Family safeguarding

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We've changed how we work with families

Children will always remain at the heart of children's social care.

We know that parents and carers can have challenges that make the complex task of parenting even more difficult.

We also know this is often why children become involved with social workers.

Family Safeguarding is about working with the whole family. We work with parents to build on their strengths and identify positive changes.

You can read more about our strengths-based approach (PDF 9.29MB) and how we use this to identify families' strengths, needs and any changes to be made.

We support parents to become better equipped to meet the demands of parenting so families can stay together safely.

We do this through:

  • Motivational interviewing – We use strengths-based conversational approach to support families to identify strengths and needs and to choose to make change.  
  • Multi-disciplinary teams – We are a team of specialists working together to support families and parents with parenting skills, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse and mental health needs.  
  • The family safeguarding workbook and family programme – We work through an assessment with families to tailor support to meet their needs.  We spend more time with children and parents getting to know them and understanding their needs and how we can support.  
  • Group case supervision – We hold monthly supervision for each family with input from every professional working with the family to make sure that we are providing the right support 

We strive to develop excellent relationships with the children we work with. And to know them well and understand their experiences, needs and goals so we know what support they need.

Our family safeguarding team

The family safeguarding team will be made up of a wide range of different professionals. These professionals are here to help parents or carers and their children and include:

Social workers – will work directly with families and support them to identify and make the changes that will improve outcomes for the family.

Child and family practitioners – will work directly with families assisting the social workers by undertaking pieces of work with you.

Domestic abuse practitioners – will work with those who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse to support them in understanding the impact of domestic abuse on themselves and their children.

Domestic abuse officers – will work together with parents or carers with children, with the aim of breaking the cycle of abusive behaviour. They are experienced staff from the National Probation Service.

Recovery workers – will work with those who have issues with drugs or alcohol. These professionals will support parents to make any lifestyle changes that are needed so that they can carry on caring for their children.

Mental health practitioners – will work with parents who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Psychologists – will work with parents on specific aspects of parenting that may affect their children.

This new way of working will mean that we are able to spend more time working directly with families to provide them with the help that they need, when they need it.

The Family Safeguarding Model

Smiling child

The Family Safeguarding Model was founded by Hertfordshire County Council in 2015, and has significantly reduced the number of children being taken into care.

Families

As a family you can expect:

  • Workers who are kind and understand your family's needs
  • People who take time to listen, who are focused on keeping families together 
  • A team who works with you and talks to each other so you don't have to repeat yourself 
  • Specialists who are available to support the problems your family have when you need them 
  • Staff who recognise what you and your family do well and support you to succeed 

How to ask for support for your family

Call 0300 123 6720 or out of hours 0300 123 6722.

Your child's health visitor, doctor or school staff may also suggest a referral or may refer to social care, with your permission.

The team will ask you about the difficulty you're having and how it's affecting your child and family. They'll offer immediate advice about which services might be able to help you.

In some cases, a social care worker needs to support you and other times they'll do an assessment so that we can look at what your child and family needs.

If your family needs a more formal plan of support, our family safeguarding teams can provide support.

You can find out more about social care support for children and families - what social care support is, how we assess needs and how we provide help.

Support from our family safeguarding teams

Family safeguarding is a new way of working with families so that they can stay together and children can remain safely at home.

We will help you to identify what changes need to be made in your daily life and support you to achieve these.

How we will work with you

We're changing the way we work to support families to stay together.

We will work with you by:

  1. Supporting you to identify your strengths, needs and any changes to make.
  2. Working together we will help you with parenting skills, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse and mental health needs.
  3. Changing the way we work so we will spend more time with you and your family to make lasting changes.
  4. Listening to children and families views to improve how we work.

We will offer families the right support at the right time, helping you to stay together.

Our commitment to you and your family

We are committed to working with you, your family and your children to support you in making the changes that are identified to improve outcomes for all of you.

We are determined to provide you with an excellent service. We will listen to what you say, will work with you and support you with what you need. Everyone working with you will be professional and treat you with fairness, respect and dignity.

Initial child protection conferences

When professionals have concerns about a child's safety an initial child protection conference (ICPC) is held to discuss how to ensure that children are kept safe.  An ICPC is a meeting where parents, carers, children and professionals who have worked with the family discuss the concerns and needs of the family.  The meeting will decide what type of plan the family needs, that is, a child in need plan or a child protection plan.   You can watch a series of videos that show you what happens, before, during and after an initial child protection conference.

Other services that can support your family

Smiling family group

Parenting support

There are other organisations and sources of information that can help you with issues like:

  • bereavement
  • caring for someone
  • special educational needs and disabilities
  • victim support
  • domestic abuse
  • drugs and alcohol
  • family mediation
  • food banks
  • health, wellbeing and mental health

Professionals

Requesting support from Children's Services

If you're a professional (including teaching, health or social work), use the request for support form to request support or raise safeguarding issues to the Children’s Services Support Hub and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

Family safeguarding clinics

Family safeguarding clinics take place 6 weekly and offer community-based partners an opportunity to meet with operational managers in Children's Services to receive updates and ask questions around practice and process.

Videos

If you would like to learn more about the model and why we felt Family Safeguarding was the right model for Lancashire, please watch our videos below.

Further information for professionals

Since we implemented Family Safeguarding in February 2021 we've been collating frequently asked questions that have arisen at communication events, training and through feedback. Where themes have emerged we've written a general response. You can read these below.

We aim to keep children with their families where it is safe to do so, and we really want to use the skills and resources we have gained from implementing family safeguarding to enable this. We believe that the available evidence shows up that this is the right approach and is in keeping with the spirt of the Children Act 1989. We will still work directly with children and one of the key principles of family safeguarding and a strength-based approach is that we hold real emphasis to the children's views as well as parents.

In terms of unborn and preverbal children it is not possible to collect their voice in a traditional sense however Social Workers combine their knowledge of child development and the observations of the children and parents to inform if the child's needs are been met and  any areas where this needs further support until the child is at a stage where the children can share their voice more clearly. Decision making will also be informed by the expertise of health professionals etc.

In terms of non-verbal children, we are developing a series of tools to help facilitate the direct work modules on the workbook and this will be differentiated to cover children and families with an array of communication styles and abilities. We will also be relying on multi/agency partners in supporting with this and helping us to use communication methods they have used in school /nursery etc to ensure we can still capture the views of non-verbal children.

We aim to ensure all our interventions are collaborative and aspire to co-produce family plans. However, if we believe that we cannot keep children safe we would still be proactive in following processes of Child Protection Plans, Pre proceedings and possible Care proceedings if necessary

The focus of the Family Safeguarding Model is to work alongside families to support their own plan, recognising them as individuals rather than adopting a blanket approach to our work. This will ensure that we are able to work alongside diversity and individual needs.  

Our practitioners are informed by 'Good Practice Guidance on working with parents with a Learning difficulty' alongside taking advice from our colleagues in adults services and utilising advocacy services. We hope this gives us the specific skills to treat each family as an individual including those with Learning difficulties/disabilities. 

Our psychologists will also advise us via cognitive assessments how best to work with some of our parents with learning disabilities and additional needs. 

One of the biggest challenges is changing a model from risk focused to strength-based focus. This can cause anxiety with professionals about missing risks. Whilst the focus is on strengths, we do not ignore risks, we implement safeguards whilst harnessing existing protective factors within families. Which in turn demonstrates to families that we are working with them rather than against them.  

Another challenge is around the adult recruitment – we have had some challenges with recruiting to the Mental Health Practitioners post and the Domestic Abuse officer posts and without access to all of the adult workers, we cannot support all of the families in the way we want to. Fortunately, we have established good relationships with leads from those services and have plans in place to drive recruitment.

Because we are part of the DfE Strengthening Families Protecting Children Programme, there is formal, independent evaluation of how well Family Safeguarding is implemented in Lancashire and the outcomes it has for the children we work with and alongside. This evaluation is being delivered by the national organisation 'What Works for Children's Social Care' and will be publicly available once published.

Lancashire's internal Family Safeguarding Programme team will undertake their own, quarterly evaluations which will include conversations with children and families, focus groups with practitioners, file audits and anonymous surveys. In addition, we will continue to utilise have our own multi agency performance framework.

Small private and voluntary groups working with children, young people and families have a critical role to play in local neighbourhoods and areas and form part of the network of local organisations who may well be working with families to support them and offer early help where needed. Family safeguarding teams will work to support those families in those neighbourhoods where safeguarding is the prime concern. Team managers in family safeguarding teams will be aiming to link up with local providers within early help services so that through working together we can all ensure that children are healthy, safe and achieve their full potential.

This is an ongoing process and we still have some vacancies for the adult worker roles. As such we are not yet fully functional, but this is something we move closer towards each week. In terms of Social Workers, Substance Misuse worker, Domestic Abuse Practitioners are fully in place and operational (subject to usual possibility of vacancies). Mental Health practitioners and Probation Officers (Domestic Abuse Officers) are longer to recruit, but we are making progress. 

For more information about working with us, please see our careers in Children's Services.

Group work will be available to domestic abuse perpetrators and victims/survivors. There will also be groups available to support parents with their mental health and substance and alcohol misuse.

We don’t currently have play therapy as part of our Family Safeguarding offer however, its principles and the support it provides is something we want to grow in Lancashire and it may be that we extend the types of support that we offer in the future.

The workbook is an 'on-system' working tool where family safeguarding staff record the work they undertake with and alongside families.

Partner agencies cannot access the workbook directly, but they will contribute to the reflection and analysis of the plan/work with the families during core group meetings, Child in Need reviews and reviews of the care plan. There may also be occasion where it is felt appropriate to invite some agencies to the group supervisions. This is reliant on increased communications between Childrens Social care and our partners. The pandemic has led us into a world of improving our digital communications and we plan to capitalise on this to make the process under family safeguarding more collaborative with better relationships aside from the monthly meetings. With consent of those with parental responsibility, archived versions of the workbook can be shared if requested by partner agencies.

Introduction to motivational interviewing

This video from Alisdair Cant and Associates on YouTube provides a brief introduction to motivational interviewing.

Motivational interviewing training for partner agencies

Lancashire County Council has provided some brief introductory training in relation to motivational interviewing in our ongoing 'Transforming Children's Services: Thresholds and Strength-Based Approaches multiagency training.

We can also signpost partner agencies to excellent motivational interviewing training providers if this is something your agency wanted to commission.  

All partners will continue to act as lead professionals when it is their agency that is most appropriately placed to offer this level of co-ordinated support for families. More information about this can be found in the Early Help Assessment guidance.

Children who do not attend school due to parental issues may not need a social worker to resolve the issue and may not reach the threshold defined in the Children Act that necessitate statutory intervention. If the child's needs reach these thresholds and the needs cannot be met through universal or early help services, then a social work assessment might be undertaken as usual following a request for support to the Children's Services Support Hub/MASH.

If school has a safeguarding concern, then they should refer this through the MASH or designated safeguarding lead in the school.  Family safeguarding takes a whole family approach and aims to analyse the impact of barriers to change for parents on their children. As such it is hard to give a blanket answer, however the impact of this on their wellbeing, and the reasons underpinning school absence will be factored into any decision making. 

Safeguarding and early help

Young child eating

Safeguarding children

Information for professionals about safeguarding children in Lancashire

Early Help Assessment

Through the Early Help Assessment the wider partnership of services can provide families with the right support at the right time. 

Latest news

As Lancashire's Family Safeguarding Programme Team handover all aspects of implementing the model to the operational team at the end of March 2022, it is time to say goodbye to our regular Family Safeguarding newsletter.

However, we have recognised that this is such a useful medium to engage with partners and communities and share news about, and progress within with our services so have therefore decided to continue publishing a quarterly newsletter rounding up information from across the whole spectrum of Lancashire County Council's Children's Services.

If you previously subscribed to the Family Safeguarding letter you will now receive the new Children's Services Newsletter.

Read and subscribe to the Children's Services Newsletter

Starting my 2022 we've scheduled a series of regular Family safeguarding clinics taking place 6 weekly for community-based partners.

The clinics will be an opportunity to meet with operational managers in Children's Services to receive updates and ask questions around practice and process.

On Monday 21 March, colleagues across Children's Social Care came together to reflect on the last 12 months since going live with Family Safeguarding - our Strength-Based Practice Model.

Director of Children’s Services, Edwina Grant OBE, drove the implementation of the Family Safeguarding Model in Lancashire and welcomed everyone by explaining the benefits for children, young people and families in the county.

Attendees heard about why Lancashire implemented the Family Safeguarding Model, why strength-based practice now lies at the heart of how we work with children and families, and how motivational interviewing is key to connecting with families and establishing trust and respect.  

Head of Lancashire Family Safeguarding Mandy Williams hosted the event alongside Georgia Toman, who has care experience, and the duo did a fantastic job of ensuring everything ran smoothly.

Georgia talked of the importance of participation and explained how young people can get involved with our groups such as POWAR and the Lancashire Youth Council.  Georgia also explained how young people who actively participate in these groups get to talk to social workers about participation, inspect children's homes, interview new starters via the Social Work Academy and most importantly, are given a voice and a say about the decisions that affect them.

Colleagues were shown heart-warming feedback from children in our care, their parents and staff, which confirmed that the Strength Based approach is making a real difference to lives in our county.

They heard from a social worker in Children With Disabilities, colleagues working in Family Group Conference Service and Safeguarding, Inspection and Audit team, a headteacher and even a mother who is a member of the Family Safeguarding Parent's Group. 

Sue Williams, Programme Director for Family Safeguarding at Hertfordshire County Council, described the changes she has seen since Lancashire has implemented the model.

Sue said: "We in Hertfordshire have learned as much from Lancashire as you have from working with us. We are proud to know you, we are proud of every report you send us and we have formed a lasting bond of friendship and cooperation.

"Lancashire is now leading the way in developing child protection conferences and doing so in a way that involved parents more and lets them lead their family plan. I am delighted that Blackpool, Manchester, Liverpool and Blackburn are set to follow your lead.

"Congratulations to all of you, thank you for this absolute feast of learning you have shared with us this afternoon, and thank you to the children, young people and families who have come forward to share their experiences."

We heard that our social work teams are changing lives in Lancashire through strength-based practice, and we couldn't be prouder of each and every one of you.

Our final Family Safeguarding newsletter

In this issue we explore the concept of 'Participation' (more simply, working with children and families) and include:

  • A vision board created with support of Children and Young people outlining what their dream social worker should be like.
  • An article from Mandy Williams, Family Safeguarding Head of Service in which she shares her version or working with children and families across Lancashire.
  • We hear from two incredible parents who share how the Family Safeguarding teams have supported them through adversity.

Lancashire family safeguarding newsletter September/October 2021 on Mailchimp

In this newsletter:

  • How Family Safeguarding seeks to work with children and families affected by domestic abuse.
  • Frontline Perspective: Domestic Abuse Officers.
  • Frontline Perspective: Domestic Abuse Perpetrator.
  • An overview of our first annual Family Safeguarding Conference.
  • Information about the launch of Early Help Assessment and Plan.
  • Update on Lancashire's MASH redesign: Children's Services Support Hub, including information about upcoming Question and Answer Sessions.
  • Upcoming training and events that will be open to our multiagency partners.
  • A message from Lancashire's Violence Reduction Network.

Lancashire family safeguarding newsletter August 2021 on Mailchimp

In this newsletter:

  • Developing our Family Safeguarding Mental Health Provision.
  • How to access our Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire guidance and updated information on the Continuum of Need.
  • The timeline for implementing the new Early Help Assessment and Plan and how to access training in relation to this.
  • An exclusive update on plans to redesign Lancashire's Front Door (MASH).
  • Upcoming training and events that will be open to our multiagency partners (booking information to follow).

Suggestions and feedback

You can share your suggestions and feedback on how we can develop the service in the following ways: