New Falkirk team sees child protection referrals increase by 20 per cent

Posted: 27th September 2022

A team set up to tackle the long waiting times facing children and families in Falkirk where there are concerns about their welfare is now dealing with 107 cases every week on average.

Members of Falkirk Council ‘s education, children and young people’s executive heard that the Initial Response Team (IRT) is now on the frontline for Children & Families Social Work service across the district.

The executive agreed that the new team should become part of the core service, but they also agreed that the pilot should continue for a year longer than first thought to let them understand the huge demand for services since it was set up.

On average, the IRT has been receiving 107 referrals per week, an increase of 20 per cent on the same time period pre-Covid, when the service received an average of 89 referrals per week. These range from children at risk of immediate harm to concerns about non-attendance at school or for health appointments.

Chief Social Worker Sara Lacey told councillors that it is becoming increasingly clear that Covid “has had a really profound effect” .

“Our families are under pressure and they are looking to us for support,” said Ms Lacey.

They are also very aware that the cost of living crisis is placing additional pressure on families who have, until now, been “just coping”.

Ms Lacey added: “With the crisis predicted to worsen over coming months, it is expected the level of referrals will increase.”

She told councillors that the local increase in demand is reflected nationally – but it comes at a time when social work nationally is also experiencing “unprecedented challenges” to recruit and retrain staff. Ms Lacey said that despite all of the difficulties, the team had been proving effective, particularly in providing a single point of contact for referrals from other agencies, such as the police.

Councillors also heard that having just one team dealing with referrals means that the response is consistent across the district. SNP councillor Fiona Collie welcomed the report and said she had always been very supportive of the team and welcomed the feedback demonstrating its value.

She said it seemed “eminently sensible to have a first point of contact that can prioritise concerns, ensuring that the most effective and correct response is provided timeously” and providing “the right support, at the right time, by the right people”. Other members of the executive were equally supportive of the pilot and agreed it should continue.

Source: Daily Record

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