Agenda item

Family Help Model

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People


The Scrutiny Committee considered a presentation and report on the Family Help Model Pilot, including the rationale for its implementation, the engagement undertaken with staff to date and the pilot’s next steps. The pilot had been approved by the Children and Families Senior Leadership Team in October 2023 and formed part of the change and transformation activity that was happening within Children and Families.


Family Help was an approach suggested by the government in their consultation proposal “Stable Homes, Built on Love”, a response to “The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care”. The pilot had been formed in line with the government’s vision for “a non-stigmatising, welcoming family help service based in local communities”. The intention was to use a skilled, multi-disciplinary workforce so that the needs of children and families could be met in one place.  The government had introduced a ‘Twelve Families First for Children Pathfinder’ initiative. Local authorities had been identified to test the operationalisation of the family help vision, being supported by £45 million of investment. The first wave of pathfinding authorities were identified in July 23: Lincolnshire, Wolverhampton, and Dorset. Staffordshire had been unable to bid to be a pathfinder in wave 2 due to being part of Family Network Pilot. However the County Council was aspirational for their children, supporting the current government proposals which were based upon the same principles Staffordshire adhered to:


a.   prioritising relationships at the heart of the care system;


b. reducing the need for crisis response and providing more early support to families including local early help and intervention with issues such as addiction, domestic abuse, and mental health to keep families together;


c. using family networks at an early stage to support parents and minimise risks to children by using family group decision-making, such as family group conferences. Staffordshire has pathfinder status (Wave 2) for the Family Network Pilot which compliments this model.


It was intended to trial the Family Help Model in two districts, Stafford and Lichfield. The Committee considered the governance, implementation time plan, operating model and the risks and opportunities of the pilot. It was intended to be launched mid March 2024, with an evaluation during October/November of that year, with consideration to roll this out across the County from December.


Members sought clarification between the Family Help Model and the Family Hub. The Family Hub had replaced the supporting families model and provided timely support for children and families, working within early help and at Tiers 1 and 2. The Family Help Model was a way to better support flow and demand, working within the Tier 4 referrals to social care. This looked at managing staff in a different and more effective way, stabilising the system and managing case loads better, focusing on Children in Need (CIN) to help avoid escalation.


Members queried whether there were issues with recruitment and the rate of agency social workers currently used by Staffordshire. There was currently a 7% rate, however two years ago the rate of agency social workers had been 21%, so it was an improving picture.


The Committee also discussed in detail the proposed change of practitioner emphasis. This was a more creative way of working with CIN, with this work not always being undertaken by a social worker, although still being overseen by a social worker and remaining a statutory responsibility.


Resolved: That the Family Help Model pilot trialled in Lichfield and Stafford be supported.


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