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Training to deal with hostile parents could cut kids in care

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on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 07:52
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MORE than £1.3 million is set to be spent on training Derbyshire social workers to diffuse "hostile" situations with troubled families.

Derbyshire County Council hopes the scheme will help lower the number of children in its care by improving employees' communication skills.Ian Thomas, strategic director for children and young people in Derbyshire.

The number of youngsters cared for by the authority has gone up from 503 in March 2007 to 701 in March 2012, a rise of 39%.

Ian Johnson, the council's deputy director for children and younger adults, said its social workers "encountered lots of hostility" from families they tried to help.

This was often due to drug and alcohol misuse or because family members had a history of domestic violence or mental ill-health.

Mr Johnson said: "At the moment there is a danger that staff interpret hostility as further evidence of people's unsuitability to care for children.

"The training will show employees how to use their responses to de-escalate and calm the situation down.

"We want to move our position from policing to helping."

Mr Johnson said the type of training had already been successfully trialled in Amber Valley, Erewash, Chesterfield, and Bolsover, having first been used by Hackney Council, in London, three years ago.

He said: "We are saying that if we can better engage with troubled families, we can reduce the number of children in care.

"The people that deal with troubled families and their managers are all going to get the training. It's a clear 'invest to save' plan because we will have to spend less on children in care."

Mr Johnson said there were more than 3,000 families in Derbyshire with parenting problems that could benefit from their social workers having the training.

A report from Ian Thomas, strategic director for children and young adults, has recommended that the scheme be given the go-ahead by the council's cabinet at its next meeting on June 12.

The report says the training would take place over a three-year period starting in January next year.

It would be for up to a maximum of 330 social workers and their managers.

It says £750,000 would be spent on the scheme by the council. Most of that would be spent on the training itself, with the remainder funding temporary social workers to cover while full-time employees are on the course.

A £600,000 Government grant would also be spent on paying the temporary workers. A firm to provide the training would be found by late September.

The report says: "In areas where this approach has already been used the numbers of children in care have reduced significantly."

It adds that the current number of children in care places "significant demands" on the council's budget.