Staffordshire County Council’s Edge Of Care service targets an innovative package of intensive support to families on the edge of care, in order to change the lives of our most vulnerable families for the better and avoiding the need for costly, statutory intervention.
Edge of Care is part of a programme of change, led by Staffordshire’s Family Strategic Partnership, which is mobilising support across the system to meet children’s needs at the early possible point and prevent the need for statutory services.
Families who need our help tell us they don’t want to be in ‘systems’ or ‘services’. They want to be supported by their friends, families and in their communities to deal with the day-to-day challenges they face.
Evidence says that stable families have better lives. Families who can draw on the strengths around them are also less likely to need costly, intensive specialist support.
Early intervention and prevention work are beneficial both to families and taxpayers, hence why prevention is at the heart of Staffordshire’s children’s services, from earliest help in our communities to intensive prevention at the edge of care.
The programme includes a number of strands of work, one of which is the development of intensive support for families on the ‘edge of care’ to help them stay safely together.
Staffordshire’s Edge of Care Service includes four key strands:
1. Intensive Prevention Service (IPS) – a solution-focused, flexible 12-week programme offering a same day urgent response for young people age 11 to 17 at immediate risk of coming into care.
2. Reunification – supporting young people in long-term placements to return home with around six months intensive, individualised support including short breaks and support from Staffordshire’s Virtual School for Looked After Children to ease transition.
3. Family Group Conferences – support for families to lead in planning how they will respond to concerns and enable a child to remain at home or return from care.
4. Breathing Space – intensive support for women who have had children removed from their care and are in the early stages of another pregnancy.
These services with the support of the council’s partners and communities are put together to ensure that the approach is an impactful and powerful as possible. The system of support around a family is complicated and the county council cannot effectively support families alone. Staffordshire partners have invested heavily in building strong relationships, both at strategic and operational level.
Over 80 per cent of the 524 children supported by the Edge of Care service and Intensive Family Support service in 2016/17 were able to stay with their families, giving them the chance of a better life.
Since 2015, the number of Children in Need in Staffordshire reduced from 344 to 321 per 10,000 of the population and the children subject to a Child Protection Plan has reduced from 41 to 32 per 10,000 of the population.
For five years until Spring 2017 the number of children in care remained stable (excluding Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) against a national increase.
This has also avoided over £2 million in costs to the authority and the taxpayer.
In feedback on Staffordshire’s Edge of Care Service, Ofsted said: “A number of innovative projects have been trialled, evaluated and implemented to prevent children’s needs from escalating... Inspectors saw examples of these projects making a tangible difference to children’s lives.”
How is the new approach being sustained?
At the strategic level, the Families Strategic Partnership Board (FSPB) has been created. This has enabled partners to formally engage, develop a joint strategy and agree shared priorities.
At an operational level, joint working is built into services and processes.
The Edge of Care Service for example is supported by the Intensive Family Support Service, a joint project between Staffordshire children’s services, Public Health and Addiction Dependency Solutions. The service works with families where dependency is of such a significant concern that their children are at risk of coming into care.
Health funding has also enabled the integration of a specialist drugs and alcohol worker, seconded into the service to provide a flexible way to engage hard-to-reach young people and families.
The Breathing Space project is a multi-agency approach with agreed routes into services and shared outcomes for the Local Authority, Public Health, Midwifery and Health Visiting services.
With the right support, at the right time and in the right place families are able to live independently and achieve their goals.
Richard Hancock, Deputy Director of Children’s Services
Sarah James, Senior Campaigns Officer
Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure.
Bright Futures is our call for fully funded children's services.