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In the latest edition of Sanctuary Social Work News, we interview Clare Chamberlain, interim Tri-borough Executive Director of Children’s Services, to discover more about the successful model, which is unifying children’s social services across three London councils (Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster). 

Could you tell us more about Tri-borough’s success? 

Broadly speaking, small caseloads held by a strong and stable workforce and the deployment of leaders and managers who are very connected to the front line workforce who know the practice well, have been fundamental to our success. Not only is there a commitment to systemic practice, skills and knowledge development of this way of working, we have also embedded family therapists across our social work teams. 

There have been many professionals who have assisted to this point. How do you make sure everyone pulls in the right direction? 

We have a shared vision for our practice system in which systemic practice and a family based approach is a central feature.  The 'Focus on Practice' programme gave all staff in children's social care the opportunity to engage in a comprehensive skills and development programme, facilitating a shared understanding of effective interventions with families. 

How has a strong focus on ‘practice’ helped to deliver those results? 

We believe that our concentrated efforts in developing a high quality service to families. In addition to the 'Focus on  Practice' programme, senior leaders spend two full weeks per year in auditing cases, observing practice and talking to children and families about the help they receive. This gives a clear message to the workforce that we are not just interested in data, but also in the quality of their practice. It gives staff an opportunity to tell us about good practice and to understand the complexity of the work they do.

Could you tell us how the funding has helped to equip social workers with a broader skill-set? 

Every single practitioner in the three children's social care departments has completed, or is in the process of completing a 25-day skills and knowledge development programme leading to qualification in the first year of systemic family practice. Access to family therapists is embedded within each team and there are reflection groups that build on the training. 

To find out more about Tri-borough’s ‘Focus on Practice’ read pages 24-25 in Sanctuary Social Work News

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