The City of Wolverhampton Council is set to launch its own version of a national programme which has seen social workers embedded in schools.

The Social Workers in Schools programme aims to reduce the number of referrals to social services, cut the number of children having to be taken into care and improve educational attainment.

The City of Wolverhampton Council was one of a number of authorities to secure funding to take part in the national pilot from the Department for Education’s What Works for Children’s Social Care scheme. Launched in 2020, it has seen social workers based in 5 secondary schools in Wolverhampton to support children who are subject to a Child in Need or Child Protection plan. 

Co-locating in this way has helped support schools as they respond to safeguarding issues, increase collaboration between social workers, school staff and parents, and improve relationships between social workers and young people.

Councillor Beverley Momenabadi, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Nationally, schools make up the second largest source of referrals to social services after the police, so it makes perfect sense to embed social workers within schools where they can use their early intervention skills to work with children and families who may be at risk.

"We have been delighted to be part of the Social Workers in Schools Programme over the last couple of years. The feedback received from councils and schools by the Department for Education has been overwhelmingly positive, and so we were very pleased that the national programme has been extended until 2023.

"Over the last few months, a number of schools have approached us requesting access to a social worker, and so we are looking to pilot our own Social Workers in Schools project, which will be jointly funded by the council and schools. 

"As part of this offer, a social worker would be based within a secondary school or across a cluster of primary schools and will work with the children and families that attend that school. This would be similar to the national programme but extends the service to primary schools.

“While we recognise that the current economic situation may mean that some schools are unable to commit to additional expenditure at this time, the launch of our own local, co-funded programme would ensure that vital support is available when the national programme ends. 

“We are therefore now seeking feedback from schools about the most appropriate time, in terms of school budgetary planning, to introduce a local programme.”

Social worker Liz O’Callaghan is one of those taking part in the national programme. She said: “The fact that professionals from education, health and social care are able to work so closely together to support children and families is proving very beneficial for everyone involved and, in my opinion, should certainly continue.

“I believe that by being in school settings, the Social Workers in Schools Team are breaking down the negative stereotypes associated with social workers that may be held by children, families and partner agencies.

“Being in school on a daily basis has allowed us to build stronger relationships with the children, parents and professionals. It enables information to be shared quickly, prevents any delay in support and avoids escalation and re-referrals. And it also provides parents with a point of contact to the professionals supporting their family."

Fellow social worker Melloney Malcolm added: "Working in the school has given me more opportunities to build a rapport with the young people and their families, helping to address issues without the need for further escalation.”