July 2020
Dear All

In this month's newsletter you will find:


  • Graham Archer, Director of Children’s Social Care, Improvement and Learning

Innovation Programme Project News

  • North Tyneside Innovation Project
  • Calderdale Positive Choices
  • Staying Close
Other News
  • Independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel 
  • Online Safety
  • Social Impact Bond Projects
  • Local Area Coordination
  • Covid-19 Research and Association of Directors of Childrens Services (ADCS) discussion paper
Good Practice Guidance / Funding Opportunities and
  • What Works for Children's Social Care (WWCSC)
  • Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PCFSW)
  • Early Intervention Foundation (EIF)
  • Death of colleagues across children's services
  • Essential workers & Covid-19

It’s a real privilege to be able to write a short foreword to this month’s newsletter. I say a privilege because it has been great to see the way in which Children’s Social Care and the wider safeguarding community has adapted, innovated and evolved its approaches to keeping children safe, to reflect the different (and changing) demands of the COVID pandemic. It’s been impressive too, to see the appetite for reactivating and returning at the earliest possible opportunity to the innovative approaches being tested around the country. I’ve been delighted to agree to the restarting of DfE funded programmes which we’d paused in the Spring (and both pleased and wryly amused by how little pausing had happened in practice).
Some of that is, of course, captured in the Baginsky/Manthorpe research described further down in the Newsletter and is reflected in the £12m additional funding for Innovation we have made available as a Department for rolling out innovation which has been important in the COVID context.

As ever, the content of this Newsletter is more generally, an impressive list of innovation and wider developments not stymied (or at least not stymied too much), by the extraordinarily challenging circumstances of the last few months.

How COVID continues to affect us remains uncertain, of course - but what is clear is that the Autumn will bring with it another Government spending round which will set the agenda for the next few years activity. I’m more confident going into that process knowing both that we’ve identified a set of innovations which can improve practice, benefit children and families and save money and that we have evaluations which draw out clearly what the benefits might be.
So, my thanks to everyone involved in this work for the energy, the ideas, the determination and the rigour you bring to our work. I hope you have a great break over the Summer, wherever it’s possible for you to spend that time and, that you return in the Autumn reinvigorated for a period in which building on our innovative work so far will be absolutely essential to success right across our sectors.
With very many thanks

Graham Archer
Innovation Programme Project news
Ofsted praises North Tyneside Council’s Innovation Project

North Tyneside Council launched its Keeping Families Connected service in 2018 with funding from the Department for Education (DfE) and has since achieved significant success.

The key aims of the project include offering intensive support to families on the ‘edge of care’, in addition to that provided by their social worker; stabilising placements at risk of disruption and the associated escalation in placement costs; and, helping children return to their birth family when safe to do so.

Last year, 42 children safely remained at home following intensive support, and 17 have been appropriately and safely reunited with their birth families – contributing to the authority having the lowest rate of children in care in the North East region at the end of the year. 

The service is also currently supporting 46 children and their families.
Ofsted recognised the “considerable success” during its inspection earlier this year which contributed to the ‘outstanding’ judgement awarded for its children’s services.

The strong involvement of different agencies, as well as input from a clinical psychologist, have strengthened the positive outcomes for children.

Part of the success has also been thanks to the feedback provided by young people themselves, helping shape the service.

Keen to help others, the council has shared learning with other authorities and hosted regional conferences. It will also be supporting another authority in this area through its Partners in Practice programme.

Despite its success, the council is continually looking to improve and our next phase will see the launch of a similar adolescent service.  For more information, email

Calderdale - Positive Choices during COVID-19
Positive Choices supports young parents to be the best parent they possibly can be, offering them parenting guidance, support and strategies from pre-birth to early years. The programme was originally funded for 3 years to support vulnerable young people at risk of having their child removed, looked after young people who were pregnant and older pregnant care leavers.  The programme has been extended for another year to include the following criteria:
  • Any vulnerable pregnant person meeting the risk factor criteria; and
  • Any pregnant person with child/children removed previously who does NOT have children living with them.
During COVID-19 all young people on the programme continue to benefit from support. This is provided through telephone calls, WhatsApp or a visit to the home where there is significant need. Essential items have been provided due to financial hardship and self-isolation, including food parcels and items such as baby food and nappies that were in short supply initially.
Delivery has changed and some of the projects practical sessions have been delivered via online platforms:
  • Zoom Mellow Babies weekly sessions; and
  • The delivery of the Freedom Programme on a 1-1 basis;
  • The 8 Week pre birth plan has been delivered through video calling including practical sessions such as bottle making;
  • The team have emailed/posted resources to young people and followed up with video calling to assess learning and identify further areas of support; and
  • Wellbeing scales have been completed virtually to assess how young people are adapting to the lockdown and any mental health needs.
Staying Close

Since Covid-19 the Staying Close pilots have shown great initiative in supporting their young people. From ‘cook together’ virtual video calls and quizzes, buying arts and crafts, grow your own vegetables kits and garden furniture, even an X-Factor style song and dance competition!
An increase in financial worries due to COVID-19 has led them to provide, where necessary, food parcels, help to pay bills and - securing deposits as well support with moving. Keeping young people focussed on their long-term goals with EET opportunities has been challenging. Examples of meeting needs have included buying beauty equipment for a young person so they could complete a beauty course and another involved help to get financial support through the governments small business grant scheme to ensure a young persons hair dressing business didn’t go under. These examples really highlight the specific but varying needs of these young people.
The emotional wellbeing of young people on the Staying Close programmes, sits alongside the stability of housing and relationships. Provision of devices such as mobile phones and tablets has enabled young people to stay in touch and reduce concerns around loneliness and isolation. WhatsApp groups helped young people support each other and more contact via video calls and texts with key workers and other professionals has increased the engagement of some harder to reach young people.
That key workers have been able to provide this tailored support during such difficult times, really highlights the commitment the Staying Close projects have to their young people.

Other News
Independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel - "How can you adopt and embed good practice to prevent sudden unexpected death in infancy?"
The independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s
second national review into Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) was published on Thursday 16 July.
While the overall numbers of babies dying from SUDI are decreasing, a worrying number of these deaths have been notified to the Panel as serious child safeguarding incidents. Between June 2018 and August 2019, the deaths of 40 babies from SUDI were reported to the Panel; most of whom died after co-sleeping in bed or on a chair or sofa, often with parents who have consumed drugs or alcohol.

Sadly, most of these deaths are preventable. The risk factors for SUDI are well recognised, and the steps parents can take to reduce the risk have formed part of the clear, consistent and evidence-based safer sleep messages for years. In spite of this, it is apparent that while the safer sleep messages may be rigorously delivered by health professionals, some families are unable to receive or act on the advice.

The review has identified a number of issues that have helped inform the development of a ‘prevent and protect’ practice model, which highlights that SUDI is not something that can be left solely within the remit of health practitioners or fully addressed by handing out a health promotion leaflet. Rather, it needs to be embedded within respectful and authoritative relationship-based safeguarding practice.
The hope is that lessons from this review will be carefully considered by all practitioners working with children and families.
Online Safety

The Department for Education (DfE) have previously asked you to take the opportunity, wherever possible, to emphasise to parents and carers the importance of having online safety conversations with their children. More recently, we have been aware that there are some possible online harmful challenge games being recirculated. These challenges can come in many forms and can involve upsetting, fake, harmful, or viral content.

We would, therefore, now like to ask for your help again to help stop panic and harm from these challenges and to support us to limit this from being shared more widely.
We would encourage you to look at the really useful advice that the UK Safer Internet Centre has produced on handling these challenges, 
here and also the briefing from the Samaritans to help you support and advise families. The key messages to get across are to stay calm, do your research, and avoid naming specific challenges.
Social Impact Bond Projects

The 3 Department for Education (DfE) care leaver Social Impact Bond Projects (SIBs) held a workshop in July focusing on supporting young people to find and keep employment. The themes discussed included:
  • Support for young people
    • Some young people were inspired to work, to feel part of the community and accepted jobs in the short term they may not usually have considered, understanding there is currently less choice.
    • The importance of SIB Coaches providing regular and long term support, helping young people understand expectations of work and giving constant encouragement and praise.
    • Barriers to employment include mental health issues, lack of structure in home life, and lack of experience managing relationships. These can impact on work attendance and performance.  
  • Employers
    • Care Leaver Covenant partner employers are positive about opportunities for care leavers and had concrete offers of jobs for the SIB projects to discuss.
    • The importance of information/guidance for employers recruiting care leavers, and support to enable young people to sustain work, including communication and advocacy from SIB staff.
    • The importance of building relationships with training providers and not being deterred by entry requirements.  
A follow-up workshop will focus on learning from lockdown and planning for recovery
Local Area Coordination

Over the last few weeks the Local Area Coordination (LAC) sites in England and Wales have come together to reflect on the impact of Local Area Coordinate through the COVID 19 crisis.

A co-produced report has been published by the members of the Local Area Coordination Network which consists of the councils of Derby City, Leicestershire County, Kirklees, City of York, Thurrock, Wiltshire, Swansea, London Boroughs of Waltham Forest, Haringey and Havering.  To view the newly published report 
click here.
Covid-19 Research

A report by Mary Baginsky and Jill Manthorpe, NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, The Policy Institute, King’s College London on Managing through Covid-19: 
the experience of children's social care in 15 English local authorities.  For more information click here; and 

Research Briefing by Harry Ferguson, Laura Kelly, Sarah Pink at Birmingham University on 
Child Protection, Social Distancing and Risks from Covid-19.  For more information click here
The Association of Directors of Childrens Services (ADCS) recently published a short discussion paper dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children, young people and families as well as the public services they rely on.  To find out more click found here.
Good Practice Guidance / Information and Funding Opportunities

Latest updates
What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) has had a busy month - a number of opportunities to participate in their projects have now closed, but there are a number of projects still open to get involved in:
Improve educational outcomes for secondary school children with a social worker
This is a national evaluation of Words for All - a project that has previously shown
signs of potential in closing the educational attainment gap of children with a social worker.  WWCSC are seeking expressions of interest from local authorities and virtual schools. Find out more.
Increase workplace wellbeing
Partners needed for the next phase of our Happier Healthier Professionals project, evaluating the impact of symbolic awards, dictation software and protected time on employees’ wellbeing.  
Find out more. 

COVID-19 resources
You can find a wealth of helpful resources, including Rapid Evidence Summaries and practice guides, created by WWCSC and other organisations to provide guidance, support and inspiration for those working in children’s social care during this challenging time – click
Coming soon: WWCSC will be announcing the local authorities participating in their expansion of the Social Workers in Schools project, as well as those participating in our other evaluations of interventions that have shown signs of potential in closing the educational attainment gap for children with a social worker.

ign up to the WWCSC newsletter and follow on Twitter

The Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PCFSW) network together with Social Work England have development a series of good practice guidance in relation to a number of relevant topics for social workers and social care practitioners. These include:
Social Work England and PCFSW
Practice Guide for Assessing Online Risks, Harm and Resilience and Safeguarding of Children and Young People online
The PCFSW and Social Work England
Best Practice Guide for Video Call/Contact and Virtual/Online Home Visit
PCFSW and Social Work England COVID-19 Ethical Response and Best Practice Guide for Children and Families Services  
PCFSW and Social Work England Best Practice Guide for Risk Assessment and Prioritising Children and Families’ Needs during Pandemic.
Early Intervention Foundation (EIF)
On 1 July 2020 the EIF published a report on the role of primary schools in early intervention to prevent youth violence: insights from two London boroughs.

Informing the Department for Education of the death of a colleague across children's services

We are asking employers and providers to tell DfE if a carer or colleague in children’s services has died. This includes:
  • children’s social care workers
  • foster carers
  • education staff
  To find out more click here.

Employers and providers are encouraged to tell the family, friends or colleagues of the individual who has died that they’re submitting this information.

There’s no legal duty on employers and providers to submit this information to the department. However, this information will help to make sure the appropriate steps can be taken following the death of a carer or colleague in children’s services.

Essential workers: If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you must stay at home (self-isolate) and get a test.  To find out more click here.

The Innovation Programme website

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