Stronger Services for Children

We need a fresh start for children’s services, based around a strong strategic vision, emphasising collective ambitions and aspirations for all children, promoting inclusion and equality.

Too many children in Somerset are missing out on the opportunities and support they need to achieve their very best and to live well. 

Services for children could and should be better. This is particularly true for children’s social care and services for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) but also in relation to school exclusion, attainment and the consistency of high-quality early help and preventative support.

A fresh start is needed to deliver much needed improvements at greater pace and with better momentum.

Stronger Somerset will bring about a step-change in outcomes and experiences in Somerset by:

  • increasing continuity of care for children, families and adults
  • closing the gap in outcomes for vulnerable children and those with additional needs
  • giving greater independence and higher quality of life for young adults with disabilities
  • providing financial sustainability for council services and investment in new approaches
  • anticipating, planning for and managing demand reducing inequalities based on protected characteristics.

Our whole system approach will mobilise strengths and assets in communities, families and organisations, addressing weaknesses so that improvement is delivered faster.

How this will work

Improvement in children’s services will be underpinned by what we are calling a new Alternative Delivery Model (ADM), Stronger Somerset for Children, that has the capacity to drive meaningful change with pace and momentum to deliver excellent outcomes for children.

Stronger Somerset for Children will be jointly owned by Western and Eastern Somerset councils. It will deliver the full range of services for both new councils including prevention and early help, children in need/child protection, children looked after and care leavers, education and learning (including early years) functions, and youth offending.

Implementing an agreed Stronger Somerset practice model will underpin not only children’s social care, but also that of the wider children’s workforce, including schools. External models that will be considered include the Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding approach and systemic and strengths-based approaches. This model will be underpinned by simplified processes to share and record information, meaning that practitioners can spend more time with families (for example, through a safeguarding workbook).

We will have an opportunity to reinvent how we work together, emphasising strategically and operationally the importance of creating effective multidisciplinary teams that work with the whole family (for example in cases of domestic abuse or mental health issues). The model would ensure children have seamless journeys through services, universal, targeted and specialist (and not have to repeat their family stories). There would be a strong emphasis on corporate parenting responsibilities and enabling children looked after, and care leavers to realise their ambitions and have secure, happy lives.

Our engagement with the children’s care sector has highlighted the widespread view that there is currently too much professional and organisational ‘silo’ working in children’s services. We will foster effective working relationships with key partners, including schools and colleges, the NHS, housing, the police and the voluntary sector. Every school and college will have a link social worker (with some being placed in schools), drawing upon learning and evidence from the What Works Centre pilots on social workers in schools. We will seek to involve school leaders in key commissioning and delivery decisions. There will be effective links with adults’ services, with particular focus on those with adult mental health services (including drug and alcohol services) and on supporting good transition for young people with disabilities and SEN. Finally, and crucially, we will work with children and families to design services that improve their lived experiences of services.

Children's Services Advisor Annie Hudson explains the rationale for the Alternative Delivery Model:

Reaction to Local Government Secretary's decision

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Thank you to everyone who supported us.