When social workers in Knowsley were looking for the right adoptive family for a child in their care they were delighted when two members of his wider family applied – the only problem was, they lived in Australia!
Luckily, the council’s social services team had recently introduced mobile technology into their day to day work – meaning it was easy and quick to carry out the couple’s initial assessment – using video messaging service Skype.
Before introducing this type of technology, the assessment with the Australian couple would have had to be completed through the Borders Agency, taking around 12 weeks and costing the council in the region of £3,000.
But using the technology, social workers were able to speak ‘face-to-face’ with the couple using video calling, and even tour their home to assess its suitability for the child.
Jennifer Critchley, Social Worker in Children’s Services, said:
“Using Skype enabled me to complete a series of calls to help me complete my assessment over a two week period.
“I could see the couple’s emotions as well as their home and it felt more comfortable when discussing issues.
“With the help of technology, they were also able to ‘attend’ the family group conference – despite being over 10,000 miles away!”
After getting through the initial assessment the couple travelled to Knowsley to be there in person for their final assessment, but commented on how effective the use of Skype was in the process. It also allowed them to have regular contact with the child they were adopting, using Skype, making the whole process much easier for him, too.
Good practice in Knowsley
The use of mobile technology has transformed the way Knowsley’s children’s social workers do things – so much so that other authorities are now keen to follow their lead.
The council recently hosted a conference to showcase their innovative practice, which was attended by representatives from 15 local authorities from across the region, all eager to hear more.
In fact, the idea to use mobile technology in Knowsley came from the staff themselves. They recognised that tools like Skype and tablet computers would be invaluable in helping them carry out assessments and keep on top of their workload.
With all children’s social workers in Knowsley now having tablet devices and smartphones, they have access to everything they need while out and about. It means case files are accessible at the touch of a button and reports are uploaded during meetings with children and their families.
The equipment can also be used as an interactive tool to help social workers engage with children and their families. For example, children can express how they feel in writing or drawings on the tablet, which many feel more comfortable doing rather than talking.
Video helps children settle in foster placements
Soon, children who are due to be fostered in Knowsley will be able to ‘meet’ their foster carers and look around their foster home in advance by video, so they are more comfortable with their surroundings before they are placed.
Filming with foster carers to make this possible is already well underway.
“Listening to staff has helped us adopt innovative practice”
Cllr Gary See, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said:
“We have made a great deal of progress in Children’s Services and for us to be highlighted as best practice in this field is great news for the council and the staff using it.
“The original idea came from the staff themselves so it clearly shows how we are listening to our staff and ensuring they are as equipped as they can be to deliver excellent services for our children and families.”