09 February 2017
An unprecedented recent rise in referrals to Children’s Services has prompted the introduction of new arrangements for the initial assessment of cases. The interim measures have been brought in to ensure workloads are managed and avoid the potential increase in risk to children that could otherwise result from delays.
The steep rise in referrals dates from November, when there were 244 referrals to Children’s Services, approximately double the normal monthly quantity. This has placed a heavy burden on the service and in particular the Children’s Initial Response Team (CIRT) – those staff who assess children’s circumstances once a referral is received.
As a response to this demand, social workers from other teams across Children’s Services are now working with their colleagues in CIRT to ensure the timely assessment of children’s circumstances. The social workers, all of whom are registered and trained in the assessment of cases, are temporarily taking on ‘duty’ roles to manage incoming referrals, working one week in every five on assessment and holding subsequent cases alongside their usual roles.
“The ‘bulge’ at the front door of Children’s Services has caused an unsustainable workload strain on our Children’s Initial Response Team,” said Susan Devlin, Managing Director of Community and Social Services. “These staff are very committed to their task, however this is too much for one team and immediate action has been necessary to reduce the inherent risk in dealing with the needs of vulnerable children and families in a timely manner.
“This is a case of us using our resources across the service in a different way to meet unprecedented demand. The protection of vulnerable children is the core business of Children’s Services and I’m very grateful to the staff who have stepped up at this time of need.”
Ms Devlin said that the rota system for other social workers was now in its third week and was working well. Refresher training has been provided, she added, and there were no changes to pay, or terms, or conditions of service.
“Timely assessment is paramount – without it we cannot know a child’s circumstances,” she said. “We need to know the level of risk and seriousness for all referrals, as there may be a number where children are in serious danger and need protection.
“In the medium to longer-term we are working on restructuring Children’s Services, and the recruitment of extra social workers remains ongoing, but action in this area was required straight away, and that’s why we’ve brought in these interim measures.”
The States of Jersey is investing significantly in Children’s Services, with £5.5million of funding in 2016 and £6million this year.
The intention is to recruit 20 new social workers; so far four team managers, four senior practitioners and four social workers have been recruited, and the process is ongoing. In the longer-term, consideration is being given to how a professional on-Island training course for social work could be developed.
Recruitment for the permanent post of Director of Children’s Social Work is progressing with selection planned for early March, using a specialist agency. In recruiting to this key role, there will be a focus on the professional challenge and opportunity brought about by the imminent publication of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and the investment in the service.