New £3million overhaul of social work starts today

A new £3million overhaul of social work services that will cut down on red tape and allow staff to spend more time with families was launched today. (Monday 29 February)

Aberdeen City Council is the first local authority in Scotland to fully implement the Reclaiming Social Work model, which is aimed at reducing the number of children in care and delivering more positive outcomes for children and families across the city.

The service, which has about 440 staff and 1,880 clients, has required a significant restructure, moving from a traditional team system with individual social workers managed by a team manager to small units with a small number of staff working with a number of children and families.

The adoption of the small unit means that there are no families dependent on the service provided by just one practitioner.

Aberdeen City Council Education and Children’s Services convener Councillor Angela Taylor explained: “We are committed to this new, evidence-based way of working that we know is better for children and families.

“It is testament to our belief in this new way of working that we have invested £3million into the Reclaiming Social Work model. “There was a huge desire within the service to improve on what was already there and since we put our city’s children and young people high on our list of priorities, we were more than willing to invest the money to make this work here in Scotland.”

Council staff have undergone additional training as part of the ongoing transformation of the service, with further sessions planned this year.

Aberdeen City Council Head of Children’s Social Work and Chief Social Work Officer Bernadette Oxley said: “Staff engagement was a huge big part of the process and started right at the beginning. We have put communication at the top or our agenda with regular staff events and briefings.

“What has really impressed me since coming into post in May of last year is the commitment, agility and sheer professionalism of our staff.

“A reorganisation of this scale is high risk as staff continue to run a statutory social work service, whilst implementing a whole new structure. Ensuring no children and families suffer disruption or risk has been crucial.”

The system was designed in recognition that social workers across the UK were increasingly required to spend time on paperwork, with a reduction in the time spent working directly with children and families.

The London Borough of Hackney developed the Reclaiming Social Work approach, which led to a significant reduction in the number of children subject to care orders in the area, improved sickness level, as well as a budget saving of about £3million.

The senior management team in Hackney subsequently set up a social enterprise, Morning Lane Associates, which has since worked with Aberdeen City Council's Children's Services Management Team.

In the previous model, the service received by families is reliant on one social worker, while the new model ensures a sharing of assessment, planning and review within a group of staff.

By implementing the Reclaiming Social Work model, it is hoped that more children can remain at home with their families.

The cost of secure residential care is more than £5,000 per week, with residential schools costing between £2,800 and £4,800 a week and residential crisis support costing about £5,000 a week.

It is anticipated the new system could increase the amount of time spent by social workers directly with families and children by two or three times.

For more information about Reclaiming Social Work in Aberdeen or about jobs in Children's Social Work in the city, contact us by e-mail on together@aberdeencity.gov.uk or by phone on 01224 522533 or the website www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/jobs_careers/jobs_and_careers.asp