North East Lincolnshire has seen a rise in the number of children identified as being ‘in need’, with a significant rise in the number of looked after children and child protection plans in recent years. A high proportion of these cases were repeat referral cases and this has put substantial strain on services in the region.
Creating Stronger Communities brings together four established tools within social work and community practice: outcomes-based accountability, restorative practice, Signs of Safety and family group conferencing.
The combination of practice models enables practitioners to accurately identify risk and focus practice on conflict resolution at the earliest stage. The programme aims to ensure mediated support for families and children, with a focus on outcomes, rather than processes, at the centre of support.
In the first two years of the programme, the family group conferencing team worked with 154 families and delivered 65 conferences. Within North East Lincolnshire, further innovation funding is being used to expand the approach to young people transitioning out of residential care.
The DfE-funded independent evaluation published in 2017 found that:
- 90% of families who had a group conference said it was making a positive difference, with a cost benefit analysis calculated a saving of £18.20 for every £1 spent on support.
- Reductions were shown in the number of children subject to a child protection plan and in the referral rate to social care.
- Over 90% of social work staff trained indicated that the application of the Signs of Safety model had generated clear benefits in the way they work with families, with schools reporting improved pupil behaviour and communication as a result of the implementation of restorative practice among teaching staff.