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Creating Stronger Communities – Steve Kay, North East Lincolnshire

The Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme enabled us locally to accelerate our approach and allowed us to introduce and then embed our framework for practice with children and families, the ‘Creating Strong Communities Model’. This model has four distinct and inter-related elements, which we have sought to combine into a single model of practice; Signs of Safety, Restorative Practice, Family Group Conferencing and Outcome Based Accountability. This work was externally evaluated by York Consulting, the results of which available on the DfE site.

So far, we are demonstrating impact of the roll out of this model of practice, with some excellent feedback from large numbers of staff and partners, and importantly from some of the families with whom we are working. Relational practice is at the heart of the model, promoting the firm belief that whoever you are in the system, leader, manager, practitioner, parent of child – everything we do sits within the context of a relationship. Where things are working well, it is where the relationship context is being prioritised and respected.

It’s a journey though, and embedding and deepening our understanding of how we can work continually to improve and refine this model will remain a constant. It is often difficult to continue to develop, maintain and sometimes repair relationships when the environment is ever changing and often complex. We have seen some real shifts in thinking, culture and practice, which has been great to see.

This has not been and is not plain sailing. The system changes all of the time, provision, communities and services shift around us and we always have to try to adapt accordingly. Like many other areas, we experience high levels of need, pressures in demand and have to attempt to adapt and connect resources accordingly where possible or appropriate. This is not always an easy task. Just this last week, we have been focusing on our planning for the year ahead, examining where we need to have increased focus, areas for development and where and how we can build on the things that work, using our practice model as the basis for these discussions.

This work has also been a catalyst for further innovation and development for us. We were able to identify that for some of our most vulnerable mums, we needed to respond in a different way to give them the support they needed. We needed to develop an assertive outreach model for those women and have been fortunate to be able to work with the national Pause team, to develop Pause NEL (North East Lincolnshire), supporting vulnerable women at risk of repeat removal. After nearly a year in has already seen some absolutely fantastic results.

As part of our continued focus on development, we have entered into a very exciting ten-year partnership with the NSPCC, as part of a focus on ‘Together for Childhood’. This approach has a significant focus on preventing multiple adversity, with a drive for community engagement at the core.  We are developing a keen interest in what it means to be a trauma informed system, with strong inter-agency engagement in these dialogues. Early days and although against a very challenging backdrop, exciting times.

It is important to note that whilst we will always continue to learn, this model of practice will remain, regardless of what shifts in services or structures we may see in the months and years to come. We retain our collective commitment to having this coherent framework for practice, which when applied effectively is strength based, common sense, family and outcome focused.