Leeds most vulnerable families to benefit from £4.8 million boost

Vulnerable families in Leeds are set to benefit from a multi-million pound project aimed at transforming children’s social care services.

Leeds City Council and its partners have secured £4.8 million from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme, which aims to kick-start the most promising proposals for new ways of providing children’s social care.

The funding will be used to transform the whole children’s social care system in the city, implementing a restorative, family-centred model that works with families to build the skills, support and resilience so they can find their own solutions to the challenges they face and solve problems earlier, before they reach a point of crisis.

Leeds will also expand Family Group Conferences, special meetings where family members and close family friends come together to make decisions for a vulnerable child on the edge of the care, with the aim of finding appropriate alternatives to the care system. Leeds has already been using the conferences for a number of years and has seen extremely positive results by keeping children who would previously have gone into care safely with their families.

The money will be used to expand the service to more families that are known to children’s social work services and extend support into work with children and young people affected by issues such as domestic violence and repeat teenage pregnancies.

The scheme is one of the latest projects that have successfully bid for money through the government’s Innovation Fund. The Leeds programme will see frontline social workers and others who work with the most vulnerable families receive specialist training to better help families solve problems and conflicts when they occur.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds City Council executive member for children and families, said:

“Building stronger families is at the heart of our ambition to make Leeds a child friendly city. A huge amount has already been done towards this ambition. With the innovation fund we will take this work to the next stage.

“Training thousands more people will give them the skills to work with families so that those families through restorative practice can find their own solutions to the challenges they face. At the same time, the expansion of our successful family group conferencing service will enable us to make a lasting difference around some of the most difficult issues affecting children and young people, such as domestic violence.

“Our bid for this funding was supported by partners across the city and our success demonstrates confidence in the work we are doing together. This is important progress in putting the voices of children, young people and families at the heart of everything we do.”

Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said:

“Having grown up with around 80 foster children and worked as a family lawyer in the care system for over a decade, I’ve seen up close and personal the pressures that social workers are under - and also the wonders they can work in the most desperate circumstances. But they must be freed up to do the job they were hired to do – supporting our most vulnerable children and families.”

“This project will see Leeds give social workers valuable new skills that will ultimately put families at the heart of the decisions made about them.”

Councillor Blake, added:

“Family-oriented solutions like this also offer significant savings to the public purse, by safely and appropriately keeping more children out of care. Children and young people’s voices are at the heart of restorative approaches, particularly family group conferences and our innovation would therefore put children genuinely at the centre of everything we do.

“In recent years we have implemented a comprehensive programme of improvement across children’s social care and other services for vulnerable children. Now we want to take that improvement to the next stage through a widespread system and culture change with the potential to transform and redefine the relationship between services and citizens.”

The government’s Innovation Programme focuses on two key target areas – fresh ways of working in children’s social work and better support for young people in or on the edge of care. Exciting proposals that have successfully secured funding to date include:

• the roll-out of a new project aimed at creating homes-from-homes for families teetering on the edge of crisis - from befriending and providing much needed help for struggling or isolated parents, to offering a safe space for the night to children and young people when there is a family crisis or their home life is proving too much to bear;

• the expansion of a project which helps women who have had successive children taken into care by interrupting repeat pregnancies and giving them a chance to turn their lives around;

• a new programme to overhaul the entire child protection systems of five councils across the country, which will prioritise frontline work with vulnerable families over form-filling and needless bureaucracy.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk