Implementing the Designated Social Care Officer role in Shropshire

A case study on Shropshire's approach to implementing the Designated Social Care Officer role.

  • Theme: Targeted support
  • Strength: Good
  • Breadth of Impact: Good

A joint Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted SEND Inspection took place in Shropshire in January 2020, identifying a range of improvements that were required to achieve better outcomes for disabled children and young people and children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) in Shropshire. Among six areas of significant concern, the inspection highlighted inconsistency in the quality of input from education, health and care (EHC) into EHC assessment and planning, and inconsistent strategic leadership and planning across the area. As part of the development of Shropshire’s Written Statement of Action (WSoA) following the 2020 inspection, the Shropshire Area SEND Partnership identified three core issues to address in social care:

  • 1) Gaps in social care leadership, strategic links and partnership working between education, health and care. Quality assurance of social care input into Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) was not sufficiently robust, and advice provided by social care staff to health and education colleagues was often not suitably reliable or timely. Social care was not routinely involved in decision-making around proceeding to an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA), or the content of EHCPs
  • 2) Weak coproduction: parent carers and children and young people in Shropshire were dissatisfied with the degree and quality of social care involvement in the formulation of EHCPs, leading to care needs not being reflected in EHCPs which were insufficiently person-centred
  • 3) A need for workforce development: limited knowledge and experience of SEND policy, legislation and guidance across the social care team was hampering the quality of advice social care workers were feeding in to EHCNAs. Limited knowledge also meant disabled children and young people and those with SEN in Shropshire were receiving inadequate support from social care staff

Shropshire adopted the post of Designated Social Care Officer (DSCO) in February 2022 to provide leadership in these three priority areas, mirroring other local authorities that have adopted the DSCO role since its introduction in England in 2018.

The SEND Effective Practice Evidence Framework considers that the “strength of evidence” of this case study is good – the work has been evaluated internally and externally, sustained for more than 12 months with clear plans for future extension, and is demonstrably replicable. The “breadth of impact” of this case study is good – there is evidence of impact in three of the four broad areas of impact considered by the framework.