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Greening announces expansion of social work innovation projects

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The education secretary has announced an expansion of the most successful projects funded by the government’s social work innovation programme.

Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference on Thursday, Justine Greening reaffirmed the government’s commitment to introducing legal flexibilities to develop new ways of working and challenged delegates to innovate in order to grow a new evidence base for best frontline practice.

She announced the scaling up of three of the most successful programmes funded by the £200m fund.

This includes a further investment of £6.8m in the Pause project over four years to extend the current seven pilots to nine more areas in order to support a target of 3,000 women over six years.

The Pause project, first developed by Hackney LBC, works with women who experience repeat pregnancies and whose children have been taken into care.

It involves establishing a period of time when these women do not have to care for children and the provision of long-term, reversible contraception.

The women are then supported to tackle patterns of destructive behaviour and develop new skills.

The Department of Education yesterday released evaluation reports on projects funded by the innovation programme for the first time.

Pause, which is currently running in Hackney, Doncaster MBC, Hull City Council and Greenwich, Islington, Newham and Southwark LBCs, was not among them.

However, Ms Greening said the project had high rates of success.

Ms Greening pledged a further £440,000 to the Positive Choices project run by Calderdale MBC which provides intensive support to vulnerable young people.

The Frontline leadership development programme will also be expanded to support more than 400 social work professionals.

Ms Greening told delegates: “We just don’t think that parliament and the government or civil servants should prescribe and define what great social work looks like.

“You are the experts and we want you to define it for yourselves but, of course, within a clear statutory framework.”

The Children and Social Work Bill, which is currently in the report stage in the House of Lords, includes provision for the education secretary to exempt councils from children’s social care legislation.

The government says this will provide flexibilities for children’s services departments to introduce new ways of working.

Clause 29 raised fears that it could pave the way for the privatisation of child protection, but the government last week announced it will table an amendment to the bill to guarantee this will not happen.

Ms Greening added: “[The clause] was never about the privatisation of child protection services.

“The power to innovate is not about removing fundamental protections for vulnerable children.

“In fact it is about the total opposite to that. It is about how we can put you in the best position to protect those children properly.”

The government has also announced further details on its plans for a new social work regulator.

Ministers had planned to bring regulation under direct government control, but abandoned the proposal last month following criticism from councils that the new body could be vulnerable to political interference.

Under a government amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, any professional standards developed by a new independent regulator will have to be approved by the education secretary and health secretary.

The new body, called Social Work England, could have its first chief executive appointed by the government and must have all subsequent appointments approved by secretaries of state.

The education secretary has also announced and an additional £4.7m investment in the teaching partnership programme, which aims to improve the training of social workers.

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