Plan to keep more Lancashire families together - and children out of care

How can Lancashire keep more families together?
How can Lancashire keep more families together?

Twenty-five specialist teams are to be set up across Lancashire in an attempt to reduce the number of children in care in the county.

Lancashire County Council’s “family safeguarding” plan will bring together specialists in the kind of problems which may be faced by parents – but which will also hit the lives of their children. They are set to include drug and alcohol counsellors and domestic abuse support workers – as well as adult and children’s social care staff.

The teams will also have access to mental health and behavioural support practitioners, as part of a radical overhaul of the help given to families in difficulty across Lancashire.

County Cllr Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children on the authority, told a meeting of the full council that the whole focus of the new system would be on “keeping families together” – by engaging with them differently.

“They’ll help parents recognise why some of the agencies may be concerned about them and the impact of some of their behaviour on children. They’ll be encouraging them to address those problems, build resilience within the family and build their confidence so they can support themselves.

“The language of our social workers and all people who work with children and families needs to change. We need to move away from a culture of telling people what to do and what’s best for them.

“Instead, we need to approach it from a motivational perspective,” County Cllr Williamson explained.

There are currently almost 2,100 children in the county council’s care and members were told that there is “unprecedented demand” on the authority’s services as a result.

The new model being adopted by Lancashire is based on one first trialled in Hertfordshire – where, after two years, the results included a halving in the number of children on child protection plans and a reduction in the young people going through care proceedings by 40 percent.

The new teams will be rolled out from next month, with the process due to be completed by October. The government has invested £6m in the scheme, with County Hall supplying a similar amount.