Contextual Safeguarding: Towards a solution for case management systems
7th December 2020
Ida Cohen, Senior Consultant Social Worker
Case management systems are used across all local authorities to support day-to-day case recording about children and young people within Children’s Services (Education, Early Years and Social Care). They contain things like their assessments, plans, reviews, case notes, and chronologies, and capture key decisions that are made such as children becoming subject of child protection plans or becoming looked after. These systems should mirror the business processes of the organisation and their particular approach to practice. Whenever new approaches to practice emerge, it is important to consider how such systems can be adapted to support those changes and to engage software suppliers in such dialogues.
Addressing the Problem
In order to better understand all of the challenges that social work teams face, we have been working with the University of Bedfordshire‘s Contextual Safeguarding Team and the Liquidlogic DfE trailblazer local authorities. Our regular meetings have helped us to understand how their contextual safeguarding practice is evolving locally. Local authorities and the university have started to work with us on a specification that will support them to record their interventions with contexts, such as schools, cafés, shops, parks, websites, etc., within Liquidlogic’s case management solution.
Here, we examine the challenges of contextual safeguarding and how a case management solution can support councils to record cases effectively.
Tier 1 - The Individual Young Person
Liquidlogic users within the trailblazer group, have started to update forms locally for referrals, assessments, plans, reviews, and child protection conferences. This is done using the form design tool within the case management system. Using this customisation means that local authorities can capture where extra-familial harm is identified and track progress throughout their intervention. For example, when a referral is made about a child, questions can be asked about whether there are identified risks associated with extra-familial harm and if that is the case, further questions can elicit more information about the nature of the harm and any contexts identified associated with that risk. It also means that they can report at an aggregate level – by showing, for example, how many referrals include contextual safeguarding concerns, how many child protection conferences considered extra-familial harm as a key factor, and what the sources of harm were. When undertaking an assessment, if extra-familial harm is identified, workers are able to capture this information and incorporate this into their analysis and come to a recommendation about how those risks might best be addressed which can include specific frameworks that have been developed by the University of Bedfordshire, such as Peer Assessments.
Tier 2 - Context Level
At Liquidlogic, we have been working with the trailblazer authorities to produce a specification for system enhancements. These would facilitate recording against different kinds of contexts. Enhancements are based upon evidence and findings from Liquidlogic local authority customers in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire who participates in the sessions and also recently published its own report relating to case management systems (C. Firmin: 2020[i]).
Being able to record against a context (examples include community settings or a website) and link young people to those contexts would provide local authorities with information from which to develop intelligence about the types and locations of risk within their areas. This would also mean they are able to refer to a context for assessments from which to develop an intervention plan (not just children and young people themselves) and be able to capture day-to-day case recording from the agencies involved in supporting the interventions with those contexts.
The knowledge, experience, and learning from similar functionality within the Liquidlogic Early Years & Education System (EYES) could be used where it is possible to record interventions against establishments as well as pupils, and within the adult social care solution where it is possible to record organisational safeguarding work at an organisation level.
Towards joined-up multi-disciplinary pathways
These young people do not exist exclusively within children’s social care services; many will cross over into other service boundaries such as education, SEND provision, and adult social care. The unique Liquidlogic single platform across early help, social care, and education mean that we can go further than this.
How do you ensure that education colleagues are informed and involved when a school is referred to social care as an identified context? What about the care leaver placed with housing providers also commissioned by adult social care services, how is adult social care informed about the identified risks and involved in working in partnership with other professionals to reduce those risks?
This is the beginning of an interesting development journey with customers through which we will be seeking to explore ways of supporting practitioners across early help, social care, and education to share intelligence between them, about young people at risk of extra-familial harm, and about the contexts which pose a risk to their safety and welfare and ensure that work is undertaken through multi-agency partnerships to reduce those risks.