Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Children's First Response Services
Following a recent visit from Ofsted, Wirral MBC recognised a delay in the front door services provided by the Children’s Team across a number of localities.
Children’s social workers in Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s locality teams were completing initial assessments alongside holding their own cases. This way of working was resulting in high caseloads for the council’s social workers, as well as difficulties prioritising and moving cases on.
- 284 cases transferred from MASH
- All children contacted within 24 hours of referral
- 111 Children in Need plans created and passed over to locality
- 27 cases stepped down and closed, or passed to universal services
- 20 cases transferred to TAF team for low-level intervention
- Average social worker caseload reduced to 17 cases
Wirral MBC identified the above challenges and set up a consultation with ICS Assessment Services in September 2016. Following a detailed scoping exercise, ICS proposed a solution that would improve the outcomes and time taken to see children following referral. It would also reduce caseloads for the Council’s social workers, allowing for better quality of work.
ICS’s proposal involved creating a ‘First Response Team’ that would handle referrals from Wirral’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub. This team would be sourced from the North West and ensure all children were seen or contacted with 24 hours of referral.
If the referral met the threshold for intervention then the case would be passed over to the First Response Team, who would conduct a Child and Family Assessment within 15 days. The team would then take the appropriate action depending on the case outcome – stepping down, CIN/CP plans, or a section 47 investigation.
We provided Wirral Council with a team manager, senior practitioner, and a team of up to 7 qualified social workers to meet the current needs. The Council’s team engaged directly with ICS Assessment Services as a trusted provider, with a view to developing an on-going relationship to support their in-house function.
Historically, social work caseloads were unmanageable within the locality teams. In partnership with the Council, we created a new First Response Team in order to:
- Expedite the process from referral from MASH into targeted interventions;
- Manage risk of vulnerable children within the locality teams, in particular with regards to caseload size, severity and complexity of case;
- Reduce pressure within the teams, to ensure effective clinical outcomes for existing cases;
We delivered a fully managed, end-to-end process supporting the Council to better manage their internal caseloads and provide a fully-fledged assessment & signposting team with a robust front door facility. As a result, this improved the service in an area which was under high pressure in relation to their statistical and geographical neighbours.
In addition to the original 3 month pilot, due to the success of the programme and the redesign of the pathway with our consultation and support, we have been commissioned for a further 9 months to support Wirral Council as they recruit a permanent team.
ICS Assessment Services understood our situation quickly and were able to offer an effective solution that focused on our on-going ability to support children locally, not just managing short term demand. The dedicated First Response Service was established quickly and based within our offices and works directly with our MASH and Children’s Services.
To date, they have responded to over 400 referrals from MASH and met our statutory response time for 100% of cases within 24 hours of referral. This has included developing over 100 comprehensive Children in Need (CIN) plans, stepping down and closing cases where appropriate, and transferring cases to our Team Around the Family (TAF). I have been impressed with their ability to handle the variety of cases within our localities and support our social workers to hand over cases effectively.
In addition, it is important to note that Ofsted have recently conducted a monitoring review of our service (January 2017), providing an update on an earlier inspection conducted in July 2016. The feedback has been positive and highlighted improvements made in the front door service locally, alongside our internal improvement plan.
We are extremely pleased with the approach taken by ICS, and following our initial 3-month contract, have engaged the team to provide up to a further 9 months support whilst we employ a permanent in-house team to our new First Response service. ICS have regularly kept in touch to seek feedback on the quality of the workforce and provide assistance and guidance from a management perspective.
Assistant Director, Children’s Services and Safeguarding, Wirral Council