Let's Talk December 2018

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Norfolklet's talk purple

December 2018

Sara Tough

December has arrived and Christmas is just around the corner.

This can be a difficult time for our children and families, creating extra stresses and pressures. Some of our young people will have very different memories of Christmas to those portrayed in the festive films and TV ads and many of our staff will be working around the clock over the holidays, spending time away from their own families to help support our children and young people.

With all of this in mind, I’m pleased to see the return of our Giving Tree appeal again this year. I know many of our staff like to support this appeal by buying a book for one of the children in our care and I am sure that it makes a big difference to them on Christmas Day. There are more details on how to take part in the article below.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your dedication and commitment. I am well aware of the hard work that you are all doing to improve the lives of children and young people across the county and I know that this work can be incredibly demanding. The end of the year can leave us all feeling tired, particularly when it has been such a busy year, and I hope you enjoy a well earned break over the festive period.

Giving tree brings festive cheer to children in care

Giving Tree

There’s just a couple more days to take part in our annual Giving Tree appeal, helping spread some festive joy for children in our care.

Once again we’ve teamed up with Norwich Waterstones to encourage shoppers to think about buying the gift of a book for a child in our care.

Now in its twelfth year, this popular seasonal project has supported thousands of our children by letting them know that someone is thinking of them on Christmas Day.  

A Christmas tree is adorned with tags requesting children’s book wishes, so that customers can chose a specific book or genre of book to match to a child.    

Books need to be purchased by Sunday 10 December so they reach children in time for Christmas.  This is because the books are often distributed through children’s schools. Any books bought after this date will be delivered in the New Year.  And there’s good news for people who can’t make it into the store – books can be purchased over the phone.  Just call 01603 767292 and ask for the Children’s Department or email norwich@waterstones.com

The Giving Tree is organised by our Virtual School for Children in Care, who spend many hours wrapping and distributing the books.

Children's Advice and Duty Service has successful first month

hand hold

It’s now just over a month since we launched our new Children’s Advice and Duty Service (CADS) and the early signs are that the new service is working well. We’ve had positive feedback from our partners and unnecessary social work assessments are continuing to fall, which is much better for children, families and our social work teams.       

However, we do know that the success of CADS is having an impact on our Early Help teams. We expected this but it has been more significant than we had planned for. We're currently looking at ways of addressing this and we’re grateful to those across the service for their hard work as the service beds in.

We're confident that the changes mean children’s cases are being held in the right places and, for many, it means they are getting the right help much earlier.

New service offers therapy to families


Our very first social impact bond is set to launch in the New Year, providing intensive therapy to families that are in crisis. Bridges Outcome Partnerships are investing in the bond, which will be delivered by Family Psychology Mutual.

The project will run for three years and will use a Functional Family Therapy Child Welfare model to work with parents and children, helping to keep families together. This method of therapy has been successful elsewhere and uses a specific programme, delivered within a family’s home.

The council has received £1.25m from the Big Lottery’s Life Chances Fund to support the work. Bridges also provide investment and receive a return if the programme is successful. There is no cost to the County Council and it is expected that the project will avoid future costs of children coming into our care.

The model compliments our other work with children and families, building relationships and utilising the strengths in families to help keep children safe.

A series of information sharing events are being held in December.


They are:

▪ WEST (11 December from 9am to 10.30am) - Main Meeting Room, West Norfolk Deaf Association, 32B Railway Road, Kings Lynn, PE30 1NF

▪ BRECKLAND (11 December from 12.15pm to 1.45pm - Batty Shaw Room, Community Action Norfolk, Signpost House, Ambassador Way, Greens Road, Dereham, NR20 3TL

▪ NORWICH (11 December from 3.15pm to 4.15pm) - Cranworth Room, County Hall

▪ SOUTH (12 December from 10am to 11.30am) - Room 1, The Hub, Ayton Road, Wymondham, NR19 0QJ

▪ EAST (13 December from 10am to 11.30am) - Gorleston Room, Kingsgate, Kings Centre, 30 Queen Anne’s Road, Great Yarmouth, NR31 0LE

▪ NORTH & BROADLAND (13 December from 1.45pm to 3.15pm) - Meeting Room 1, Aylsham Jubilee Family Centre, Norwich Road, Aylsham, Norfolk, NR11 6JG


New social work model to provide more direct support to families


We are currently in the early stages of designing a new social work model for the county, aimed at giving social workers more time to work directly with families.

To do this we want to create more support roles, to reduce some of the administrative tasks that take up so much of social workers’ time.  We're also looking at creating more alternatively qualified roles in teams, such as those specialising in domestic abuse or mental health. These people won't be doing social work roles but will providing additional support to improve outcomes for children.

It will mean we have more professionals available to work around families.

We’re looking at models that are working well in places like Hertfordshire but we want to create a new model that works for our staff and our families. This work is still at an early stage at the moment and we will keep you up to date as it develops. We’ll also need your help and views on what we’re proposing.

 We will come to talk to talk to teams about this in the coming weeks and are currently looking at dates and venues that are available in January.

More praise for boarding partnership


We've had more national praise for our partnership work, placing vulnerable children in boarding schools.

In a House of Lords debate on early intervention, Lord Farmer highlighted the success of the programme, which places vulnerable children in boarding school placements – preventing them from going into care and boosting educational attainment.

Lord Farmer said: “Norfolk County Council has placed 52 vulnerable children in 11 state and independent boarding schools over the last decade, and its results have proved that this works.” We’re currently looking to expand the scheme, as part of our transformation programme. 

This week there's also been more publicity about the Norfolk scheme, as the Department for Education launched its national bursary programme. You can read more here.

New homes for care leavers


The first of our new semi-independent housing for care leavers is set to open in the next couple of months and our team are currently visiting some of the communities where we are developing these homes for our young people.

The £5m scheme will see up to 11 new homes developed, with round-the-clock support on site.

As corporate parents to these young people it is important that we have control over the quality of accommodation, can help to keep them safe and ensure that they are getting the support they need.

At the moment there aren’t enough high quality places in the county and we want to ensure that young people have the right accommodation and support as they move towards independence.

The aim of the project is to ensure young people get the right support and to reduce reliance on high cost agency and residential placements.

Young people will have access to the 24/7 support on site, as well as support from a from a personal adviser and/or social worker.  We will also be closely monitoring the support and the accommodation to make sure it is of the highest quality.

 This means young people can have the tailored support they need in good quality accommodation, preparing them to live in their own tenancy in the future.

Successful conference for Virtual School

The Virtual School for looked after and previously looked after children held their annual conference recently at the John Innes Centre.

140 delegates heard keynote speaker Sarah Naish deliver a thought provoking and inspiring session on education in the context of children and young people who have experienced trauma

She returned to Norfolk having spoken at the last Team Around the Child conference in 2017. Sarah is the therapeutic parent of five adopted children and also has experience of Children’s Services as a qualified social worker.  Having owned an outstanding fostering agency, Sarah now runs the Inspire Training Group. As well as this, Sarah is a best selling author of adoption books such as William Wobbly and the very bad day and in 2014  was awarded Woman of the Year  in the Women in Business Awards.

The day continued with presentations by a wide range of speakers. 

In addition to the speakers, there was a vibrant market place which included an interactive session by young people (the ‘guinea pig’ group focusing on mindfulness)

Although delegates were primarily designated teachers and social workers, other partners including Independent Reviewing Officers, were also in the audience which included delegates from Norfolk, Suffolk and, a bit further afield, Portsmouth.

The feedback was very positive and plans are already underway for next year's event, when the  guinea pig group will be taking to the stage. Invitations has also been extended to a Norfolk teacher who is also an adoptive parent and a young person who is care experienced.

Make someone’s day – nominate them for an OSCA

The second and final round of Outstanding Contribution Awards is now open and runs until 18 January. The OSCAs are a great way of celebrating colleagues’ successes and nominating is quick and easy. Find out more here. We’ll soon be announcing the winners and nominees from the first round, so watch this space!


Norfolk Support Line - here to help

support line

Norfolk Support Line (0800 169 7676) is a confidential and independent counselling and information service available 24/7 to all Norfolk County Council staff. The service is provided by an external organisation, Validium, with telephone, face-to-face or e-mail counselling available. Individuals can contact the service with home or work related issues. More information is available here.

Sharing successes

Have you got a good news story for Let's Talk, or do you have information to share with colleagues? Get in touch at csweeklybrief@norfolk.gov.uk.