Lincolnshire public service cuts putting extra strain on families, warns social care professor

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A nationally-recognised figure in social work and child protection deemed Lincolnshire to be ‘well-deserving’ of its role shaping the future of children’s services departments. professor

Professor Eileen Munro, whose influential review of child protection was published in 2011 and adopted by the government, delivered the key seminar at a Lincolnshire County Council social work conference in Lincoln on Wednesday, August 9.

Photo: The Lincolnite

Photo: The Lincolnite

Lincolnshire was in January made a part of the government’s Partners in Practice innovation project, a partnership of the country’s best performing local authorities in social work.

The county was tasked with providing an example for excellence in the social work field as it was one of the best performing areas in the country.

Social care in numbers:

  • In July 2016 Lincolnshire had 626 children being looked after by social workers.
  • This makes the rate of looked after children per 1000 population at 44.3 compared to 52.7 for East Midlands neighbours and 60 for the all England average.
  • There has been a steady rise in numbers over the last 5 years over the whole of England and all local authorities.

Eileen told The Lincolnite: “Lincolnshire deserves the status of Partner in Practice. They are doing well. What I’ve seen here over the last two years is improvement, a very strong commitment and enthusiasm.

“When I carried out the review of child protection it was a point where everyone had recognised that the system had ground to a halt and got obsessed with procedures and timescales. Children and families were disappearing into the background.

“We have been working with 10 local authorities, one of which is Lincolnshire. The goal is to work with families in a way which truly engages with them and builds on their strengths as well as a clear focus on their dangers.

“The government have taken on my recommendations and pulled back on their command and control style. People have space now to be professionals and use their creativity.

“The most important impact was that you could actually avoid deaths of children.”

Funding cuts and referral increases

Lincolnshire County Council says that while budget reductions have lead to cuts in its services, social work is seen as an area of priority and funding for this service has been strengthened.

Eileen noted however that cuts to other areas are putting added strain on vulnerable people, and referral rates have increased as a result.

“One of the big challenges for vulnerable children is that funding is being cut for other local services that might have helped their families and referrals are increasing.

“The bigger picture is quite tough for families and therefore quite tough for social care.

“If more funding were available for more social workers then the children would benefit. We’re trying to get another innovation bid in to get more money.”

While the UK waits to exit the EU, economic uncertainty is adding to the biggest challenges Lincolnshire social workers and vulnerable families are facing.

Eileen added:

“If the Remain campaign’s predictions come true then there will be more problems in the economy so the time before we can reinvest in the public sector is going to be longer.”

Lincolnshire was also recently announced as the top authority for vulnerable children’s services in a recent Ofsted report.

Chris Russell, Ofsted Regional Director for East Midlands, added: “I’d hope that children’s services departments in other areas will look to Lincolnshire for inspiration.”

How was your experience of children’s services in Lincolnshire? Get in touch with the news team via [email protected]

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