Working in partnership is one of the major course themes of K204. Using specific examples of strategies through which working in partnership with families and between agencies can be achieved, explain how participative ways of working can increase positive outcomes for children and families.

Society can achieve great things through the power of partnership. This relatively new concept within the work of children and families has led to change. There are many agencies today in the public, private and voluntary sector, which work to the principles behind the idea of partnership. This came about when the government during the 1990’s recognised children’s all round development was affected by their life circumstances. This led to new regulations which all agencies jointly have the responsibility to follow concerning child welfare. In this critical area, the effectiveness of these agencies is a major factor in ensuring that children and their families have positive outcomes.

The concept of promoting partnership in this area helps to remove the traditional barriers that have existed in the past, as I will reveal. To illustrate how partnerships can be achieved I will use the example of social services and how they have helped secure the well being of many children and families in need today. I shall also explore how working in partnership has helped children with special educational needs (SEN) receive better education within mainstreams schools. However as with most new initiatives problems have to be ironed out and partnership is no exception, resulting in problems that can make it difficult, if not impossible to work effectively. These problems will be examined in the hope we can learn from them to minimise future risk of partnership between agencies and children and families breaking down,

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Social services went through a complete transformation after the government recognised that the system set up to tackle child abuse was not working. This revelation was discovered through scandals involving suspected abuse and research revealing how inadequate the system was. The system, set up to deal with child abuse and neglect failed to respond to problems in life faced by many families, as revealed in a research conducted by Cleaver and Freeman in 1995. (Topic 15 p15) Indeed Gordon Jack renowned for his expertise in social work highlights that child abuse is the product of problems in life that causes stress that can tip the balance for a parent and as a result increase the risk of child abuse. (The reader p185) These findings helped lead to the belief that the best way to safeguard children is through preventive intervention. This led to the provision of support through various agencies including social services to take a more active role to support children and families in need, through partnership.

For a child to be ‘in need’ means they are unlikely to develop well, either emotionally or physically without the help of services. This highlights the importance of developing partnership and for it to be successful social workers had to redefine their role. Their aim is to try to keep the family together and by working to establish a clear value base with them, and providing a vision of their intentions can help to achieve this. As with any partnership, co- operation, based on mutual support, giving children and families a voice and promote an equal balance of power, is crucial. Workers must actively listen, share information honestly, and display empathy towards their plight in an unbiased way.

They must also respect and appreciate that the family has it’s own resources and strengths that can assist them in gaining positive outcomes. Howe recognised that it is important for children and families to be consulted and involved in any decisions affecting them, then they are more likely to make the solution presented to them work. (Topic 2) In order to achieve positive outcomes, often needs the assistance of other agencies connected with children and families to ensure continuity and integration of partnership continues.

The Children Act 1989 states that agencies connected with the work of children and families must work in partnership with social services in any enquiries that relate to the welfare of children. This is initially achieved by making an assessment of the children and families situation. If the child was found to be ‘in need’ then the next step would be to match their need to an agency, which helps ensure the right kind of intervention, is implemented. This assessment should be ongoing and reviewed regularly to ensure their needs are still being met.

The help available to ensure their needs are met range from government agencies, agencies within the community, and agencies offering individual support. One example of an agency that can offer individual support is a voluntary organisation, like Home Start, that offers amongst other things, support and a range of advice on what other services are on offer in their area. By working in this way can ensure the knowledge skills and values of each agency specialising in their particular method of support is integrated. However without workers having the knowledge, values and skills to work in partnership, the chance of its success is minimal.

Some agencies may not have a clear policy on ethnic minority groups and as a result a worker can, work in ways through their own preconceived ideas that can deny them the help they need. This together with some family’s attitudes and misconceptions of the role of social workers can thwart potential partnerships from starting in the first place. For example a family may be suspicious of what they see as interference. Concerned that they may lose their children decide to pretend everything is ok. To further compound this if a social worker also spoke to them in technical terms and asserted an imbalance of power over them, could further harm the situation. These factors could all deny children and families the chance of positive outcomes that can improve their quality of life. There are other agencies including the field of education that can work to promote partnership resulting in positive outcomes for children and families.

The powerful words written in the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child in 1990 in regards to education led to change. Within the many rights children now have is the right to an education that promotes their all round development. In line with this, the government implemented changes that have resulted in a more open approach to mainstream education. Other agencies including education health and social care had to respond to ensure they kept in line with this new approach. Indeed the Local Education Authority (LEA) now has a duty to identify children with SEN under the SEN and Disability Act 2001. This new legislation ensures if a child has SEN and needs a statement then there are procedures to follow.

The process of a statement involves an assessment of what needs the child has and what provision the school and the LEA will make for them. This needs the involvement of agencies such as health social and education to assess the child and through the partnership they have between them should be able to match the child’s needs successfully. Children and families should be consulted at every stage and have the right to appeal if the LEA refuses to provide provisions for their child’s educational needs. The government recognising that some families may find the statementing process hard to understand, created the job of a parent supporter who offers help and support to families and in partnership with them ensure if their requests are reasonable that they are heard. By forging links with the school in this way can help families become more confident in their own ability to get their child’s needs themselves.

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Proving empowerment through involvement can change situations and partnership works. Children and focus on including them in the decision making process has began to accelerate more recently and according to John Pinkerton, is central to the development and delivery of services. (The reader topic 19) This system has helped secure the quality of life amongst more families today and reduced the number of children going into care.

It is clear from these two examples I have discussed just how much can be achieved by working in partnership. The government realising the impact that life circumstances can have on children and families decided to invest ways in which agencies could improve their practice to support them. It was also clear that the market model of care was eroding the confidence of the general public, with emphasis on making profit, which affected the quality of care, some children and families received.

Something needed to be done to reinstall the faith in the agencies that works for our children and families. So began the changes in policies that shifted focus onto partnership, and ways to promote life chances for them. Social services had their work cut out as their image could strike fear into the hearts of some families. However as I have discussed they have made great strides to improve relations and working in partnership to help families keep their children or return them home, is proving to be successful. Other agencies involvement has also helped to ensure these outcomes have been achieved through the support they have given both to the family and to social services itself.

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