Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

The results

Over the first three-month phase of the project, the Skylakes team successfully de-escalated 114 of the 144 allocated cases. A similar proportion of cases were closed in the second three-month phase and the further eight-week extension. This followed successful direct intervention with children and families, reducing reliance on long-term CIN plans and the need for statutory intervention.

During the 8 month period, our social work teams have undertaken Skylakes bespoke CIN programme with 201 families and 388 children, resulting in an average CIN plan duration of 11 weeks. 100% of assessments have been completed within statutory timescales.

Of the cases assessed, 11.1% have been referred directly to the BwD Children in Need service and 8.2% have progressed to Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC). In 0.5% of cases, children have become Looked After and in 29.6% of cases the ‘Step Down’ process has been implemented. 50.5% of cases have been closed. With the final outcome of 80.1% of cases safely de-escalated as a result of this approach.

Project Highlights

  • Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
  • January to August 2017
  • Skylakes social workers managed 144 cases in each CIN Programme, a total of 432 cases
  • 79% of cases (114) were closed in the first CIN Programme
  • 100% of assessments completed to agreed timescales

The challenge

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council were experiencing unprecedented demand on Children’s Services resources, with a 25% increase over 12 months. Looking for short-term external support to relieve pressure on their in-house team, they identified the Skylakes 12-week Child in Need (CIN) programme as a practical, cost-effective solution.

We were contracted to provide a fully managed service for an initial three-month period, focusing on 144 open CIN cases. The contract was extended for a further three-month and eight-week phases. Based on intensive intervention with children and families, our CIN programme aims to reduce the need for ongoing statutory intervention being necessary and provides better outcomes for children.

" As well as the effective day-to-day model, the management support and senior management support has been excellent"

Our approach

Our agile business model enabled us to respond quickly and make an immediate impact, stabilising the caseload management situation. The first step was to appoint a Skylakes Project Manager to fully audit all cases for pre-project prioritisation planning and management direction. One week later we deployed our team of eight highly qualified social workers. They were supported by an experienced project support team enabling the practitioners to focus on intervention and achieving
good quality outcomes.

Our social workers followed a robust CIN review framework of three to four CIN reviews of each case. Decisions were made for de-escalation or escalation at the appropriate time, depending on risk and need, working with professionals to make step down more sustainable. The overall aim was to reduce as far as possible the number of children remaining on CIN plans.

As ever, we set clear project benchmarks and put in place robust reporting procedures. Our Project Manager attended weekly face-to-face meetings at the Council’s offices and was also available by telephone to address urgent concerns. Our weekly performance report provided the Council with clear, detailed analysis of progress to date.

This throughput is significantly more productive than most mainstreamed cohorts” "

Linda Clegg, Director Children’s Services. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council