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Strengthening Families, Protecting Children (SFPC)

Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding – Balancing protecting children with support for families

Strengthening Families, Protecting Children (SFPC)

Thursday 16 September 2021

Theme: Balancing protecting children with support for families

As a part of a week-long Strengthening Families, Protecting Children event that took place in September 2021, Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding lead and facilitated an online workshop. An overview of the workshop and the key messages and themes are explored below.


  • Sue Williams, Programme Director Strengthening Families/Family Safeguarding at Hertfordshire County Council, opened the workshop with a series of provocations around the assumptions underpinning the event theme. Sue invited participants to consider what these assumptions might mean for the Care Review, if the separation of protection and support implied in the Case for Change were to become structural to a revised social care system.
  • Participants then spent time in smaller groups exploring what a CSC system based on protection and support might look like, and what the implications might be for practice and outcomes.
  • Following these deep dive conversations there was a whole group discussion about how Family Safeguarding helps to balance support and protection; that in the Family Safeguarding model support is protection.
  • Insights developed through this workshop fall under three themes, which are explored in further detail on the next slide: Meeting the needs of the family as a route to protecting children; holding protection and support in tension and the impact of inequality/poverty.

Key themes from local authority participant feedback

Meeting the needs of the family as a route to protecting children​

  1. Working in multi-disciplinary teams and pooling insight across the team helps to meet the different needs families may have.
  2. Motivational interviewing and going deeper gets you to a place where you can understand families and their needs by listening to them.
  3. The importance of language. Thinking carefully about how we talk about families and about practice as this has an impact on the relationship between the social worker and the family.
  4. Links to article 18 from the UN charter- a requirement to support parents with services to raise their children.

Holding protection and support in tension

  1. Most of the cases that Family Safeguarding work with involve adult problems: substance abuse, poverty, relationship conflict, mental health problems. By assigning the role of protection to the police we risk criminalising adults inappropriately.
  2. A protection-based system doesn’t have a behaviour change model in it – instead it punishes parents who might otherwise make progress, with the right support.​
  3. Family Safeguarding works to hold support and protection in tension by taking a multi disciplinary approach that draws on practice and insight from both.

The impact of inequality/poverty​​

  1. Family Safeguarding sees the whole family, understanding their needs and context as individuals, to support the whole.
  2. Family Safeguarding recognises the members of the family and their stories as critical to the wellbeing of the child.
  3. By working towards addressing the root causes of the problems we can create long term changes. These changes can have a positive effect on not only the family, but their community as well.​
  4. Take time to work with families- recognising that they are the experts on their own lives and understand their challenges and strengths better than we can.

Attendee feedback

Total number of attendees: 54​

A helpful combination of information sharing and group reflections.

It was a really interesting session.