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3 March 2015, 07:27 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
Just under £4 million of funding has been announced to overhaul children's social care services in Hampshire - to protect young people from abuse.
It'll include a new multi-agency service to identify and protect children and young people at risk of sexual abuse, it was announced today (Tuesday 3 March).
Hampshire County Council will use the funding to transform services and support aimed at children in care and those teetering on the edge of crisis. Special Family Intervention Teams with extensive knowledge of domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health will work alongside children’s social workers to provide for the adults in the family, while money will also be used to develop an extensive network of local volunteers who can reach out and befriend vulnerable families at time of crisis.
Support services for children and young people at the risk of going into care will also be redesigned, including the use of respite care for both the young person and their family as well as special activity centres to help families understand and turn their backs on destructive behaviour.
Announcing the new funding at the No10 Child Sexual Exploitation Summit, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:
“This programme will deliver real results for vulnerable families in Hampshire.
“By focussing on the needs of these vulnerable young people, Hampshire can ensure they get the tailored support and help they need to get their lives back on track as and when they need it.
“I am excited to see where this project leads.”
The scheme is one of the latest projects that have successfully bid for money through the government’s Innovation Programme.
The Innovation Programme – backed by funding worth £100 million – aims to kick start the most promising proposals for new ways of providing children’s social care, such as supporting young people leaving care and taking their first steps into adulthood or looking at new bespoke services such as FGM prevention.
Councillor Keith Mans, Deputy Leader and Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council, commented: “This is excellent news and is indicative of the Department for Education’s confidence in our abilities. We have a proven track record of performance, as recognised by two safeguarding inspections by Ofsted, the most recent in March 2014, that found Children’s Services to be ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ elements. Our strategic partnership with the Isle of Wight, Council, that was initiated by the DfE to improve Children’s Services on the Island, is showing evidence of making good and steady progress in driving up standards both in children’s social services and education.”
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight bid sets out seven interlinked elements, which taken together have the potential to remodel social care services across the county and establish a new standard of good practice for other authorities to follow.
These focus on the creation of new specialist family intervention teams, making much better use of voluntary support to reconnect with communities and improving the support to social workers so they have more time to spend with vulnerable children and young people.
Specifically, the elements include:
• Creating Family Intervention Teams of practitioners that specialise in domestic abuse, substance misuse or mental health for example, to provide a service for adults but with a clear focus on outcomes for the child;
• Building a robust network of volunteers to work with children and families in their communities and support the Family Intervention Teams;
• Developing a team of highly skilled administrators to become Social Work Co-ordinators to undertake all the recording for Social Workers and reduce the time that they are office based;
• Establish a multi-agency Missing, Exploited and Trafficked Team (MET) specifically to address the needs of children and young people who repeatedly go missing.
The driver for systematic change will be a change in focus, by social care services, moving from the sole needs of the individual child to include those of the child’s family. For example, in cases where a child is in need of care or protection because of the parent’s actions, such as drug or alcohol addiction, providing support to overcome those problems can avoid a child being taken into care long term, if at all.
Councillor Mans added: “We have consistently afforded a high level of priority to children’s social services yet pressures on the service continue to rise and this will be a continuing challenge in the face of further reductions in government funding. Through this bid, our aim is to develop the foundations for a whole system change to create the right conditions and capacity for professionals to work even more effectively with children and families in order to get it right first time and reduce the number of referrals or repeated interventions.”