South Gloucestershire: Making sure we're there for children in need

South Gloucestershire agreed a new plan for children’s social care in October 2021 which will see an extra £10m invested over the coming three to five years.

South Gloucestershire Council has invested more money into children’s social care services to meet the rising need caused by the pandemic. 

An extra 60 staff are being taken on to provide more support to children, while the council is working closely with voluntary sector partners to support young people across the district. 

The social care boost

In October 2021 South Gloucestershire agreed a new plan for children’s social care. It will see an extra £10m invested over the coming three to five years. The money will help with the recruitment of extra staff, including more social workers and an expanded access and response team to triage referrals. There will also be new coordinator posts in the care leavers service and support in the early help services.

Trauma-informed training is also being offered to all staff who work with children across social care, public health and education and learning. 

Chris Sivers, Director of Children, Adult and Health at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “Creating the best start in life for children and young people is the first priority in our council plan and investing in young people goes right to the core of what we’re looking to achieve.” 

It’s an ambitious programme of work, but we owe it to our young people and to our skilled, passionate and committed team to get it right.

New initiatives are also being introduced. These include the Caring Dads scheme, which involves peer mentoring, and the Mockingbird extended family model in foster care.

The Mockingbird project is a nationally accredited scheme which supports and enables foster carers to care for children differently. “Constellations” are developed which include the young person, their home carer and six to 10 other carers.

The model provides support and guidance to the carers and children including social activities and sleepovers when needed – just as other families would have through their network of family and friends. Evidence shows it prevents placement problems and disruptions.

Cabinet Member for Children and Young People Councillor Sam Bromiley said: “It enables us to provide better support alongside our partner agencies and means that young people can be near their friends, family, schools and other support systems that really matter to them. It is also part of the wider work we want to do to encourage more people in our local community to become foster carers and to work as part of our team in caring for young people.”

Using community groups to extend our reach

Alongside the investment in these projects, the council is also funding an ever-expanding range of support from the community and voluntary sector to help young people recover from the pandemic. 

One of the groups it works with is Off the Record (OTR), a mental health social movement by and for young people. The organisation provides mental health support and information to young people aged 11 to 25 across Bristol and South Gloucestershire. 

A variety of support is provided to combat mental and emotional health needs such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, family breakdown and substance abuse. 

OTR works in schools, colleges and youth clubs to promote good mental health and provide tips and tricks to look after your wellbeing. One of OTR's projects is The Resilience Lab, a stress-busting group workshop which shares guidance on how to deal with life's ups and downs.

OTR also provides specialist support for anyone identifying as LGBT and young people experiencing bullying, self-harm or wanting to campaign against mental health stigma. 

It runs a series of community hubs, which are staffed by their own engagement workers and social worker. The access and response team can refer people on to the services and they accept self-referrals. 

Meanwhile, wellbeing practitioners provide one-to-one and group work in schools and youth clubs and there is a programme called Nature Works, which involves outdoor activities such as gardening and crafting with wellbeing support. 

One teenager who has taken part during the pandemic said: “This is the best thing I’ve done. I joined a Nature Works course in the first lockdown and it changed my life.” 

Another project that has proved incredibly valuable has been run by Juice, which has been running activity courses.

Councillor Bromiley added: “Children and young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, have been tremendously effected by the pandemic.  

“These community groups are close to the community, people really engage with them and they provide vital support. They are a crucial part of the support we want to provide to children to help them deal with the effects of the pandemic.” 

The council has also started running a Youth Ambassadors Programme during the pandemic. Six ambassadors have been recruited to represent the most disadvantaged groups, including children in care and young people with disabilities.  

They help run workshops, attend council meetings and liaise with directors and cabinet members. The roles are paid to recognise their importance. 

We wanted to give young people a voice – especially from those communities that can be marginalised.

“We know the pandemic will have exacerbated health inequalities and hearing directly from people who are impacted the most will help us shape our response and make sure we are doing the best we can to support all children and young people,” added Councillor Bromiley. 

Contact details

Sam Bromiley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, South Gloucestershire Council: