Hackney at forefront of new approach to child protection

Professor Eileen Munro has today signaled a new approach in her interim report on child protection, and she has highlighted Hackney as a Council leading the way with its innovative Reclaiming Social Work programme.

Due to the programme s success, the Secretary of State may use his powers to grant Hackney temporary suspension of certain aspects of statutory guidance to allow frontline social workers greater autonomy to exercise their professional judgement.

Professor Munro’s interim report examines the areas of the child protection system where reform needs to take place, focusing on helping children rather than on the regulations, inspections and procedures that have thrown the system out of balance.

In 2008, Hackney introduced a radical remodelling of children’s social care, Reclaiming Social Work, offering a fresh approach for the profession and for families in the borough.

Reclaiming Social Work signified a new concept for social work; at its heart, small networks of professionals (social work units) work together under the leadership of a consultant social worker, who has full responsibility for the work within the unit and the autonomy to make key decisions. This means experienced senior social workers can spend more time on the frontline working directly with families using evidence based interventions - and less time carrying out administrative tasks.

Independent evaluation and results have shown Reclaiming Social Work to be successful - there are now lower rates of children becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan for a second or subsequent time and fewer looked-after children in Hackney.

The initiative has also shown an overall cost saving of children’s social care of 4.97% in the borough due to a reduction of the number of children coming in to care; a 55% fall in staff days lost to sickness; placement stability; and very low numbers of children in residential care.

Councillor Rita Krishna, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Hackney initiated reclaiming social work because we knew we could do better for children and families by working differently. We are glad that Professor Munro and others have recognised the potential of this work and are looking to see whether the approach developed in Hackney may positively affect national practice. We are also glad that there is a concurrent consultation on the quality of initial social work training.”

Professor Eileen Munro said: “Child protection is not an easy job. I now need to work with professionals to develop more precisely how my ideas will work in practice. Ultimately this is about helping them to do their job better, more confidently, and with more support so that children are protected more successfully.”

To start to encourage change, Professor Munro wants to test out how to give frontline social workers greater autonomy so they can better exercise their professional judgment.

In recognition of Hackney’s innovative approach to children’s social care, the Secretary of State for Education is currently considering using his powers to grant the authority, along with four others, temporary suspension of certain aspects of statutory guidance, subject to conditions.

The trial would last beyond the period of the Munro Review, and evidence available at the end of the period would be considered by the Department when responding to Professor Munro’s final report.

For more information about Hackney’s Reclaiming Social Work model visit: