Bexley’s Children’s Social Care (CSC) service provides a large number of services to vulnerable children in need, children with disabilities, children at risk of harm and those who are looked after (LAC) by Bexley. All open cases have an allocated social worker (or personal advisor in the 13+ team).
Each of our teams typically has a Team Manager, an Assistant Team Manager or Senior Practitioner and up to five social workers. Some teams also have social work assistants, personal advisors or family support workers and are supported by a business administrator.
We have the following teams:
FRONT DOOR – MASH
Bexley Children’s Social Care (CSC) has a ‘Front Door’ service which is the first point of contact for any individual or agency that requires information, advice and safeguarding services for children and/or who may be worried about the welfare of a child. The ‘Front Door’ records all the incoming contacts for the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). Where a contact is received, the MASH conduct screening and information checks through each of its multi-agency partners and decides how to best help. They provide advice, guidance, signposting and make decisions about whether ‘threshold’ is met to refer the child and family to one of the CSC Assessment Teams, or ‘divert’ the child and family to early help Family Wellbeing Service, within 24 hours. The MASH is a truly multi-agency team containing social workers, Women’s Aid, the Police, Education, Health, YOT and Probation professionals, who work together to share information.
REFERRAL AND ASSESSMENT TEAMS
Bexley has 3 assessment teams, who undertake child and family assessments (within 45 days) and child protection enquiries, working closely with the local police and health agencies. Once the assessment has identified the issues and the child’s level of need, Children’s Social Care (CSC) may recommended the family are signposted to support provided to another services, they may be transferred to our early help family wellbeing service or transferred to a social worker in CSC to provide an ongoing service in one of the Family Support & Child Protection locality teams. Bexley has adopted the ‘Signs of Safety’ approach across all its teams.
FAMILY SUPPORT & CHILD PROTECTION LOCALITY TEAMS
Bexley has 4 locality teams, if the assessment team recommends the child would benefit from help and support from a social worker, the family are transferred through to the relevant locality team. Localities are organised into teams covering different areas of Bexley, in order to develop good working partnerships with colleagues in other key agencies. Social workers in the FS&CP locality teams work with children in need, children subject to child protection plans and where there is insufficient safety in the family, these teams may initiate PLO and court proceedings. The work of the locality social workers is supported by the Child Protection Conference Chairs who work collaboratively with the teams to ensure that child protection plans are keeping children safe and promoting good outcomes.
CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES SEND TEAM
The Disabled Children Service conducts its own specialist assessments for those children referred directly to that team via the MASH. If a child meets the local eligibility criteria, the family will be offered support services either directly through the Local Authority e.g. through short breaks respite care, and/or through ‘direct payments’ for some or all care and adaptations required for the child. Our DCS works closely with health professionals to work holistically to undertake SEND assessments.
LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN AND PERMANENCE SERVICE
The newly redesigned service has responsibility for all looked after children, care proceedings and young people we look after who we are helping prepare to leave our care or move into our dedicated Leaving Care Service. There are three Looked After Children Teams and a Leaving Care Team. All Looked After Children have an allocated social worker who is responsible for ensuring that their placement (foster carers, Residential Providers, Semi-Independent Providers or Supported Lodging Providers) is meeting their needs in terms of Care provided, contact with family, education & health needs. Once a Looked After child turns 17.5 they will also be allocated a Personal Advisor from the Leaving Care Team. Once the young person turns 18 if they meet the criteria for a Leaving Care Service they will transfer into the Leaving Care Team until they are 21 or 25 if they remain in Higher education. Our Personal Advisors support young people with their tenancy and living independently. This includes support with higher education, work experience, traineeships, apprenticeships, budgeting, benefits & health care needs.
The Looked After Children and Leaving Care Strategy can be viewed here.
Placements are part of the wider specialist services including fostering and adoption. The placements team identifies and co-ordinates arrangements for placements including ‘in house’ fostering, independent fostering agencies and residential care. The team works alongside the allocated social worker and manager and makes every effort to match the child to a suitable carer from within the authority. The team includes a contract officer who provides excellent oversight to contract management and commissioning.
This team is responsible for recruiting, assessing, supporting, regulating and training Bexley foster carers. The Local Authority maintains a pool of ‘in house’ foster carers, some of whom reside in Bexley others live elsewhere. When members of the public express an interest in fostering, the Fostering Team social worker undertakes an initial screening, then potential candidates undergo a thorough 16 week approval process where the social worker undertakes and presents an assessment to a fostering panel. The panel recommends to the agency decision maker (ADM) whether or not to approve the applicant/s. If approved, the foster carer is allocated a ‘supervising social worker’ in the Fostering Team who provides support and training as they have looked after children placed in their care.
The Adoption Team recruits and undertakes assessments of prospective adopters. The adoption social worker makes a recommendation to an independent adoption panel, which recommends to the ADM whether or not the applicant is suitable for adopting any child. The Adoption Team also trains and the Local Authority is required to continue to provide support to adopters in post adoptive arrangements as necessary.
THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL
We have a responsibility to ensure the children we look after have their health and education promoted to reach their full potential. The Virtual School team is in place to ensure all looked after children in Bexley have a place in appropriate educational provision and are supported to through a Personal Education Plan (PEP) and use of the Pupil Premium Plus. The Virtual School monitors academic attainment, attendance, exclusions, supports children by providing additional support and assists in securing good school placements for our looked after children.
STAYING TOGETHER TEAM
This is a small team that has a specific role to provide high intensity help when families are in crisis and children over 10 years old are on the edge of coming into care. This team works alongside the allocated social worker to provide additional help to families to help keep children and young people at home safely.
INDEPENDENT REVIEWING AND CONFERENCE TEAM
The Safeguarding Service comprises of a Team Manager, 5 Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO)and 3.5 Child Protection Conference chairs. Staff in these roles are qualified, experienced social workers with managerial experience.
Independent Reviewing Officers are responsible for chairing looked after children’s review meetings and monitor their care plans to ensure their needs are being met. Child Protection Conference chairs are responsible for chairing Child Protection Conferences. Both the IRO and CP Chair teams offer consultation to social workers and will chair complex meetings to provide an independent perspective.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND THE ACADEMY
This team is part of the Professional Standard and Quality Assurance Service. It plays a vital role in providing quality assurance and robust challenge to ensure that high standards are achieved and proper procedures are followed. The team is responsible for developing the skills of staff and driving continuous improvement in the quality of professional practice. The Head of Professional Standards and Quality Assurance is the Council’s lead principal social worker and the overall manager of The Academy.
EARLY HELP FAMILY WELLBEING SERVICE
This team works with families identified as likely to benefit from support to prevent entry into statutory services and to support those families who no longer need a specialist level of help from statutory service. The service is available to children where there is parental mental ill health, substance misuse, domestic violence and/or a child is at risk of permanent exclusion.
There are 3 locality teams of family key workers who work with families using a ‘Signs of Wellbeing’ approach. This team also works closely with partners in the voluntary sector to provide support and advice to families.
LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN HEALTH NURSE & CAMHS LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN TEAM
We have a looked after children nurse in the service to ensure all looked after children have regular annual health and dental assessments and access to health services to promote their health and wellbeing. There is also a specialist CAMHS service to ensure those who are most vulnerable receive prompt and appropriate support for their mental health needs.
THE YOUTH LEADERSHIP BOARD/CHILDREN IN CARE COUNCIL
Bexley has a youth leadership board made up of a young director who chairs the Children in Care Council, a deputy and three heads of service. The leadership board representatives attend meetings in the council with senior leaders and councillors. Through this, they are able to represent the views of children and young people receiving help from Bexley Children’s Services and influence service delivery. The young director is also the chair of the Children in Care Council.
The Children in Care Council is a forum for enabling looked after children to feedback their experiences and influence services. Bexley has a Practice Development Officer who works with the CICC and LAC to assist LAC to become involved in a range of activities aimed at improving services and promoting opportunities for LAC to develop skills and knowledge. The Bexley CICC are actively involved in recruiting, inducting and training foster carers and social workers.