North East London Social Work Teaching Partnership successfully awarded funding by the Department for Education for 5 Projects

The Department for Education (DfE) set up the Teaching Partnership Continuous Improvement fund to support small scale projects by established Teaching Partnerships that go beyond core programme activities. Teaching Partnerships were given the flexibility to propose projects that will build on employer and educator partnerships to support local workforces or improvements in initial social work education. Projects submitted and successfully awarded funding are to be completed by 31st March 2022.

The North East London Social Work Teaching Partnership (NELTP) are pleased to share that we’ve successfully been awarded funding for 5 of our bids. These projects will deliver significant improvements and development across the whole of our partnership. Further below is more information regarding each of our successful bids and what the projects will aim to achieve:

‘Glass Ceiling’ Research Programme

This research project will help to identify progression and development opportunities for our social work colleagues within the NELTP and to challenge the ‘glass ceiling’ preventing those from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (B.A.M.E) backgrounds from progressing.

We acknowledge that there is lack of B.A.M.E representation at most senior local authority (senior management & director) levels, which is true across our Local Authority partners at North East London. Census 2011 data, predictions and existing evidence indicate trends of predicted increase in B.A.M.E communities across the partnership in our diverse region. Our social work workforce at all levels will benefit from being correspondingly diverse to meet needs.

We are looking to identify what barriers/lack of opportunities exist for B.A.M.E staff to progress the aspiration within our partnership for B.A.M.E staff to have opportunities to progress to more senior positions. Our research project will be carried out using focus groups/questionnaires to discuss with colleagues across the partnership (both permanent and locum) who would be prepared to take part, what they consider are the factors which are preventing them from progressing. The inclusion of locum staff will also build an understanding of what stops them committing to an organisation rather than locum work. We’ll be able to determine whether some Local Authorities have more of a challenge or ‘glass ceiling’.

The overall impact of evidence and data will be shared with our NELTP Strategic Board members to consider how we address potential issues and possible solutions. Our model will also be shared with other teaching partnerships to provide them with the means to undertake similar work within their respective regions.

NELTP Partnership with LIIA

This project builds on, and significantly further develops, our work on data sharing and analysis we have undertaken for the past four years. The initial work had developed and refined approaches to data sharing between the six local authority partners and two higher education institutions. Our project aims to improve access to data and analysis that will inform planning for all stages of initial training provision, recruitment and career development.

A key new strategic partnership is at the heart of this successful proposal. The London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA)  – which is an organisation of London’s 33 Directors of Children’s Services – has been developing a London-wide tool set and standard contract for sharing data between London’s local authorities. This provides a more streamlined approach to sharing data by creating common data governance ‘platform’ for all statutory returns. This constitutes a far more efficient approach, in data governance terms, than is currently in place.

LIIA’s present priority is to pilot their data platform by looking at service performance and outcomes issues across London. Formally partnering with us would potentially accelerate LIIAs programme – delivering benefits significantly more quickly than they had originally planned in the area of workforce planning. For the NELTP, partnering with LIIA would mean that more of our resources can go into the development of our approach to data analysis, rather than data governance. We can also create an impact London-wide and potentially on a national scale.

The project will follow four phases:

IRO Practice Development Forum

Our six North East London IRO Services – Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, responded to the invitation from the local CAFCASS Service (Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service) to establish a specific forum in which joint training and development opportunities could be offered. The group came together in September 2020 to develop a joint Guardian/IRO workshop which would provide the space and framework for everyone to consider their role and relationship to the child and the oversight of their care plan. They have in total delivered 2 workshops (3 sessions per workshop) over the past year, which have received positive feedback and demand for further opportunities from IRO and Guardian attendees.

Our successful bid looks to continue to build on the initial work, realise the full potential of the model, and to ensure that the momentum and quality are maintained. A third joint workshop for IROs and Guardians on the use of Secure Orders and Deprivation of Liberty orders will be delivered over three dates in November and December 2021. Over 50 staff will be attending these workshops over the three dates, with each of the Local Authorities represented using the material for learning sessions/workshops with their own social work staff group. This will also be shared with other parties, including IRO managers from other regions in and outside London, and the London IRO Regional Forum.

The commitment of the six Local Authorities will continue beyond the life of the project, and they will continue to share and develop with the national and London manager’s group, and promote and support the adoption of the model elsewhere.

Action Learning Bid

Strengths Based Practice (SBP) is a widely endorsed model of intervention in Adult Social Care and adopted by our Local Authority partners across North East London, promoting as it does the strengths of the individual in a person-centred way.

We know from audit and quality assurance activity across our region that there are inconsistencies in applying this knowledge in practice and in evidencing the application in case records.

Whilst these issues pre-date the Covid 19 lockdown period, they have been exacerbated by remote working, with the lack of opportunity to model and learn from good practice in a face-to-face context. There have been fewer occasions to consult with peers and to meet during the Covid lockdown. This is especially relevant for social workers newly qualified and in their early career post ASYE. However, there is also relevance for more experienced social workers and their managers who embrace a Strengths-Based way of working.

We will be setting up a series of workshops/action learning sets to pool practice knowledge and resources. These will give the opportunity to challenge ingrained ways of working and develop diversity/richness of thinking in how to apply knowledge-based training and research to deliver interventions and services to the people we serve.

Our primary focus will be in developing skills in applying a Strengths-Based Practice approach to all elements of practice.

Placed Based Recruitment

We have identified that currently our region has significant difficulties recruiting and retaining social workers and social work managers. This is a challenge which is reflected across our Local Authority partners to varying degrees. Our project will seek to develop a set of processes and tools (initially at Newham Council) to support with our challenges, and be in a position for it to be scaled across other Local Authorities and to raise the profile of social work as a profession.

Workforce instability, mainly through higher turnover rates and lower workforce retention, leads to poorer outcomes for children and young people. The aim is to develop new solutions and build capacity to manage this.

Our key deliverables for this project are to;