Wokingham Borough Council has secured government funding to step up a ground-breaking new approach to children’s social work.
It joined forces with nine other local authorities to successfully win £1.95million from the Department for Education for the second phase of the Signs of Safety English Innovation Programme.
With this funding, the borough council will complete its roll-out of the trailblazing scheme – which aims to improve children’s services and achieve better outcomes for families – and will lead the way as a national learning centre for English Signs of Safety practice.
An official launch of the second phase of Signs of Safety was held in London on Friday September 29 with Signs of Safety co-founder Andrew Turnell and Prof Eileen Munro, who led a watershed review of English children protection practices in 2010-11.
Cllr Mark Ashwell, executive member for children’s services, said: “Signs of Safety helps shape better futures for children and families.
“We are delighted to win this second phase of funding in collaboration with our partners and to be chosen as the national Learning Lab for the Signs of Safety community.
“This funding means we can fully implement Signs of Safety, continue to improve our services and give vital help to even more families, whilst supporting our social work professionals in sometimes difficult and complex work.”
The first phase of Signs of Safety implementation within Wokingham Borough Council began in 2014 providing a new practice framework for the way children’s services works with young people and their families.
The Signs of Safety brings a rigorous focus on the safety of the child while drawing on the strengths of a family and encourages them to work together with social workers to find solutions and suggest ideas to resolve issues and help keep children at home.
Whilst empowering families to make positive changes for children, Signs of Safety also ensures skilled and experienced social workers can guard against any dangers and risks.
It comes after Prof Munro’s landmark Review of Child Protection in 2011, which led to the development of the England Innovation Programme.
The programme aims to help councils move away from a culture of compliance and box ticking to putting children’s needs and wishes first through Signs of Safety.
It also fosters a more supportive, positive and open culture for social workers which promotes professional development and helps with staff retention.
Wokingham Borough Council with support from the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, which champions the practice framework across the local area, will share learning and best practice.
The role also involves information sharing, group supervision, peer reviews, learning and open discussions.
Munro, Turnell & Murphy Child Protection Consultancy is leading the Signs of Safety programme nationally. It is a partnership of Prof Munro, Dr Andrew Turnell and Terry Murphy.
The other councils involved in the programme are the London Borough of Brent, Bristol, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bexley, Wakefield and West Sussex County Council.
A review of the first phase of the programme by Kings College London published in July of this year found that managers and social workers at the councils were ‘overwhelmingly positive’ about Signs of Safety.