social workers remain unregistered, families and children who experience negligent malpractice have no means of redress, or support.

But perhaps the biggest news to come from the government’s announcement, is the creation of a new centre called the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care which aims to produce a best practice pathway. The government has hired an innovation foundation called Nesta, which promises to “tackle the big challenges of our time.” Nesta’s task is to assist with setting up the centre and ensuring that it is independent and effectively engages the social care sector.

So, who works at the What Works Centre (WWC)? The centre is currently being developed by a large group of organisations so it doesn’t have a set structure yet, although Nesta’s site says that the WWC should become a fully independent entity by 2020. In the meantime, Cardiff University seems to be at the forefront of the research side of things, with several other organisations working in partnership with them.

Once the centre is up and running, its remit will be to:

  • collate and share existing research, evidence and data
  • identify and support robust standards of evidence in children’s social care
  • develop the evidence base by conducting new trials and evaluations
  • translate existing and new evidence into easily accessible guidance and resources for practitioners
  • drive and support the dissemination and implementation of findings into practice
  • support practitioners and decision-makers to understand the importance and utility of research
  • support the development of a coherent learning infrastructure to foster learning

Nesta’s duties include:

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Research
  • Testing
  • Organisational design

The WWC has put together a programme to start the research process off. It involves three stages:

  1. Stage 1 2018-2019: Establishing the baseline. This looks at evidence and practice to see what is being done at the moment to reduce the need for children to go into care.
  2. Stage 2: 2018-onwards Exploratory studies. This stage will look at what practice works.
  3. Stage 3: 2020-2025 Establishing effectiveness. The final stage here will seek to put together a best practice package.

We have campaigned strongly for this kind of project and warmly welcome to the government’s uptake on this.

You can Sign up for news about the Centre to stay up to date with the latest developments.

The hashtag #whatworksforchildren has also been set up, to give Twitter users a way to follow developments and discussion on the centre.

Very many thanks to Dana for alerting us to this project.

Nesta 2

Image: Cardiff University