The Social Work in Schools Project provides interventions to families at the earliest signs of difficulty, to prevent children from becoming subject to child protection plans. The project was launched in eight of Hackney’s schools in November 2014 and had worked with 93 children by 31 March 2015, with only six children requiring transfer to a social work unit due to a deterioration of their circumstances.

The First Access & Screening Team (FAST) in Hackney acts as a single point of contact for referrals to children’s social care. FAST provides responsive screening activities including a ‘go look’ visit when necessary to better understand a child’s situation. FAST works as a part of a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) alongside the police, probation and health services. FAST also signposts access to the Children’s Centre Multi-Agency Team (MAT) meetings and the Children and Young People’s Partnership Panel.

All contacts with FAST are immediately progressed as a referral to children’s social care if the threshold for a statutory assessment is met. 3 Table 8 shows that the proportion of contacts that led to an assessment rose from 25% to 36% between 2013/14 and 2014/15, at the same time that the number of initial contacts decreased.

The percentage of FAST re-referrals within 12 months was 16% in 2013/14, which was significantly lower than the England rate of 23%. This has now fallen to 14% in Hackney in 2014/15 (national data for comparison are not yet available), which may indicate improvements in the assessment process.

Table 8: Hackney Children’s Social Care contacts and assessments, 2012/13-2014/15

Source: Children’s Social Care Bi-Annual Report to Members, London Borough of Hackney, July 2015

The Out of Hours Social Work Service, or Emergency Duty Team, receives on average 500-700 calls per month. The service provides advice and also initiates child protection investigations and/or protective services, including admission into care, as needed.

The Family Network Meetings (FNM) Service aim to mobilise existing support networks to enable children to remain living within their family, through a flexible and swift response that maximises family engagement and reduces homelessness. For the year ending March 2015, there were 157 referrals to FNM, with 61 children remaining in their family home, 30 children remaining in placements, 18 cases remaining open and the rest of the cases pending.

As per national guidance, children entering care are offered an initial health assessment (IHA). 4

In the City of London, the Early Help Service works with children, young people and families where there are indicators of emerging difficulties or additional needs. Support services are tailored to individual circumstances and needs, but common services include:

  • advice and advocacy
  • signposting to universal or specialist services
  • one-to-one practical and emotional support for children, young people or parents
  • play therapies and direct work with children
  • parenting support
  • short breaks for children with additional needs and for young carers.

The City of London Corporation is also in the process of negotiating a FAST arrangement. Currently, contacts, referrals and assessments instead come through to the Children’s Social Care duty desk.

Hackney and the City commission a Safeguarding School Nursing Service (delivered by Whittington Health), to work closely with the Universal School Nursing Service, providing a full identification and health care offer to our 5-19 year olds with specific safeguarding vulnerabilities. Working closely with special educational needs coordinators, this service is integrated with Children’s Social Care and also works closely with the local LAC health service. The service is currently recruiting to a specialist school nurse post in Hackney’s FAST (see above), complementing the FAST health visitor post.

The LAC health team delivers an enhanced offer (initial and review health assessments, signposting and referrals, support for access to specialist services around sexual health, mental health and physical health, as well as access to an occupational therapist) to City and Hackney’s LAC placed both in and out of borough.

References

  1. “Children’s Social Care Bi-Annual Report to Members,” Hackney Council, July 2015.
  2. “Promoting the health and well-being of looked after children,” Department of Health, 2015
  3. “Children’s Social Care Bi-Annual Report to Members,” Hackney Council, July 2015.
  4. “Promoting the health and well-being of looked after children,” Department of Health, 2015