Update: FCYP and WD Policy Committees - December 2017

Families, Communities & Young People and Workforce Development Policy Committees

The Families, Communities & Young People and the Workforce Development Policy Committees met in Birmingham on Friday 29 September. The group was joined by a rep from the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) Social Work Reform Unit to provide an update on the progress of these important national reforms.

The first cohort of Practice Leaders have begun their training and applications for the second wave are now open. The programme is aimed at those who wish to become an assistant director for safeguarding, however, the group noted these roles often include wider children’s services and corporate responsibilities and this needs to be recognised by the programme.

In terms of the development of the Practice Supervisor role, the DfE is currently scoping out the tender for a lead supplier and has no plans to mandate participation. The group agreed that the transition from a frontline social worker to a supervisor is one of the most difficult to make so it is important to get this right. However, it was noted most LAs have already developed strong relationships with regional providers. The group queried why funds are not being devolved to local areas and/or regions to strengthen these arrangements or support improvement in areas where this provision is less developed? The DfE hope to address variability in provision by exercising central control. The group warned against the dangers of appointing a single, monolithic provider.

On the assessment and accreditation (NAAS) of social workers, the proof of concept phase threw up some significant concerns, not least around equality and diversity. The findings of this exercise have informed an updated model/framework which is now significantly different to the original. A further round of testing is planned - ‘Alpha Phase’ will go live in summer 2018 and ‘Beta Phase’ will go live in 2019. The group raised strong concerns about the ongoing delays around the development of NAAS and the lack of communications from the DfE which is contributing to disquiet across the workforce.

The group reviewed a recent briefing note produced by the Refugee Children’s Consortium on the national transfer scheme (NTS) set up to ensure responsibility for caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs) arriving in this country does not fall disproportionately on a handful of port authorities. Members agreed it provided a fair summary of the current state of play but felt it lacked a focus on children’s outcomes. In a wide-ranging discussion about regional arrangements multiple members reported dealings with the Home Office (HO) were frequently difficult and raised concerns about the HO grant not covering the full costs of caring for unaccompanied children. Delays in HO decision making about immigration status place a huge amount of stress on young people and more and more are going missing which is a huge concern. The NTS was established in the wake of a humanitarian crisis – the clearance of the migrant camps in Calais - and the immediacy of responding to this crisis has now passed. A period of reflection on the effectiveness and the ongoing suitability of these arrangements is required.

Ofsted recently published a thematic report on domestic abuse following a series of multiagency inspections. The group felt the tone of the report was helpful and the group was hopeful it will help to raise the profile of this issue on the national agenda once again given the prevalence of domestic abuse. A number of LAs are accessing different funding pots to address the prevalence of domestic abuse, securing funds from the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner or from public health budgets. This feedback was passed to Ofsted and the committee thanked them for the publication of a helpful report.

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