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Reinvigorating Social Work

Project start date: January 2017

We (Dorset County Council) were awarded up to £1.9m over two years to deliver an ambitious transformation programme as part of our ‘Forward Together for Children’ initiative to drive whole system change to improve outcomes for all children and families in Dorset.

Project Summary


Demand for children’s social care in Dorset is increasing. Since 2013, there has been an increase in referrals, Children in Need, children subject to Child Protection Plans and Looked After Children. This is combined with an increase in social work vacancies and use of agency staff. This challenge is driving process and task-focused ways of working, which are not addressing this demand pressure, nor delivering long-lasting change for children and families. The proportion of children subject to a child protection plan for a second or subsequent time is higher than statistical neighbours.

Internal analysis and Ofsted feedback have found clear areas for development: a lack of consistency in frontline practice and management oversight; quality of assessment;focus on assessment and monitoring rather than direct work with families or formulaic work that fails to respond to individual needs and strengths. Our project seeks to reinvigorate social work in Dorset by ‘getting it right for the child first time’, achieved by implementing an outcome-focused practice model of social work. This places a high value on relationship building between children and social workers and will ensure services that are delivered are consistently excellent and deliver measurable results. We will also have ‘better conversations’ and relationships with our partners to ensure families are getting the right support at the right time. An outcomes-focused approach sites with the context of an Outcome Based Accountability framework that has been adopted by the Council. This approach will give an opportunity for clear and consistent assessment, planning, implementation and reviewing of direct work with children and families. Evidence-informed practice tools and strengths-based approaches such as restorative practice and appreciative inquiry will be used to enact the outcomes model.

A 12-week programme for all social workers will support job skill development through training, coaching and action learning methods. To minimise disruption to the families receiving support, we have created a dedicated social work team to provide additional capacity for teams who have social workers on the programme. Team managers will go through a 6-week programme comprising of the core elements delivered to the social workers, but in the context of leadership.

Project contact details

Tanya Hamilton-Fletcher

Project evaluators


Project partners

Hampshire County Council

LV Project Group Ltd

FairWays Foundation

Portsmouth City Council

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