Changing Frontline Practice in Dorset
Patrick Myers, Head of Corporate Development, Dorset County Council
The partnership involved in the Dorset Local family Offer is focusing the initial stages of the project in Weymouth and Portland, an area that has some deprivation and disadvantage amidst other more prosperous areas.
Data has shown that Weymouth has the 4th highest rate of separation which from the statistics is somewhat typical of Coastal Communities. Other data also shows that the area has higher than national rates for Children who have additional needs. Our knowledge of the impact that additional needs has on families is supported by information provided to us by the Dorset Parent Carer Council who are partners on the project. Other information such as higher than the national average numbers of pupils with behavioural and emotional issues suggest additional family stressors. When we examine the variation between outcomes in the Weymouth and Portland area with the rest of Dorset the information highlights the reason for such a targeted approach. Poor outcomes for children, such as socio-emotional difficulties, can reflect, in part, couple and co-parental relationship difficulties.
We need to change frontline practice to make relationships a feature of our assessment practice. We also need to equip practitioners with the skills so that when presented with some form of disclosure they are able to take some form of action. We also need to develop a relationship support framework in line with the relationship manifesto so that we promote relational capability, protect people in times of identified relationship distress and prevent relationship distress at key transitions. Our theory of change places training at the centre of our activity to support front line behaviour.
We are introducing a new role of Relationship Support navigator, a go to person who can support practitioners meeting with families, couples and individuals with the knowledge about availability and access to support. Making it easier for practitioners to find the support will help them in their substantive roles but actually elevate the place of relationships as a cause for curiosity and where needed, action. This person would also take referrals from practitioners and help assess and direct people to appropriate services
These two approaches in a particular locality with a particular cohort of workers will impact on the level of help seeking behaviour, overcoming some of the cultural, financial and systemic barriers to accessing relationship support. The assumptions in the theory of change/logic model that a better trained workforce with the confidence and willingness to ask questions related to the quality of relationships, with easy access to a relationship support navigator who understands the relationship support network will change how the system works.
We are committed to bringing the benefits at the organisational level and more importantly to those who are in need of relationship support so that lives are changed and we secure the best outcomes possible for families and individuals. Making a difference to what we do, how we do it and as a result to those who can make a difference for themselves building on their own and their families’ strengths.