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Transforming culture and practice in children’s social care assessment - Part 1

Emerging learning and promising practice from phases 1 & 2 of the Council for Disabled Children Learning and Innovation programme

Current evidence shows that we over assess disabled children, using expensive social work resources, because of a need to gate-keep access to practical family support resources, such as short breaks (New Learning from Serious Case Reviews, Brandon et al 2012).

This means many families are subject to an over intrusive, resource intensive approach to access basic requirements. Conversely, research identifies a tendency to under assess disabled children who need safeguarding support. Evidence highlights barriers, to both the identification of concerns and an effective child protection response, such as a lack of holistic, child-focused assessments (as discussed in “We Have the Right to be Safe, NSPCC 2014). Disabled children are at greater risk of significant harm but are underrepresented in child protection work. More focus is needed on safeguarding, identification and assessment of risk of significant harm.

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, which provoke some key questions about multi-disciplinary roles and responsibilities. For example, which agency should be the lead professional in the assessment processes for this group of children as well as how assessments should be co-ordinated (this could include EHC Plans, Personal Educational Plans, Looked After Children’s Review Plans and Child Protection Plans).

The time is right for innovation in approaches to assessment so that it identifies and meets needs more effectively and supports better outcomes for disabled children and their families

The CDC Social Care Innovation Programme

The Department for Education (DfE) Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme supports 53 projects looking at the development, testing and sharing of more effective ways of supporting children and families who need help from children’s social care services. The two year programme, ending in March 2016, is supporting innovation projects in more than half of all authorities in this sensitive and challenging area. You can find out more information about the programme here: www.springconsortium.com.

The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) is working in partnership with five of these local authorities1 to co-produce new approaches to assessment in children’s social care.

The CDC programme aims to identify opportunities and develop new approaches that will:
• improve outcomes for children and families;
• support appropriate relationships between families and social workers; and
• support integrated working and improved value for money.

CDC’s work with the five local authorities will evaluate how a learning and innovation programme, focused on co-production, contributes to the design of new approaches in each local authority. It will consider each model against previous local practice, focusing on quality, efficiency and value for money. The project will identify approaches that have potential for wider application nationally.