Wolverhampton is one of three areas in England to be chosen today (Wednesday 26 July, 2023) to deliver the Families First for Children programme.

As a ‘pathfinder’ it will test new ways to reform the children’s social care system, helping children to stay with their families in safe and loving homes, whilst protecting vulnerable children where and when needed.

The programme aims to ensure early help and intervention is available for families with challenges such as addiction, domestic abuse or poor mental health, to help them overcome adversity and stay together where possible.

The programme forms part of the Government’s wide ranging children’s social care implementation strategy, Stable Homes, Built on Love, which will transform the current system, focusing on more early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage. 

It will help develop the best practice models for the entire children’s social care system that can then be rolled out across the country. 

Councillor Chris Burden, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, said: "We and our partners want to create a social care system which helps young people thrive and gives them the best possible start in life.

“We were one of only a handful of local authorities in England chosen to be part of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in 2021. It looked at how the social care system can be improved for children, families and young people, and we were able to showcase what works well, and what we think could and should be done differently. 

“Following on from that important piece of work, we are delighted to have been asked to become a Families First for Children pathfinder and to test a series of proposed reforms which should help bring about these improvements we want to see, and it is likely to lead to some of the most significant reforms to Family Help, child protection, kinship and safeguarding in a generation. 

"Any reforms we, as a local system, are able to make which will further improve the services we are able to provide to our children, young people and families will be very welcome, and so we are looking forward to working with partners and the Government on this test and learn programme."

He added: “The pathfinder is supported by a grant over 2 years, so this is real kudos for the city of Wolverhampton and is testament to the confidence funders have in our ability to lead and deliver the programme.”

Wolverhampton, and the two other areas in England selected to deliver the Families First for Children programme, Dorset and Lincolnshire, will work to deliver support to families based on three principles: 

  • delivering family help through local multi-disciplinary teams working with partners to provide welcoming and effective support, tailored to the needs of children and families
  • where child protection is necessary, it is carried out by social workers with greater expertise and experience, and time to dedicate to the family and child
  • greater use of family networks, involving the wider family in decision-making and with them being the first port of call if the child does have to leave the family home

Children, Families and Wellbeing Minister Claire Coutinho said: “We committed earlier this year to deliver wide-ranging reforms that put strong relationships at the heart of the children’s social care system, to make sure children in care receive the same love and stability as everyone else.

“Today, we take a step closer to achieving just that, thanks to the ambition Wolverhampton is showing for the life chances of their most vulnerable children.

“The programme they are running will inform future reform across England to give every child the best possible chance to grow up in their family, delivering on the Prime Minister’s ambition to support families across the country.”