Briefing - prevention service

North Yorkshire has established a new Children and Families Service with the prime intention of becoming involved as soon as possible in the lives of children and families in need of help and support.

What Ofsted says:

"The Prevention teams include skilled and experienced workers, who are providing highly effective support to families. A wide range of interventions are used to ensure that families receive appropriate support that is proportionate to the level of concern. This is adeptly managed and supports positive relationships between workers and families in order to facilitate change and prevent escalation to statutory services. The processes to ‘step up’ to statutory services are clear and well understood.”

Read more below.

North Yorkshire has established a new Children and Families Service with the prime intention of becoming involved as soon as possible in the lives of children and families in need of help and support. 

Through this service social workers practice alongside innovative prevention services for the maximum benefit of families.

The prevention service works with all children aged 0-19 and cases allocated to it  are passed to one of 12 area prevention teams across the county and each case is given one dedicated key worker and point of contact for the family.  Prevention teams provide highly targeted, consistent and effective support on the ground at times when families are most in need, be it early mornings, evenings or weekends, to stop problems escalating.  

North Yorkshire is England’s largest rural county and isolation can be a real issue for families.  Every effort is made, therefore, to ensure that provision in support of families with children is as targeted and effective as possible. This means an end to families being passed from one service to another.  

The prevention services key workers are backed by multi-agency support, including North Yorkshire Police.  Their task is to work flexibly to challenge and help families turn their lives around.  In this way – whether it’s about a family struggling to cope with the challenges of parenting a toddler, children who are not attending school or who are excluded from school, a young person with low self-esteem or engaging with risky behaviours – the Prevention Service is there to help.

They work in each area alongside a new Healthy Child Programme team, set up as part of the authority’s new public health responsibility, to cover vaccination, school nursing, sexual health, risky behaviours, as well as issues like weight management in children and young people.
Previously, this model has been praised as “visionary” by Louise Casey, the former Troubled Families tsar, who has visited North Yorkshire on a number of occasions and launched the prevention service.  North Yorkshire was the first authority in the country to take the Troubled Families model and make it mainstream.

North Yorkshire reconfigured its children’s services as part of an authority-wide change programme which set an agenda to do things differently and better, working with communities to develop the services that work best for them. In children’s services this means investing in new ways of supporting families and working with others to get the best, most appropriate team around the child and family, with relationships being at the heart of change.

The range of services from universal to targeted help work effectively together to ensure families receive a service at the right time and in the right place. This helps minimise the need for statutory intervention where appropriate and possible. All of these services have supported a reduction in looked-after children from 481 in 2012 to 418 in 2018, bucking the national trend which has seen a steady increase.

Judith is a prevention service team leader, managing family outreach workers who work with families in need of early support.  Her team works with children, young people and families with many and varied needs, including emotional difficulties, school related difficulties, domestic abuse, crime and anti-social behaviour.

Judith Gilbertson, prevention service team leader
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She said: “My team is fantastic at building relationships; that is the nub of our work. We are very solution focused.  We look for solutions with the family. 

“We work with families as a consent-based service, building a trusting relationship, so we can assess need and identify strengths to help families build on these to ensure positive outcomes. Sometimes there are safeguarding concerns for a child or children in the family and we need to have difficult conversations with families about the need for a safeguarding assessment from children’s social care.  There is a real skill in managing this ‘step up’ or case transfer to a social worker, perhaps for statutory intervention to ensure that the transition is handled well and that families get the right intervention at the right time to meet their need. 

“We also have a role to play in ‘stepping down’ – i.e. when the social work assessment shows there are no safeguarding concerns. The case may transfer from children social care to a family outreach worker to give some additional support, perhaps with a child or young person, perhaps to develop parenting skills.  This frees the social workers to manage their statutory work and is why Ofsted described the family outreach workers as being ‘like gold dust’ for children’s social care. 

“In either case, there is a joint visit to the family from both services to plan a smooth transfer and make sure the child and family are central to the process and understand the reason for the change of worker and to ensure their voice is heard and is at the heart of the on-going work. This works well as we have a positive working relationship between social care and prevention, as noted and positively commented on by Ofsted.”