New methods of dealing with referrals to children’s services aim to cut the number of children who come into care – and offer faster, more appropriate, services for those who need help.

It will be based around conversations with specialist, trained senior social workers, and will do away with written referrals.

The new ‘front door’ is due to come into being in the first week of October.

The system has been developed by Professor David Thorpe of Lancaster University with the goals of safely reducing the numbers of referrals, developing services focussed on the most vulnerable children and families and reducing the numbers of children looked after.

Dorset Council currently has more than 420 children in care with its figures increasing while neighbouring counties and nationally numbers have been falling.

It is believed that the new system will also cut down on the number of cases which are referred to social services repeatedly, something which is recognised as being harmful to child development, and will also reduce the number of unnecessary cases being sent to district social work teams.

“We need to manage contacts differently, so that children get the right support, first time, and from the right professionals,” said a report to the council’s corporate parenting board (on Wednesday).

“This is based on building a ‘front door’ where experienced social workers who have received specialist training from Professor Thorpe, provide advice and support to other professionals. They do this by ask key questions about the strengths and risks within families and will then agree together who is best placed to meet the needs of the child. The service will no longer take written referrals, but instead will have conversations with potential referrers so that a comprehensive understanding of the child’s circumstances can be obtained..

“It is expected that successful implementation of the model in October 2019, will not only reduce the numbers of unnecessary referrals, lower the re-referral rate, and social work caseloads, it will, more importantly, help us safely support children and young people remain in the care of their families.”

The service will still be open to the public, but with a separate dedicated phone line for professionals.