Hackney Council begins next chapter in social work innovation – with £2m Department for Education grant
Hackney Council is set to begin its next chapter in social work innovation, after being awarded nearly £2m to overhaul the way local authorities approach child protection.
The funding, from the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Fund, will allow the Council – in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire – to develop a radical new approach to safeguarding, which shifts the focus of social work from the family home, to consider much wider influences.
The Council wants to find effective ways to protect children from risks outside the family home, recognising that young people are increasingly being influenced by their peer groups and surroundings, which are outside the control of their families and cannot necessarily be addressed by traditional social work interventions, which focus on individual children and families.
This traditional approach limits the extent to which social workers and multi-agency partners can safeguard young people who experience abuse or exploitation outside of the family environment.
Hackney’s new programme will widen that focus, considering how, for example, peer groups, social media, neighbourhoods and schools, impact on young people’s vulnerability. Drawing on an approach developed by Dr Carlene Firmin at the University of Bedfordshire, an enhanced safeguarding system will be implemented which is equipped to identify, assess and engage with peer groups and with public and social spaces in which young people are exposed to significant harm, for example, through the implementation of a peer group referrals, interventions and conferences. The programme will also seek to establish new partnerships with organisations like transport providers, local businesses, fast food restaurants and other places where young people gather.
An aim of the project is to reduce the need to move children away from unsafe social environments and instead, create safety in the places and communities in which they spend their time.
The funding will be used to embed systemic change over the two year period, which will be supported through initial research, a specialist delivery team, awareness raising and training, and work with partners and residents across Hackney. The programme will report back to Government at regular intervals, and will share its learning with local authorities across the country.
Hackney has a proud tradition of leading the way when it comes to innovation in social care, so we’re delighted that the DfE has again recognised this and granted us a significant amount of funding to enable us to carry out this project, which we think could dramatically improve outcomes for children.
Child protection is one of the most important things we do as a local authority, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to invest resources and expertise in this important project, which has the potential to shape national and international policy around safeguarding.