The Corporate Director Children’s
Services introduced the report and stated that it followed on from
the previous report as it reported on savings within the new
Children’s Services operating model. She explained that the
Children’s Services team would be operating under the Think
Families approach as of 1 April 2022, which would help address
demand across the service. She highlighted point 3.2 of the report
and stated that the Think Families approach considered the whole
family within health and social care, which would help to improve
outcomes for children, and build stronger relationships within
families. The Corporate Director Children’s Services
explained that the Think Families approach did not just consider
close family, but could also mean neighbours or family friends that
were important to the child in question, and would help support
parental networks and open broader conversations for struggling
families. She explained that if a family were becoming known to
Children’s Services, the team would ask the families what
could be done to assist them and a consultation would begin with
parents, family members, and partners such as schools and
The Corporate Director Children’s Services highlighted point 3.4 of the report and mentioned that learning and feedback from team members had informed the new model and the team had focussed on what the service could deliver to parents and children. She explained that under the old model Children’s Services had had to employ external agencies to undertake child assessments, but this was now being brought in-house and colleagues were undertaking the necessary training to complete these assessments. She added that the Think Families approach would connect families and build relationships that would be beneficial for the child, and would be based at the Oaktree Centre as this was a more inviting environment for children than the Civic Offices. The Corporate Director Children’s Services stated that under the old model the team had used the Family Group Conferencing system, whereby staff members had to undertake specific certification for this and the model had to be absolutely applied. She stated that this system had been time intensive as all named individuals had to be met with separately before a group meeting could take place. She explained that under the new operating model, the team would be utilising the Family Group Network approach that had been developed in New Zealand, and ensured the family found their own solutions to problems, with the help of professionals. She stated that this approach empowered families, strengthened networks and was in line with best practice guidance.
The Chair thanked officers for their comprehensive report and felt it was good to see how the new model would affect children and their families. She felt that it was a sensible way of finding cost-saving measures, whilst also enhancing the experience for families. She felt that having colleagues who could assess and help children would improve the experience for children who could then form bonds with their case worker. Councillor Snell echoed the Chair’s comments and felt that official meetings were not the most suitable solution for all families in crisis. He highlighted point 3.8 of the report and asked how the Council were going to ensure that men and fathers were attending parenting programmes. The Corporate Director Children’s Services replied that officers would work individually with fathers to ensure they attended the necessary programmes. She added that the team were also devising new men only programmes that would be more tailored to the needs of fathers and would hopefully reduce the stigma associated with fathers attending parenting programmes.
Councillor Kent felt pleased to see that the Council were undertaking the Think Families approach. He asked what the impact of reducing caseloads on frontline workers would be, and if there would be a clear line of sight between managers and frontline workers. The Corporate Director Children’s Services replied that the Think Families approach would not reduce the role of social workers, who currently had approximately 14-15 cases each. She added that social worker managers had no more than six reports at any one time, which would help to ensure good oversight. She stated that the Think Families approach would only be implemented if there was a low degree of risk to a child. She stated that if a child at risk presented to the Council then they would not be involved in Think Families and would work with a designated social worker.
RESOLVED: That the Committee:
1. Received the report.
2. Commented on the contents of the report.