CARMARTHENSHIRE’S approach to supporting families and preventing children from going in to the care system has been recognised at a national level.
First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan have visited Carmarthenshire County Council to meet the team who are driving a positive change to family social care.
Carmarthenshire has the lowest number of children in care throughout Wales, and figures are reducing steadily year-on-year with more and more families being supported to stay together.
The council’s strategic aim to reduce the number of looked after children is aligned to the Welsh Government’s, and is achieving this via a whole range of services which are together making a positive difference to hundreds of local people.
In conversation with social work managers, Mr Drakeford said Carmarthenshire stood out because the team is prepared to think and do things differently, and he wanted to find out how other areas of Wales can replicate their success.
One of the simplest, yet most effective, changes made in recent years is to align teams working across children’s services and education and bringing staff with specialist skills together to provide a whole team around a family in need, opposed to attaching a single social worker to an individual case.
The First Minister was told how this has allowed sharing of skills, perspectives and ideas to provide a bespoke package of support for each family, as well as creativity in finding different ways of linking in with families and keeping them together.
Teams say they focus on building relationships with families to fully understand their needs, and what intervention will work best for them – often inviting families to work with them to commission tailor-made specialist support ensuring their needs are met in a way that best works for them.
Prevention and early years intervention is also a key feature – in the last six months the service has supported 18,000 families with a range of community-based services to build resilience and prevent the need for families to have contact with the statutory social care system.
Mr Drakeford said he was keen to share his learning from Carmarthenshire with other authorities in Wales to reduce the number of children being taken in to the care system and keeping more families together.
“Carmarthenshire Council is doing some great work to keep families together and avoid children going into care,” he said. “As First Minister, I want to build on the work happening here, understand why it is having an impact and to share the good practice throughout Wales so we can help to keep more families together.”
Jake Morgan, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Director for Communities, said: “We share and support the Welsh Government’s strategic intent. For us, it’s not about targets, but about keeping families together, and reducing the number of children requiring care without ever compromising safe practice.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said he was proud that Carmarthenshire is at the forefront of developing such a diverse range of services that support families with a variety of needs and supports them to care for their children at home and within their own communities.
“Keeping families together with the right kind of support is something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “I’m proud of the work of our teams, and their willingness to work differently and try new approaches to support families in need and prevent them from needing our services. It was great to hear the enthusiasm of the team today and their pride in making a difference to so many children’s lives.”