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Lewisham chosen to trial revamp of children's social care

Lewisham Council has successfully bid to test the UK Government's reforms to children's social care, focused on supporting families better and earlier.

Lewisham Council is one of seven new local authorities to be chosen to deliver the Families First for Children Pathfinder programme – improving services to help more children stay with their families in safe and loving homes, and protecting vulnerable children from harm.

The programme will make sure family help is available for families who are struggling, for example suffering domestic abuse, addiction, or poor mental health, to help them before issues escalate and children are put at risk of harm.

Action to protect children – when needed - will be carried out by social workers with significant expertise and experience working alongside other professionals in multi-agency teams, and the wider family will stay involved in decision-making. 

Lewisham Council’s successful bid comes just three months after its children’s services were rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted for providing ‘high quality help and support’ to families and delivering ‘better outcomes for children’. 

The pathfinder, backed by up to £19.5 million nationally, is part of the government's children's social care reform strategy with an increased focus on early intervention and best practice child protection where that is required.

Lewisham Council has been awarded £3.3million to trial the reforms. 

Other reforms being tested include strengthened support for wider family members like grandparents, aunts or uncles to help them step in and provide support to children to help them continue living with their parents – for example help with additional weekly costs, buying a new bed, or topping up lost wages.

The Families First programme will transform how Lewisham supports families and children by:

  • Creating multi-disciplinary family help teams, to make sure families can get all the support they need earlier and in one place
  • Making greater use of extended family members, with them being the first port of call if extra support is required, and practical and financial support provided to them if needed
  • Establishing dedicated multi-agency child protection teams
  • Creating stronger and clearer multi-agency safeguarding processes, including an increased role for education and improved information sharing

Councillor Chris Barnham, Lewisham’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

“This is great news for our families and young people. Few things we do are more important than helping families to stay together through challenging circumstances and giving them the best possible chance to thrive in the future. Being selected as a pathfinder speaks volumes about the great strides our staff have made in providing consistent and high-quality support to children and families across the borough.”

The children’s social care reform strategy published last year, Stable Homes, Built on Love responded to recommendations made in the Independent Review of Children's Social Care, led by Josh MacAlister and the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s review into the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson. The findings showed the care system was often fragmented and struggling to meet the needs of children and families across England.

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