Social workers will be placed in schools to help spot the signs of abuse and neglect more quickly and work with teachers to support children at risk.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced nearly £10 million for projects aimed at boosting the educational outcomes of vulnerable children, and to keep them safe from harm.
This includes £6.5 million to involve more than 150 schools in a project that will place social workers in schools to work with teaching staff, reflecting that the second largest source of referrals to children’s social services is schools (18%).
Part of a series of measures unveiled at the Prime Minister’s virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street on Thursday 21 May, the funding package comes as early evidence from pilot studies shows placing social workers in schools helps keep children safe because they are able to work with teaching professionals to identify children in need of support.
It follows news that reports of domestic abuse incidents have been on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, with some children also experiencing exposure to drug and alcohol misuse or at risk from online harms.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
The stark reality is that too many children are growing up at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation. These are the most vulnerable in society, and the ones that most need our help. For these children, schools offer a safe space to get support, develop resilience and fulfil their potential.
That is why, as schools begin opening more widely and we look to the future, we must take all the steps we can to protect these children. By bringing social workers into schools we can spot the warning signs more quickly.
The multi-million pound investment comes as significant numbers of vulnerable children and young people, and children of key workers, continue to benefit from the support offered by attending school, while those who have remained at home in response to the pandemic have received educational support. The new measures will help schools to identify any children that are considered more at risk, and as more return to school.
The funding follows three studies, undertaken by the What Works Centre for Social Care, in 2019/20 where social workers were placed in schools in Lambeth, Southampton and Stockport, and it was shown that social care support offered through schools could help keep children safe. It also builds on the findings of the Department for Education’s Children in Need review, helping develop a stronger evidence base on what interventions are most effective to improve the outcomes of Children in Need – scaling up and evaluating projects to better support them to fulfil their potential.
Chief Social Worker for Children Isabelle Trowler said:
I am delighted to see further investment in this very promising area of practice. Keeping social workers close to children, their families and alongside their communities will help build those essential relationships, which we know to be the bedrock of effective family support and child protection.
The announcement builds action laid out by the Government earlier today, which includes a new codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims, which will allow people in urgent or immediate danger to get help from shop workers, and close to £20 million of funding that will go towards supporting police and law enforcement target perpetrators sexually exploiting children or helping those affected by abuse rebuild their lives.
The measures add to those taken by the Department for Education to safeguard children during the coronavirus outbreak, including providing free IT devices to children with a social worker so they can continue to stay in touch with children’s services, and £12 million in funding for programmes aimed at supporting vulnerable children, including those at risk of witnessing domestic abuse. More than £3.2 billion has also been made available for local authorities, helping them meet additional demands including within children’s social care services.
Chief Executive of What Works for Children’s Social Care Michael Sanders said:
I am delighted to hear the announcement of this programme from the Secretary of State. This work will allow us not only to support children and their families during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, but also to build up the evidence about whether these approaches really make a difference to the families supported.