ACP member, Gabrielle Lorenz attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC), looking at the Social Care Review.
Tim Loughton MP chaired the meeting which started with an AGM before presentations from invited speakers:
Ms Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker
Ms Donna Molloy, Director of Dissemination, Early Intervention Foundation
Young Advisers Bromley accompanied by Mr Joseph Fitton, Advocacy for All
Dr Michael Little, Creative Director, Dartington Social Research Unit
Mr Gerald Meehan, Chief Executive at Cheshire West and Chester Council
The first presentation was from the Young advisers Bromley: Young disabled service users and a parent of disabled child. They described how they had been part of a project that involved mentoring and consulting to young disabled people, meeting with other young disabled people, and an evaluation which assessed improved access to social services, short respite breaks. They interviewed 100 young people, users and advocates for disabled. They presented a brief film of their group discussion about their experience of early intervention. They spoke of the need for respite short break services and how essential these were. These are sometimes available when they were young then disappear when transition to adult services. They highlighted how service users are experts and wnat to be involved in explaining their needs but 'What is the point of going along to meetings and saying what you need when nothing happens.'
Isabelle Trowler, quoted research from Dartington 'Blue book' indicating that family support early on prevented need for statutory intervention. Unfortunately early help does not prevent access to more intensive help later, rather there is a flow into secondary services. Bureaucracy was discussed and how this appears to be overwhelmingly high, meaning that a large proportion of social workers' time was spent in filling in assessments rather than working with people. There was also concern that abusive and neglectful parents who do not access help. She stated that rather than deciding whether early intervention is going to save money later on, we need a different argument based on social justice and the need to focus more on those families who do abuse and neglect. 40 local authorities managed to reduce number of children in care and it therefore seems important to build evidence an base around what works and why, such as the training for social workers. She argued that practice leaders and supervisors need training and to be up to the job.
Donna Molloy, put forward that evidence is underdeveloped. Early intervention is important but needs to respond to early symptoms of risk. She stated there are some evidence based effective measures including video feedback parent training, and Parent Infant Psychotherapy (a treatment many ACP members are involved in) but there needs to be more. These measures are not well implemented and currently there are many reductions, including a cost problems. Lack of capacity in assessing effectiveness of intervention was another concern she raised. She referred to the example of police making referrals following incidents of domestic violence where the majority resulted in no further action from social care, was also raised. The need for sustained support was also identified.
Dr Michael Little, spoke about the publication 1985 blue book, which investigated three strands of activity: Early intervention, early help and early action, with a focus on social care. Early intervention had good evidence of population wide effects. This did not have effect on later high end systems and entrance and exit not connected. He described a mismatch between needs and services and argued that there are too many children on the threshold to be able to reduce number of children coming into care, made worse but reduced budgets. His advice was to continue to use early intervention and radically reduce high end services and use those resources to provide better early intervention.
Mr Gerald Meehan, spoke about children's social care problems which include complexity around the growing and understanding of need, this included trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Currently there is a climate of resource reduction and fragmented services, leading to poor outcomes for those who fall below thresholds. Service users had assessment rather than treatment with repeated referrals.
In response they established an Integrated single point of access for all agencies, including social care, fire, police, etc. The results were positive seeing shifts in mental health and behaviour. Rereferrals also came down by a quarter. Crime, Domestic Violence was reduced and there was a change to time served in prison for under 18s. Again the preventative model for children who are on edge of care was flagged up. Meehan stated that there is a greater need now for all agencies to work together and invest in a more integrated workforce.
Questions to the panel followed and included discussions about legislation, which should recognise the difference between care needs due to having a disabled child in a functioning family and care needs due to neglect. There was agreement that those in need should get have access to the right resources but not through constant assessment, which was felt to be a waste of resources and stigmatising people further. The need for social workers work to be based on relationships, was also identified and the overarching need for a children's workforce development strategy.