In February 2018, North Tyneside Council began their implementation of Signs of Safety and at the same time took on the Liquidlogic IT solution. The Council recognised aligning their case recording with the practice model was a key component of a successful implementation for staff, the organisation and most importantly the families.
Practitioners could see the immediate benefit of having forms which reflected the Signs of Safety, however, they also struggled to evidence some of their practice within the forms from what they understood of the model. It was always the intention of Elia and Liquidlogic to involve a small number of organisations in providing detailed feedback on the solution through an action learning approach. Nik Flavell, Senior Manager at North Tyneside welcomed this opportunity as the Council came up against these challenges in using the solution and because its use had highlighted gaps in the authority’s Signs of Safety practice.
“The aim of the Learning Lab was to enhance the fit with the practice model, remove duplication, reduce recording time and improve the outputs provided to families…”
In March 2019, North Tyneside became the first Signs of Safety IT Solution Learning Lab. Emma Hopper and Pippa Young from Elia, together with Liquidlogic, commenced regular onsite workshops with North Tyneside practitioners and managers to undertake a deep dive analysis of the child protection process and its forms, capturing feedback from families and partner agencies to support this work. The aim of the Learning Lab was to enhance the fit with the practice model, remove duplication, reduce recording time and improve the outputs provided to families by modifying the forms and designing new outputs.
The first six months has been a period of intensive analysis work on the forms and tracking the time spent inputting into the system, resulting in early suggestions being made for form improvements. The group began to see where there were inconsistencies in practice across the teams, such as developing the Timeline, Safety Plan rules and scaling overall progress. Workers were honest about the challenges saying, “This is really forcing us to think about our practice and how it is recorded”, and “This is a whole different way of working, it’s a change of culture”.
Over the coming months, specific IT Practice Alignment Workshops were developed in time for the modified forms going live in September 2019. Using live cases, practitioners walked through casework and the system simultaneously with individuals working the case and recording this in the moment. Questions about practice and IT were worked through together in a learning environment with a Signs of Safety Consultant on hand to support both.
“This has been brilliant! Having the opportunity to really explore and discuss particular aspects of practice has been extremely helpful.”
Angela Branston, Social Worker, said of the workshop, “This has been brilliant! Having the opportunity to really explore and discuss particular aspects of practice has been extremely helpful”. Natalie Hall, Team Manager, said, “Going through the Timeline and specifics of Safety Planning has been helpful to get the workers to understand the practice and detail required within the forms”.
The Learning Lab work will continue for another six months; the key focus being to test the newly-designed forms, continuing with the deep analysis, time testing and designing new and more accessible outputs for the family. Supporting this, a Practice/IT-aligned Learning Case has now begun. This will run in-line with the Signs of Safety practice within the rapid nature and intense activity of child protection work. The group, including social workers, managers and senior leaders are working through the live case, deepening their understanding and application of Signs of Safety practice and process of Safety Planning, within legislation and the Council’s procedures. North Tyneside Council are looking at every aspect of their practice and culture through the lens of the family and the organisation and the learning continues.
“…the culture of learning and growing together is evident.”
On a personal level, this has been an exciting opportunity for me to be immersed in the work of a local authority committed to whole system change. What started out as a project to improve the forms within the IT System has developed into an opportunity to deepen practice in North Tyneside. They have impressed me in their ability to see themselves through multiple lenses and to be able to say where they are struggling or might have got it wrong and although there is still more work to be done, the culture of learning and growing together is evident.
Emma Hopper is a Licensed Signs of Safety Trainer and Consultant in the United Kingdom.